Take a magic bean.
Beans always work for me. Take a bean, feel better. Wasn’t that our motto as teenagers?
This is an exercise in futility, I am afraid – no bean will get me ready for the New York Marathon in November.
Rather, I am searching for answers, reading the book ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King.
Clearly, avoidance behavior at its finest.
Stephen King, the prolific author of the macabre genre, says he writes 2,000 words a day. This reflects the discipline he has developed over the years and is what he recommends for aspiring writers.
Discipline. This is the key word. For runners too.
If one wants to finish marathons or be a professional writer, one has to be, you know, that.
Stephen King says that it takes him typically from four to six hours a day to write 2,000 words, and he does this six to seven days a week.
I am told, for those of us who need to visualize these things, this is ten pages a day, day in, day out.
Yikes! That’s like running a 10K every day!
I think – since I work full-time and am training for the you-know-what in New York come November – I would be wise to cut back on such a level of commitment in my writing. My goal should be smaller. Like in running, I can build my stamina.
Every morning I should write for five good minutes.
Five minutes sounds like something I can handle. Five minutes is do-able.
One page. Like, say, once around the track.
Something, in fact, I can do right now this morning. Ah….writing that is, forget the track.
Maybe, even, write a page-and-a-half.
This way I won’t get overly tired from the mental exertion of thinking about what to write or be fired for being late for work, and I can save my physical strength for my oh-never-mind.
Still, we mustn’t forget those beans.
Magic beans could come in awfully handy with writing too!
Okay then, Stephen King says he goes into a room, the room where he chooses to write his novels, closes the door, and sequesters himself inside (with the blinds drawn) until he produces his ten pages for the day, every day. Hmmm….
For me, it would be better if I used my kitchen counter. Much easier and I like sitting here every day.
Besides, I like having access to the coffee machine, the refrigerator, the pantry, the bread drawer, the bananas near the knives – much better than being off somewhere in the house with the door closed. That sounds so secretive…
In the kitchen, I bet, I can write, say, fifty words easy. No problem. Then, I can get up and make myself a piece of toast.
Fifteen more words and I can refill my coffee cup.
Thirty words and I can look at my face in the downstairs bathroom mirror and practice my visualization exercises: how to smile on the back jacket of my Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
Wait. What is that thing on my nose? Where did that come from…
I decide, back at the kitchen counter, doing the math: rather than fifty words, if I write 500 words a day, six days a week, I can generate 3,000 words in one week and, say, 12,000 words in a month.
This would be… hmmm, let’s see…
This would be sixty pages in one month! Wow!
This would be so cool.
If I actually made an effort to combine these sixty pages of words into real sentences and, maybe even, sorted the sentences into paragraphs to help categorize my thoughts, and put all the paragraphs together into chapters, it could be even cooler!
In fact, it could be extraordinary!
How difficult can it be to write 500 words and actually bunch them together in such a way that they mean something? How difficult would it be to put them into sentences with nouns for subjects, verbs, and, maybe even, direct objects? Like, ah, someone doing something. I write. I ran. Or, even, now that I am getting adventurous: ‘Like Stephen King, I write novels.’ or ‘I stumbled on the pavement and ran over the race official.’ How tough can this be?
Hmmm…. I must mull this over – especially while I check the refrigerator.
I wonder what we are having for dinner tonight? I need something healthy – I am running in the ‘Big Apple’ after all.
I need more coffee…
Okay, I’m back and focused on writing. What was it, fifty words?
I really should wash the pots and pans from last night.
We had spaghetti for dinner. Why is it that I am the one in my family who cleans up afterward? For that matter, why is it that I never clean up after dinner, but always, always, always wait until the next morning?
What a mess. I should be writing.
I decide at the sink, I like the concept of ‘discipline’ in writing.
In truth, I realize in waiting for the hot water, I actually thought about getting myself ‘disciplined’ long before Stephen King’s book.
I’ve lacked discipline all of my life.
When they handed out the discipline gene, I must have been in the line for magic beans…
I recall a morning, just like this morning, earlier this year (or was it last year?), the morning when I first realized the truth:
I am a lazy writer (not much of a pot washer either).
Now I’ve come to see the truth –
I am a lazy runner too – which is why my training is turning into such a disaster!
My verdict across the board is ‘guilty’ as charged.
I am a lazy writer, a lazy runner, and a lazy person!
Becoming more disciplined is just the kind of punishment I need.
Like breaking rocks.
Thirty minutes a day of actual writing should be my sentence.
Oh, and, running every day to get ready for the “you know what” up in “you know where.”
Only now I’ll have to come up with a storyline for my writing.
Say, wait, Stephen King says he doesn’t like having a plot. He simply puts characters into situations and let’s them go wherever it takes them.
Whew! This works for me.
Most of my essays are plot-less and my characters, namely me, are in “dire situations” all the time.
Just like with this piece or just like what’s about to unfold in a month.
And, just like Stephen King says, I’m not sure where it is taking me, either.
In fact, working my way out of this predicament (and the disaster impending) is precisely why magic beans could be so handy. I need an incredible “deux ex machina” ending. Like in an old Greek tragedy, a hand-cranked, wooden crane can slowly lift me up and swing me behind a tiny white cardboard cloud we all know to be Athens, and, all the while, a large male choir standing at the finish line in running shoes, just like at the very first marathon, can fill the amphitheater with some Euripides version of Beethoven.
Suddenly, I feel as one with Stephen King, and, just like Stephen King says —
I have to get serious.
Tomorrow I get serious.
My 500-word opus begins tomorrow.
Today is practice. Today I practice what it means to be disciplined.
Maybe I need to move my practice to a less “addictive” more “serious” place.
But NO, here I sit at my kitchen counter, disciplining myself to write, write, write…
And, that means: focus, focus, focus….
Say, wait, I actually haven’t read the chapter on ‘being focused.’
Jeez, Stephen King, just like you said, this writing business is harder than it seems.
Maybe, I should go running, or, rather … maybe, that too!