Last week I mentioned that the gym was closing down in our area for renovations and that if I wanted to work out in a gym environment I would have to drive 2 hours round trip to get there. So I was going to just work out at home right? WRONG. Monday, I tried to run outside but I live so far out in the country that there are no sidewalks. There aren’t even really shoulders. There are aggressive drivers and Amish people who have horses though. By a ½ mile in I’d been forced to jump to the side of the road three times and ended up jumping the last time into a lovely present left for me by a couple of horses. Road running here is out. There’s a park with trails but it’s connected to the gym and that’s where they were storing construction vehicles and such so that was out as well. No running this week.
Instead, it’s time to improvise. I’ll try workout videos. Yeah, not likely. I always found something better to do than cardio kick boxing, New York City ballet’s workout, ect. I managed to work out one day and the rest of them I begged off due to “writing commitments”.
Obviously I am one of those girls that need the stimulus of getting up, getting dressed and going somewhere so I can’t back out of working out. I’m probably not alone in this but it does tell me that working out isn’t a necessary addiction for me yet and more of an ingrained habit following a certain pattern. So I guess I’ll have to work on strengthening my reliance on the pattern so that it does become an addiction and then the next time the gym closes I won’t end up in a cranky workout!fail pattern. Because trust me, I am so very cranky without my gym related endorphins right now. And the in-laws are coming today to visit. Dear God I hope someone has bail money. I’m probably going to need it.
Thankfully, the gym reopens tomorrow. Guess who’s going to be there bright and early?
I’ve had several days recently where I haven’t wanted to write and when I say don’t want to write I mean DO.NOT.WANT.TO.WRITE. Like, I’d be willing to scrub toilets to keep from writing. Sure, none of us are supposed to admit this because it really is a dream job for anyone blessed enough to have it, but some days it just feels like WORK.
Okay before someone emails me and says “well duh that’s because it’s hard” that’s not what I mean. Writing has always been hard. There have been times that the writing is a lot harder slog than it is now—I’m thinking particularly about the three years I spent trying (and failing) to write serious, high brow, literary fiction. What I meant when I said writing was work wasn’t that it was hard. What I meant was that some days it feels like a job instead of this really cool hobby that I’ve somehow convinced people to pay me to do.
During the days and the weeks where it feels like a job? Well I don’t want to do it. Just like I never really wanted to go into an office or bother caring what went on during those ridiculous staff meetings they used to make us attend. I just didn’t care. It was all so pointless. And there are days that writing feels like that. Especially at the beginning of a novel when I haven’t really fallen in love with my characters yet and even though I’ve got a plot I really don’t know where things are going with me and them.
Those are not the day of 7000 word counts. Those are the days when I’d be happy with 2000 words if they’re just good words. Heck, some days I’d be happy to get 1 word out that isn’t Chapter (insert number here). But the thing is this is a job and no one pays you for work you wish you’d gotten done.
So I’ve accepted that some days are going to be work. Writing is going to be a job some times and that means treating it just like I did all those days in the bloody office when I was ready to bang my head against the keyboard. I’m just going to sit down and do it already. Okay, so maybe the words will suck. Maybe I’ll have to scrap 90% of what I wrote and redo it later when I feel like the writing isn’t work but the trick is to sit down and write it anyway because there’s always a chance that 10% will be salvageable and that’s better than nothing at all. Even for the days when it’s just work.
So I had a bit of a scare last week when I ended up a bit sick out of nowhere. I woke up feeling fine, worked out, felt fine, came home, sat down to write and skipped both lunch and dinner and didn’t think anything about it until I went to get up nine hours later and found my ass on the floor. Now I’ve skipped enough meals to know that it’s not a good idea but it won’t knock me completely out. Not like this.
Thankfully there are people in my house with medical training who were smart enough to look inside my mouth and pinch the skin on my ankles and say ‘well congrats stupid you’re dehydrated.’ My response was ‘but how?’ Please no one state the obvious.
After a little research on my part it turns out that 64 oz of water is great but you can’t count all the stuff you drink while you’re exercising. It’s 64 oz on top of the bits your sweating out. So yeah, sitting at my desk typing away requires 64 oz of fluid above and beyond what I’d drank earlier. Especially if you’re like me and like to work outside when the weather is nice.
A suggestion from a friend of mine who is also a writer in Florida (where it gets a lot hotter than PA) was to do the following to make sure you get your water intake: Every time you finish a task—writing a chapter, editing a chapter, social media, ect.—take a short break to stretch your back and get a glass of water. Then you can sip on it while you work on the next bit and when you reach your next stopping point you can go for water again.
I’m going to give it a try this week and see if it helps. After all I don’t want to dehydrate again—the headache was a killer and I ended up having to get rid of half of what I thought was good work the night before because I’d gone off on a tangent and hadn’t even noticed.
So there you go. Writing a novel may not be the most hazardous of careers (normally) but apparently even those of us who sit on our asses all day need to get plenty of water so we don’t get sick. Especially in the summer when you’re typing away on the deck or by the swimming pool or wherever. So there you go, drink plenty of water and save yourself the humiliation of ending up on your butt with a group of people looking at you like a moron because you didn’t take a drink break because you’re characters were too interesting to leave alone. They’ll still be interesting when you get back.
So this week my triathlon training is on a bit of a hiatus because the gym where I’m a member is closed for renovation and the nearest sister gym where I can use my membership is almost an hour away. Yeah, two hours in a car with a toddler just to get my workout in is a bit extreme—even for me.
Instead, this week I need to come up with alternative exercise plans. Obviously I can road run or go to the park and run laps on the hiking trails there but there’s nowhere really safe to cycle and nowhere to get my lap swimming in. That means this week I’m hitting the workout videos and picking up things like cardio kickboxing and testing out the new yoga for dummies DVD I was gifted with.
This could be great. I could find videos that I love enough to use them as off day workouts or that can be used when we get snowed in during the blizzard like conditions that aren’t all that rare in Pennsylvania during the winter. Or by the end of the week I could be a jibbering mess that is dying to get back in the gym again. Which would be good as well since it could be a sort of motivation. Either way, the last week before school starts should be interesting to say the least.
So I’ve basically finished up the two long series I was writing and now I’m starting to move on to other books. Once again I’ve decided to go with a 3 book series but instead of following the same hero/heroine pair while they take three books to figure out what the heck they want from each other and the best way to get it this time I’m taking three related couples and telling their stories all around a single event.
At some level it’s great. I mean I love to write and this gives me a whole new set of characters and circumstances to deal with but I’ve also found that there are issues. The big issue? I’ve got three new heroes to come to grip with. Three very, very different men who are not just different from each other but very different from the heroes in The Chronicles of Nerissette and the Speak of the Devil Series. And I can’t exactly take them out dates or anything. It’s not like meeting a man at a bar and going “so what do you do for a living?” while you’re frantically texting your friends some sort of details so someone can run him through the known serial killer database. I mean, okay logically I know these guys are all in my head and I know that they aren’t serial killers but at the same time I still don’t really have a read on them either.
For example my first new hero is Noah Marshall, former Captain in the US Army Rangers now doctoral student in International Relations. He’s done multiple tours in all sorts of bad places and has the residual symptoms of PTSD to go along with it. Trust issues abound for this guy and he’s got a heroine who starts their relationship off forced to lie to him—for his own good and hers. Not a good place to be. Then as I’m pounding away at the keyboard, inside his head, this voice pops up that he knows she’s lying to him and he doesn’t know why but he knows it’s important. Which is better than his ex-wife. Then my brain stops and I go ‘huh? When did you get an ex-wife?’ To which the character replied in rather embittered tones ‘duh, I’ve always had an ex-wife, you just didn’t know about her. I don’t have to tell you everything about me do I?’ My response was a sort of ‘well, yeah duh of course you do asshole.’
I’m not complaining because just like a really great date it’s sort of fun to find out all these extra things about new heroes. Then again, I’ve had more than one minute of fleeting nostalgia for Matt and Winston and the fact that we’d moved from the exciting ‘getting to know you stage’ of author-fictional hero relationship to more of a place where we knew how each other took their coffee and didn’t need to worry about brushing our hair and dressing up for a date at my computer screen. In the end I have to console myself with the fact that my heroes got the girls and it’s time for all of us to move on. Them into Happily Ever After and me on to new heroes who may or may not have ex-wives that they’ve forgotten to clue me in about.
So after a week on light exercise because of an injury (bruised tendon) I finally got back into the gym this week. Yay me! I got a workout in. I drank water. I felt peppy. Then I came home and blew through my daily edits and two chapters before dinner time. Which is approximately double what I’d managed on a good day the week before. And there was only one “good day” the week before.
That made me curious. I’d always heard that exercise could make you a more productive writer. I mean what writer hasn’t? Get up and get moving to get your brain going. Blah blah blah. I always sort of figured it was someone’s way of bribing me to get to the gym. The “I know you hate it now but it’s so good for you in so many ways” argument. Like what your parents used to use with brussel sprouts and steamed carrots. Heck, what I use with broccoli and steamed carrots (I still hate brussel sprouts so my kids have never even seen those suckers).
Besides, no one ever gives you data in those articles. Lose weight and you’ll feel better when you write! Exercise to increase your word count! It sounds great but no one ever supplies any proof. And, for those of you who don’t already know this, I came into the world as a scientist and while I’ll probably leave it as a writer the scientist inside me still lives. That means—no data no sale.
So, when I started noticing how much better I felt I decided to see just how much all that exercise had done for me. Here’s the results:
Week 1 (no exercise due to injury)
Morning Pages = 1 day
1st round Edits on a story = 5 chapters
# of Chapters written = 3
Word count (approx) = 7650
Blog posts = 1
Week 2 (regular exercise schedule)
Morning Pages = 7 days
1st round Edits on a story = 15 chapters
# of Chapters written = 12
Word count (approx) = 30,000
Blog posts = 3
So there you have it. Actual data that proves exercise helped me up my word count goals and makes me excessively chatty. It may not work for you. Maybe you’re a bubble bath and wine sort of writer. If so I’m so very jealous. But the numbers at least for me, prove that two hours of sweating in the gym each day helps make me a well writer and now I have the data to back it up.
So I’ve been spending a lot of time in the pool lately. And by a lot I mean a lot. Laps at the gym three times a week while I train for next year’s big triathlon and then we have a pool at the house. So I’m in the water constantly. So much that I may have started to form gills. Or that patch on each side of my neck is just really dry skin. Who knows? I’m kinda hoping for gills. Gills–like bowties– would be cool.
Anyway, as my pool time increases I’ve noticed something a bit odd. No matter what I always sort of have this faint odor of chlorine on me. Even right out of the shower, I still sort of smell like the pool. So one swimmer I know suggested a special shampoo and conditioner that gets the chlorine out and won’t turn my very dyed hair green. Great, now my hair smells like mint but the rest of me smells like a chemical locker. The hair it seems was only a small part of the problem. So next step—lemon scented soap. It worked a little. I no longer smelled like a chemical storage site. I smelled more like lemon Pledge. Not bad, but really not the way to make your hubby cuddle up beside you either. Next step? Shower with the lemon soap and then scrub down with straight lemon juice onto the skin.
Reaction? OMGIdon’tcarehowgoodIsmellmaketheburningstopdearGodmakeitstop. Apparently you’re not supposed to try this after shaving your legs. Now someone tells me. After I ended up huddled on the floor of the bathroom screaming like I’ve suddenly been sent to Guantanamo for attitude readjustment.
Once my legs were no longer on FIRE, I got up, got dressed, wiped my eyes, went down and got in the car, drove to the nearest supermarket and bought my husband nose plugs. It’s either that or he’s going to have to learn to have a Pavlovian snuggle response to Lemon Pledge because after 8 years of marriage love stops just before self mutilation.
So I’ve been reading a lot of writing books lately and a lot of them talk about theme. You need to start with a great theme. Or characters that resonate in your soul or a bunch of other crap, I don’t know that’s usually the point that I zone out and just start flipping through the pages, sort of passively taking things in. I know, that sounds really, really bad but it’s the truth.
I mean I get it. The Speak of the Devil series started with Faith whispering in my ear, this sort of almost fully formed character with a potty mouth and a story to tell. Then when I started the Chronicles of Nerissette that all started with the idea of “I want something my daughter can read” and evolved to why is there a picture in my head of this girl in long skirts telling off a dragon as he flies her—upside down—across a lake, dunking her head in as he goes. And so Allie was born and the scene became part of her second book.
So okay I get where these books are coming from. But I have a hard time grasping the idea that someone I know has sat down and said “I want to write a book to show the world that true loves conquers anything.” Maybe there are people out there that have done that. Maybe it’s even some of my other writer buddies. But me? Most of the time my books begin with “how the heck did she fall off that cliff?” or in the case of a new series I’m typing away on—“exactly how many explosions, snipers, and high speed car chases can you fit into a 60k novel? What happens if you turn it into a three book series? Do you have to do a straight linear multiplication (aka for those not math inclined # of allowed explosions*3) or do you get a bit more leeway to throw a few more in like a fudge factor (# of explosions*3+6 for fudging)? Does it matter if you can claim the explosions add to the plot? If I go old school do I get a bonus or can I have a few more if my bombers are savvy?
You know what? Maybe that’s okay though. Maybe the world needs both types of writers. Maybe the world needs the serious “the theme of you are your heart resonates through this book loud and clear like the pealing of bells” writers for Monday through Friday and the writers who are just trying to squeeze one more high speed thrill into the novel for the weekends? Maybe I’ll have that printed on a t-shirt “Monday through Friday my brain is a temple of Shakespearean literature. On the weekends it’s a smut filled, explosion packed amusement park.”
I don’t normally recommend books on my blog for a lot of reasons. You’ve got to really be an amazing book for me to be willing to come out and tell people to GO READ NOW!!! But this book, oh this book is one of those books. Stop reading my blog and go get it. Get two copies. I have three because I have two friends that I had to go back and buy it for to make sure they read it.
If you’ve ever wondered what Wall Street is like, especially what it was like during the meltdown, this is the book to read. I mean sure, I can recommend a ton of great nonfiction books about all sorts of economics. I can even explain the graphs to you and show you how to do the math. But if you want to know what those schmucks on the trading floor were going through—read this book because you’ll laugh your ass off. I laughed so hard I was crying at certain points while reading this book and let me tell you a little secret—traders always look at economists and quants like we’re the freaky (most likely evil) younger siblings of He-who-should-not-be-named but we just look at them as pains in the ass. I should not have been sympathetic to Girlie in this book but I was. Oh God I was. Because the 50lb wheel of parmesan—I have seen similar things happen to the ‘new girl’.
So if you want a book that will give you a bird’s eye view of what it’s like to be a girl in the boys club while it’s all melting down—this is the book for you. Especially because the funny parts are all (most likely) based on true experiences.
I only have one warning for this book. While it’s a women’s fiction book it’s definitely not a romance. The possibility for romance is there if Erin Duffy ever wanted to bring us back into Girlie’s world ( I won’t spoil it but the book ends with some potential for lovin’) but the only guy who get’s significant love interest time turns out to be one of those guys who needs to get a raging case of the clap. Over and over again. So like I said, not romance but definitely one of those great women’s fictions books that make you not care about the fact that the heroine may be happier without Mr. Right.
So final recommendation? Why are you still reading this blog—go pick up BOND GIRL by Erin Duffy right now!
I’m sitting here watching the Olympic track and field competition (I was a HS runner so I totally dork out for this) and I’ve realized I am such an idiot for this stuff. I mean I like sports normally and if it’s on I’ll watch it. If it’s Premiere League soccer I might actually DVR it in advance or even sit down and watch it if I’ve got nothing else going on.
But, somehow every four years I find myself rearranging my life– and my tv watching schedule– to watch the Summer Olympics. I mean I don’t even normally get excited for NBA or NCAA basketball but if the USA is playing Sri Lanka I am going to have that television on so that I can watch.
This Olympics I’ve realized that I’ve passed this particular tendency on to the Oldest. We dropped everything to watch swimming (her sport) so that we could cheer for Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin on the big screen downstairs. We’ve watched archery. We’ve watched beach volleyball. We even watched handball. I didn’t even know handball was a sport before this Olympics. We cheered on Team USA during the gymnastics events while Oldest joked about the fact that she’s taller than anyone on the US Team and that’s obviously why she can’t turn cartwheels.
Now we’re watching track and field and I’m searching for when exactly the coverage on the triathlon is being shown that we can watch it.
The only thing we haven’t watched? Equestrian. Even the Olympics can’t turn me into a horse person.
What about you? Do you go stupid for the Olympics or could you care less? Any events you just couldn’t miss?