Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Working Muscles

     I talked to a friend of mine recently who began our conversation saying that she hated everything and never wanted to write (or move) again.
     Well of course I was intrigued, since "hate" talk isn't really her thing.
     Turns out she was exhausted. Every day she gets up to workout then write then work.... every day. Every day? Every day!
     This made me remember when I first began working out: I was addicted. I loved the rush of adrenaline, the feeling of accomplishment, the immense freedom from guilt that working out gave me. I felt justified with every bite of food I took, because I had earned it. I would go 7, 8, 10, 14, 20 days in a row without stopping. However, what generally happened was that although I was going to the gym every day, my workouts were getting less intense. More like I was going through the motions than actually focusing on what I was doing. True, there was (and is) some merit to going and just walking for an hour rather than sitting at home reading or taking yet another nap. But then I had a friend tell me that they wished I would go on a vacation or get sick - just so I would take a few days off from working out. I was flabbergasted - take a break? But...but...I can't! What if I get out of the habit and stop, I asked worriedly.
     But the truth is, when you really care about something and you make it a vital part of your existence, you're not in any real danger of breaking that habit. I now take days off because I'm no longer afraid that I'm going to give up going to the gym. And I remember that same friend also told me that it was actually good for the body because it gave it time to heal and rest. Rest is the most important thing we can do for our bodies. After all, don't we sleep every night? And when we don't, things tend to start blurring, right? 
      Well, I did what my friend suggested and sure enough, I came back to the gym with frenetic energy, rejuvenated and not dreading my workout - which I later realized was keeping me from doing my best.
      In the same way, writing is a like building a muscle. I should do it on a regular basis, but it's also good for me to take time off. Maybe read, maybe reflect. Maybe just bake a cake or go hiking or swimming. Maybe do nothing but stare at TV. But most importantly, I'm not afraid anymore that I'll stop writing. Regardless of the way I spend time in-between each writing session, ideas will live and roll through my brain. And when I come back to the actual doing, the words are usually ready to spill out. Maybe it's not exactly what I wanted to write, but it's a story or a character waiting to share it's story... but that's another blog!
     So to end... write every day? Sure. But take time off?? Even better! Your muscles - both mental and physical - will thank you for it!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Measure of Progress

Progress is a strange thing. It is possible that I write nothing in a day yet feel I have done so much for my creative process. When I find myself trying to stay on task for my writing goals, but feel a little behind just because I have a slow day, I try to remember that every word counts. The ideas percolate in my brain, the images start to coalesce. I'm ready to turn them into plots and characters. There is a story being born,an embryo full of characters that is taking on definition and shape.  I only have to pause at little moments and let the words come. I can't sabotage myself with doubts or distractions. I can't keep time as my enemy. And should I forget, I only need take a deep breath and remember why I write...

Two of my fave lines from a couple of "end of the world" short stories I am working on:

"Did they ever look up and really expect to see us when we dropped down in our ships, the clouds boiling away from the heat of our engines?"
(opening to Behind These Eyes)

"For those who were too far away to hear the radio, the news was read in other ways – bowed heads, clenched jaws, streaming tears, shaking fingers, covered eyes – their worst fears reflected in every face shining dully in the dim red light. "
(from "Inside the Light, Outside of Time")