Thursday, April 26, 2012

Running a Book, Writing a Marathon

A strange thing happened to me tonight. I was pounding out words for my work-in-progress (WIP), and I hit a stumbling block. (Note: I call it that because it wasn't about fear of the blank page. I could have put down many words, but I'd have edited them out somewhere down the line, because they weren't what I needed next.) I needed to add a character, a little spice in my stew, if you will.

So I sat there for a few minutes, thinking about my story, my characters. Thinking it was past time for dinner, waiting for my husband to stop noodling around in his office. Thinking of my weekend plans. Thinking about characters. Thinking about not sleeping well last night, again.

Let me digress for a minute. I have occasional middle-of-the-night insomnia. I can go to sleep at the drop of a hat, but sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I don't go back to sleep for another hour and a half. This is frustrating. I've learned that too much caffeine the day before or not enough exercise in the days before will cause this. But yesterday, I'd had normal amounts of caffeine. I'd even exercised. There was no reason for the insomnia.

Except stress. Because I'm on deadline to finish my WIP. And I have a day job, and a life (well, not lately).

Back to my sitting at my computer, pulling on my hair, wondering how I'd come up with a character. Feeling an idea tickling the edge of my brain like a word tickles the tip of your tongue when you just. can't. remember. it.

And then I realized. I needed to go jogging.

Another digression. I hate to exercise. Occasionally I go out through my neighborhood and run a block, then walk a block for a couple miles. I hate it every time.

Except tonight, I loved it. (Some might see this as a sign of the apocalypse. They might be right.) What's more, I ran my whole route, without stopping to walk. Because four blocks in, ideas started clicking. Six blocks in, I knew who the character was and how he was connected to my protagonist and her world. Nine blocks in, I had his name.

Three-quarters of the way through my run, as I told myself for the eleventh time, "Just get to the end of the next block, and then you can walk, if you really need to," I realized that this run was a metaphor for my WIP. Focus on the next block/chapter, then the next, then the next.

That's when I told myself, "If you can run all the way to the end of the route, you can finish that manuscript." By God, I ran all the way.

Deadline, watch out. I'm coming for you.

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