January is pretty rubbish, isn’t it. The festive season is over, taking all the treats away and replacing them with things like ‘veganuary‘ (surely more of a punishment than a lifestyle choice) and ‘not drinking’ (even though drinking in moderation is arguably healthier than abstaining before going on a binge in February) and ‘endless news stories about the weather‘. None of it really makes you feel very much like creating art, or even going outside really.
Having said that, I’ve written before about my inclinations towards the sedentary and the fact I am far more likely to inhale a stilton through my eyes than to go for a jog – so the Januaryishness of it all isn’t really a valid excuse. Still, it’s a topical time to talk about the fact that sometimes with writing, just the same as with being a bit healthier, you have to force the issue even if you don’t feel like it. Fake it til you make it, in fact.
Now, given that my day job is desk based, my primary non-work activity (writing) is dining table based, and my main hobbies are lying in bed reading books and sitting still in cinemas, the ‘don’t exercise, buy Edam’ mantra is one that could lead to problems down the line. Already, targeted advertising tells me I should be doing lunges and eating lettuce instead of lounging around writing in longhand and munching a cheese beginning with l (leave me a comment if you’ve got one that isn’t leerdammer, which doesn’t taste of anything and therefore doesn’t count).
I don’t really care for exercise that feels like exercise, so in order to avoid reaching the enormous girth that will destroy my ability to play sportsball with my hypothetical children, I do my best to walk to and from the office five times a week. To note: I don’t know exactly how heavy I would have to be to not be able to kick a ball around with someone less than half my size. However I do know that footballer Cesc Fàbregas, who would have no physical trouble playing sportsball with my hypothetical children, is about the same height as me and is lighter than I am. Ergo, if I were the same weight as Fàbregas, I would also be paid 6 million Euros a year. #makeuthink #strawman #etc
Anyway, what I’m saying is, exercise doesn’t come naturally, so I force it kicking and screaming into my daily routine. If I don’t, I will have only myself to blame when I develop a hunchback – something which is only romantic/interesting if you’re a character in gothic literature. The physical reality is hard going. I’ve been to the Surgeons’ Hall Museum, I know what I’m talking about.
Similarly, writing doesn’t always appear naturally in my daily routine. Sure, sometimes I have an idea so rad I have to get it out there immediately before I explode, but more often I am re-drafting, or attempting to fix an unforeseen problem with a novel that I really can’t be bothered to deal with because it’s haaaard. A lot of the time I would much rather be eating the metaphorical cheese of working on something shiny and new. Occasionally I go ahead and write the other thing, but – much like exercise – intellectually I know I will feel better if I stop procrastinating and finish that first thing.
Since we moved flats, the round trip to and from work is about four miles, which gives me ample time to incorporate both exercise and thinking about writing into my day. Well, sometimes I just pretend to think about story ideas when actually I am secretly congratulating my iPod on its amazing shuffle selections. Stahp, I say, with this reminder of the existence of the All-American Rejects you are really spoiling me. But still. According to an informative poster I recently read in a toilet, I am smashing the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity that means I Will Never Die / get heart disease / have a stroke. We all know toilets are the best place to get information, right? Right.
Unfortunately there are no toilet posters about how much you need to edit per day to be the next JK Rowling. And however virtuous it makes me feel at the time, all that walking takes about 80 minutes out of my day where I could be writing on a bus, or in the house, or both. Given this year’s writing resolutions, and Edinburgh’s penchant for winters that consist of seemingly neverending sheets of rain in place of glittering snow or ice, part of me is quite tempted to do that. It sometimes feels like my subconscious is suggesting that instead of developing a good writing/editing habits in addition to good walking habits, I should do the writing instead. BAD JOB, SUBCONSCIOUS. Time to fake it til we make it.
Don’t feel like walking to work uphill in the rain? Remind yourself that if you get the bus instead, you’ll probably use the extra 20 minutes to eat cheese in preparation for handing over childcare responsibilities to a premier league footballer (and that that would be a negative thing, because he is not a qualified childcare professional).
Miserable January days wearing you down so you don’t feel like wrangling with book characters who refuse to do what you want them to? Remember that ignoring them won’t make them go away, because they literally don’t exist anywhere else yet. Starting a shiny new project will merely create a slightly different set of editing problems further down the line. You started this thing, you may as well get it out of the way whilst pals are preoccupied with going to the gym and making juice out of kale.
If you can work through the January urgh, make it past the February meh, leap across the March hmm, and breathe a sigh of relief when April is actually pretty OK, by the time May comes round you might not even have to fake it anymore. By summer, you might even have made it.
Congratulations in advance!
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