… Playing Monopoly
… Driving at night in the fog … Mountain climbing, riding a bike, lifting weights, being a spy, prostitution, carving in stone, sex …
Well. Clearly writing is like a lot of things.
For me, writing is like training for my half-marathon.
I mistakenly agreed that a half-marathon (21 km or 13.5 miles) in October would be a really good idea. I also mistakenly told a lot of people I was going to be doing this half-marathon – and even rounded up some co-masochists to run it with me. Anyway, this means that I now have to do some training. Like, real training. As in, wearing trainers and running on roads and stuff. And if you know me at all by now, you will know I am the LAZIEST person in the world.
Poppaloo has (unsurprisingly) volunteered himself to be my personal trainer. This includes reminding me repeatedly that I must do some training, reminding me even more repeatedly that I agreed that I would do training THAT DAY, and then be willing to physically throw me out the door/confiscate the duvet in the morning/drag me around the run route – should it come to it.
So why is my writing like training for a half-marathon?
First off, you get the romantic, “bright” idea that you want to run/write. It will be good for you, it will flex those muscles (literally/figuratively), you tell yourself. You’ll gain respect for doing something sporty/intelligent. It will give you something to do because living at home has made you a hermit and you might as well do something useful instead of eating too much chocolate and staying in your pyjamas for longer than is socially acceptable.
Then, you put this idea into practice – you go on your first training run (walk fast to the village to get chocolate)/you write your first sentence. This is the point at which you realise this isn’t such a good idea after all. However, you now have the issue of having told people you will now be running/writing (see the “respect” comment in above paragraph) and they now have expectations. They expect you to run a half-marathon/write a bestselling novel by the end of this. So you can’t back out now. You really can’t – you’d be letting all those people down.
So then you carry on writing sentences/running (still walking fast). And it gets a bit better. This isn’t so bad, you tell yourself, now you’re getting in to the swing of things. Hey! Look! I’ve just written a whole chapter/run the whole 5km route without walking once! This is easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy. This is simples. Bah, whoever said that running/writing was hard OBVIOUSLY didn’t know what they were talking about.
But then, you hit The Wall. This is common Run-speak (I’m fluent now doncha know) – this is the part of the run where you can’t go another step. Where the physical movement of putting one foot in front of the other, of even just breathing, is beyond possibility. There is something similar in writing. Writer’s Block. That full stop that stares at you for months on end because no matter what you do, you just can’t go past that point. This is the writer’s version of The Wall. You’ve hit it. It’s standing, unmoving, right in front of you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now is the time to revert back to point two: who’s stupid idea was it to write/run!? Who’s even stupider idea was it to TELL everyone you were doing this so now you can’t get out of it?
Yup. It was you …
Then, last but not least, there’s the epiphany. Now, I’d love to tell you all about this stage because it sounds like a wonderful stage to be at. You’ve gone beyond The Wall/the Writer’s Block and you’re off and away in sparkly, super-fit running land/shiny, happy writing universe.
However. I’m still kicking myself staring at The Wall. On both fronts. Running in the rain/wind/dark/cold/outside at all just doesn’t appeal, and frankly writing is doing my nut – because I sit there and stare gormlessly at the screen for a couple of hours whilst drinking my body weight in tea, then get told I have to go for a fast walk/run so figure I’ll do it tomorrow instead … at which point I repeat the above.
Writing might be like a lot of things, but whatever it’s like, it’s bloody hard going.