MEATHEAD WRITING AND HOW TO OVERCOME IT

I wish there was more to this entry than simple prognostication but there isn’t. For those readers seeking a meaningful philosophical treatise look away now. However for those fellow aspiring authors, who like me, spend too much time in front of a computer struggling to write interesting prose, you might take comfort and/or inspiration from the following.

Lately I’ve turned into a minor fitness fanatic and side-effect is that writing has become increasingly difficult. After a session lifting weights, sitting in front of a desk afterwards is hard – in the aftermath I feel like a meat-head!

A while ago a combination of interconnected events and personal grievances coalesced into a desire for substantive personal change. First I finished a mammoth novel, a work that took nearly a decade to write. In a way that novel has come to represent a particularly harsh period of my life wherein grief and other hardships put me in a depressive state both emotionally and physically. On both counts, completing that novel elicited a profound desire for both emotional and physical change.

On the physical of things, was my awareness that a) I’m not as young as I once was (who isn’t?) and b) I despise my lack of physical fitness. When I was younger I was a lot more physically fit. My bar job lent itself to acquiring considerable strength. Me and the guys I worked with used to compete with one another to see how many twenty-four packs of 500ml beer we could carry from one side of the club to the other. My record was eight and I would have tried for more, only I couldn’t see over the load. I was leaner and meaner then and though not necessarily happy, I felt a lot better about life.

In the decade that followed, I changed jobs and became a “responsible” corporate employee. As my unhappiness grew so did my waistline. I began settling for less rather than pursuing a better quality of life.

Long story short once I finished the aforementioned novel, I needed change both physical and mental. Closing a chapter on that manuscript wasn’t the only reason for that need: family and friends were of huge significance. I’m not happy with aspects of my life and I’m trying to fix them.

I can guess what you’re thinking Dear Reader: These are first world problems – who cares?

The answer is probably no one besides me, but said first world problems aren’t the purpose of this entry. This piece is a mental exercise intended to push through the fog of post work-out endorphins. Literary difficulties are analogous to problems with the physique and usually the result of a failure to employ the full range of function. Writing is like physical exercise and a good writing session is identical to a good work-out in the gym. Where problems arise with the literary brain it can be the result of multiple problems, just as a physical deficit requires the use of multiple muscles to correct.

For example, exercising one’s abdominal muscles without paying equal attention to the muscles in your back, results in minimal gains. Therefore compound exercises (where multiple connecting muscles are used) are better than simply bludgeoning away at one area of concern.

Similarly hammering away at one literary task without balancing it with other forms of literary expression is counter-productive. And yes I know that many of you are thinking that it’s better to stay focussed on one task at a time.

But is it really? Multiple sets of reps with breaks in between, is better for muscle development than continuous repetition without pause so why would working with different forms of creative expression be bad for the brain?

As a test, if like me you are experiencing some kind of writing difficulty, turn to a blank page in your notebook (or in my case a new Word document on the computer) and write the first random sentence that comes in to your head. It doesn’t have to make sense or have any bearing on what you want to work on. Alternatively, write about something other than what you are working on, like I’ve just done.

If there is a lesson here, it is that the key to getting back on track with a literary task is through expressing oneself first in order to clear away whatever detritus is hindering your progress.

Thanks for reading! I’m ready to get back to work now!

 

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