Mind the Gap

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient. ~Hilary Mantel

 

True Confession: I’m a tad obsessive when it comes to my running mileage. If I set out to run seven miles, by God, I’m going to run seven. If the Maritime Center—my ending point—is fast approaching and my Garmin reads 6.43 miles, I’ll take a left at Taylor and track and up and down each block until I close in on the magic number. Do I run past my mileage goal? Heh Heh Heh.

 

And so it is with my daily word count. Each writer defines their own good “butt in chair” day; I find a word count goal keeps me focused and motivated.

 

When I embarked upon the Novel #2 journey two weeks ago, I established the weekly goal of 10,000 words. Factor in a day for editing and research, another to work on other writing projects, and (here come my mad math skillz, look out!) that’s 2000 words each day I work on the Novel. I try to crank out 3k on Sundays—the start of my writing week—to build in wiggle room for the unexpected during the week, such as last week’s weird 24-hour flu bug. So far, I’m holding steady.

 

Sunday. Today. The start of my work week. I’d left myself notes for a new scene, had already visualized the setting, the conversation, the emotions. I planned a 3000 word day—easy-peasy. I couldn’t wait to get started.

 

Then, I couldn’t get started.

 

Five hours in and only a thousand words, some of those written last week and left hanging in an earlier scene. My brain, mushy after two poor nights’ sleep and still throwing off that flu bug, just couldn’t muster the words.

 

If I feel the stall during a run, I force myself to keep on. Ignoring exhaustion, soreness, boredom, I focus on the next half mile and get through it. Endorphins take over and finish the job for me.

 

But every so often, I’ll get a couple of miles in and know today is not my day. I might take a walk break and resume the run, but if the mojo truly is gone, I reset the Garmin and find a shortcut home. As a morning runner, I can always salvage the day with an afternoon hike.

 

If my writing focus fades, I keep the fingers on the keyboard, give myself permission to write crap and keep moving. The story takes over, suddenly it’s hours later and I’m telling myself, “You must stop at 4:00. You promised to go for walk/make soup/see a movie. Good job, Little Buddy!”

 

Today I couldn’t pull it together.

 

Stop. Reset the Garmin. Find a shortcut home.

 

Word Count be damned. Open the gap. Create the space.

 

Today, I stopped scowling at the problem. I bundled up and headed out, Bach in my ears and trail shoes on my feet. I breathed.

 

Saturday, I set out to run 8 miles. I went to 9 because it all felt so good.

 

If you’d told me two weeks ago, when I typed “Chapter One,” that I’d be 21,337 words into a new novel in fourteen days, well. Dude.

 

Find the Gap.

Getting some perspective. Admiralty Bay, Port Townsend 2/02/14 © Julie Christine Johnson 2014
Getting some perspective. Admiralty Bay, Port Townsend 2/02/14 © Julie Christine Johnson 2014

5 thoughts on “Mind the Gap

  1. Julie

    As someone who has barely walked the length of herself since November, I can’t tell you how I envy your ability to run every one of those damn km!!!! I’ve started to eat like a moderately healthy human again, and by March, I might just get my ass of the couch. As for hitting the daily word count . . . congrats. That’s awesome. Love reading about your process. As they would say back home, “keep her lit.”

    y

    Like

    1. Yvonne,

      Running has seen me through some very dark times. Times when the sheer force of habit was the only reason I got out of bed in the morning. I believe in the healing power of endorphins, active meditation and the embrace of nature that running offers.
      When you are ready, several friends have had great success with this self-directed program. It’s a gentle way to (re) take the road. http://www.c25k.com/

      Peace to you,
      Julie

      Like

      1. Thank you so much, Julie.

        I love running and did it religiously until about a year ago. I was all set to train for a marathon in the Fall of 2011 but then I got sick and it took me a while to start doing it again. I know I’m not quite ready yet. I find I’m exhausted and just can’t get up early these days, but I think it’s just part and parcel of this chapter.

        You’re right though. It feels so good to run. It’s freeing. I know when I get up and do it, I will have turned a major corner. I will let you know when that happens 😉

        Thank you. I will definitely check it out.

        Yvonne

        Like

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