Last week I told you how I planned to dive into that new novel while also diving into my marathon training. I was scheduled for 5 runs totaling 28 miles; I managed 4 runs totaling 24 miles. That was cool with me, I wasn’t disappointed. That Achilles tendon is still tight, so I didn’t want to push it too hard early in the program. I had also set up a target in Scrivener to hit 50K words in the new project by the time the marathon rolled around on November 17. Giving myself a modest 4 days per week to write, my goal would be just under 700 words per writing day. That seemed 100% doable. Easy, even.
Except that my sum total words since last week is 22. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Twenty-two new words. I had about 30 some pages on the project and I ended up cutting a few pages, leaving the net total falling in the Extremely Paltry category. Today, I mulled over the structure of the story, the main character’s desire, the overall themes and got nowhere.
My son asked how it went today and after I told him about my lack of production, he said, “Didn’t you always say that you have to write a bunch of bad stuff in order to get to the good stuff?”
Um, yeah. And I’d just read this quote by Annie Dillard on Brainpickings.org yesterday (italics my own):
“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead-end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins. The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. You attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all the angles. Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.”
Then I read this post on fellow VCFA grad L.A. Byrne’s blog. She talks about building, learning to do what needs to be done as opposed to what your body/mind wants to do. And she talked about Monet and how he would move forward and back, forward and back to ensure that the work he did with the paint was achieving the effect he intended.
And didn’t I just say in my last post how the beginning phase of marathon training is about building? It’s about breaking down what your body wants to do (like maybe sit on the couch and watch Season 4 of Gilmore Girls with a bag of Twizzlers) and re-training your body to do something else (like maybe run 10 miles in the August heat). I know from experience that the more I adhere to the marathon plan, the more my body will respond to the running and even start to crave it.
I also know that if I show up every day at the page, words will come. And if I keep Annie Dillard in mind, I’ll carve that path with my miner’s pick, seeking that vein of gold and once I find it, I won’t look back. I won’t worry about the all the words that had to go down just for me to arrive. I will, in her words, “make the path boldly and follow it fearfully.”