Monday, 23 July 2012

Writer's Problem Number 93 by Penny Dolan

Writer’s Problem Number 93

Dear Aunty Enid,

Help please! It is so easy to get disheartened. I am just back from an inspirational week with some wonderful writers. My confidence was up on its feet again and I truly felt it was time to attack the Recalcitrant Tome for once and for all.  (I confess I am not a one book a week person like you. )

I have found so many ways to avoid the large, lumbering thing. So - especially as Himself is to be away for a few days - I decided to go for the Big Writing Slog. I was feeling very excited about my plan. I am sure you would understand.

Now, I did realise that the Big Writing Slog would be all about sitting at the desk all the time doing all the writing. It’s a bit like Nanowrimo, but lonelier, and with less cheering and whooping and maybe with slightly more sensible writing at the end of it.

I was getting things arranged for the Big Writing Slog.. I was going to stock the fridge with the kind of food one can munch easily, whenever. (Note to Self: Not all in one day.) I was going to warn the postman that I would be in my dressing gown continually. I’d begun playing with post-it notes and cards and all that analysing-the-story sort of work. I’d even got as far as getting a new real-world paper file for my running notes. (“Running” being a loose term here and referring to the Work In Progress not Parcour.)

Then a mighty storm-cloud of Public Information arrived. I know it was possibly intended to nudge people towards buying up those few unsold Olympic tickets but my Bright Shining Scheme is now totally Darkened

 Emblazoned across various media headlines, came this big loud message:


It is as dangerous as smoking (I don’t) and probably as dangerous as eating ten cream buns at a time (I don’t, but only because nobody’s brought me any) and definitely  much more dangerous than tiger-wrestling in tights. Now there’s a thought . . .

I Have Definitely Been Told.
How Dare I even think of Sitting Down?
It was my National Duty Not To Be Inactive.
If I did not Move Briskly at all times, I’d cost the Hard-Working Tax-Payer Money.
If I did not Jig about like a Leprechaun thrice an hour, wiggling me lugs, I’d be bringing the NHS to its knees.
My Behind fixed on a Chair would become the National Affront.
(Ed: Surely some conflict of language here?)

And so on. Alas and woe is me!

This a Big, Big Problem. How exactly can I be Active with a Capital A and also do the lengthy wodge of work I really, really need to do?The “early morning walk” conflicts with the early morning pages. The “going to the gym” isn’t affordable, with no advance advanced. The “going for a swim” would use up three hours all told. Daisy petals don't help. Activity? Inactivity?  Activity? Inactivity?

I really do not feel at all calm about this. I need to sit still and carry on with my Work in Progress, no matter how loudly the headlines shout.

So come on, dear Aunty Enid. Come on all you Awfully Big Adventurers! I’ve seen some of your svelte publicity pics – yes, even those recent ones from barely ten years ago. Please answer my question before the Ministry for Health Inspectors come rapping at the door.

How in the Name of Nike can I a) get my Big Writing Slog done and b)  be Active at the same time? (Honestly, I’m having such trouble managing the laptop and the unicycle.)

Yours despairingly,

Ps. I've put all my spare Capital Letters in this post so I don’t overwrite while Tome-ing.

Penny Dolan


Rachel Ward said...

I find writing and exercise go hand in hand. If I try and sit writing all day I don't produce any more than if I do a couple of hours, have a break and then an hour or two more. My breaks usually involve a dog walk, and sometimes a swim or a run or an exercise class. I either use the time to plot or try and unpick a problem, or I switch off and let my subconscious work away without me knowing it. Sometimes an active break is all I need to really kickstart my writing. I've just read over this and it all sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish, but it's true!

Stroppy Author said...

Micro-exercise: Cycle to the library/cafe and work there, then cycle back. Walk to the shops when you need food. Never drive, never take the lift/escalator, never use a remote control. Play music and dance while your coffee brews.

JO said...

My experience - if I write all day, by bedtime my head is still buzzing with the narrative and my muscles twitching from inactivity. No sleep - and not much writing the next day. So I move every hour - sometimes just to the kitchen to get coffee, and sometimes a proper walk in the countryside with flowers and sunshine and maybe a few inspirational trees. The story is still in my head, doing it's meandering thing (I always carry a notebook) and is often refreshed by giving it a bit of air.

And - enjoy it. If this becomes too much of a slog, it's not fun any more

Nick Green said...

Buy a punchbag. Label it 'Writer's Block'. When the writing stalls, you know what to do.

Anonymous said...

Rachel.admirable advice!!! Stroppy. you are evidence your method works for the flatlans! Jo - kitchen only two secs away and did you say choc biscuits could be added too? Nck, think I am going for the puncbabg XL version. Any other ideas?

Anonymous said...

Signed Penny. Who may have waking to do in central London today.

Anonymous said...

Or even walking.

Joan Lennon said...

OR you could re-name your "Writing Slog" a "Writing Sprint". Thus incorporating activity in the title. And a good title's half the battle ...

(This is what I do, but then, we've met and you know just how svelte I am.)

madwippitt said...

You definitely need a Dog.
While exercising with it, you outline your plots etc to it. A Dog will not offer discouraging comments, although it may encourage you to do further plot cdevelopment while covering a few more healthy miles.
When you finally arrive home, the Dog will offer quiet supportive company while you write down all the stuff you thought up while out Exercising.
Assuming you don't need to take a long nap after the unaccustomed Exertion.
But if you do, no matter - remember you can often resolve Difficult Problems while snoozing - there is truth on the old saw about sleeping on it.
Yes, what you need is a Dog!

Katherine Roberts said...

Ha ha Penny! Reminds me of a comment my dad made to me when I was about 12, sitting up in my room on what must have been a sunny day (though I don't remember the weather), typing up a story on my first ever typewriter.

He put his head around my door, growled "what are you doing wasting your time writing up here, when you could be out in the garden enjoying the sunshine?"

I've never forgotten that.

Trudy said...

Dear Penny, please do not distress yourself. The one book a week person, such as myself, is exceedingly rare, and you are not to worry unduly on that score. On the matter of getting off thy Behind, I can most strongly recommend the dog solution. Many a great literary figure has written with the assistance of a canine companion, as evidenced by said link Failing that, may I suggest you lcould acquaint yourself with a most cunning invention from our American cousins - the Treadmill Desk.
Aunty Enid.

Emma Barnes said...

I'll send you my dog...don't worry, he'll chivy you away from your desk!

Penny Dolan said...

Hello on Tuesday afternoon. I was away so not able to reply (other than with incorrect spelling) to many of your ideas.

Some sounded as tongue in cheek as the letter.(Talking to you, Aunty Enid, with your Treadmill desk suggestion!) Rachel, it's really good to hear from someone with a such a kind and positive approach, so thanks esp for your reply.

Will try and report back on how the BWS/Writing Sprint goes and how much activity gets done in all forms! And whether any punchbag is involved.

Sadly, I may still be too distant to take the nearest dog offered out walking.

Penny Dolan said...

ps. Katherine, my dad must have known your dad. x