Working Out

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There’s been a transformation and it’s got everything to do with my writing. For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about my writing. First and foremost I have the Stanford Online Creative Nonfiction Writing class to thank for this. It has kicked me in the butt and made me write write write! While it may be a tad trite, it is true that, “Writers write.” Yes, well, this writer hasn’t been doing enough of that, and this course has done wonders to turn that around.
Firstly, we had to commit to writing for five minutes first thing every morning.  I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, I’m not much into the discipline scene. But I decided to commit. It doesn’t matter that my decision to commit was probably born of some deep seated need for approval, the need I’ve always had to kiss the teacher’s ass. What matters is the results, right?
The course structure and content have also given me the direction I needed to get over the huge speed bump that had grown up in front of me because I felt lost, not knowing how to get to the next step, how to keep moving forward, get more words on the page. The instruction I’ve received on how to conduct research (What’s that? You say? Research? It’s a memoir isn’t it?) has been instrumental in getting me moving, making progress, driving me on to find the next detail that I’d all but forgotten about.
And like all good little Type A, codependent personalities, the encouragement I’ve received from our instructor and fellow students hasn’t hurt either.
Low and behold, I’ve discovered that if I make myself sit down and write for five minutes first thing in the morning that I am still there several hours and many hundreds of words later.  I know, what did I expect? But seriously I’m sitting here in wonder as I realize that I’ve written over 15,000 words in the past 13 days. [In the name of honesty, technically it’s not first, first thing. Writing happens after I pee, brush my teeth, wash my face, put on the obligatory facial sunscreen, get dressed, let the dogs out, give them pats and a get my huge mug of tea. I don’t think I’m splitting hairs here, am I?]
Some days I really do only write for five to ten minutes and then I get up and go do something that I would normally fill my morning with, like yoga or more often than not surfing. Strangely enough, I think that while following this regimen, I’ve actually surfed more in the past two weeks than I have over similar periods for the past two years. And yet, I’ve managed to write so much! The only thing that is probably suffering is my yoga (and by extension, my lower back).
Before I started the course, I wrote here about following Andrea Mauer’s advice and kept a time journal for about ten days. As soon as I started it, I saw how much time I wasted messing about on the internet, reading emails, checking Facebook updates, randomly conducting searches on anything that popped into my mind. I spent a ridiculous amount of time recording my caloric intake on the Livestrong.com website (it’s still a great web site, I just don’t have time to be going on there three or more times a day to try to find the ingredients to everything I eat). She helped me recognize how much time I was wasting and the writing course has made me prioritize. I guess I needed the combination punch to wake the #$@% up!
So, finally I feel like I’m over the hump. I’m 118 pages and 56216 words into my goal of having a first draft of my memoir written and it no longer feels like a weight attached to my backside and dragging along in the sand behind me. I’m excited about it, can’t wait to read the next journal entry or email that will prompt my memory so I can write the next section. I’m planning interviews to get others perspectives, reading the research and articles that first grabbed my attention and made me want to do the work. I’m finding where my outline is confused and confusing and have started to repair it. And I even think I feel the right side of my brain growing, blossoming, generating more neurons and synapses as I sit here plugging away at my computer. Someone once said, “The brain is a muscle. You’ve got to exercise it.”  It might not be the cerebral equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but my brain’s been bench-pressing 1000 words daily.
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2 thoughts on “Working Out

  1. Katrina, That is mighty high praise. Thank you.(oh and as an aside…should have put this in the post, but the middle finger on my right hand is suffering some kind of bursitis from all this typing. Do you think that means I'm flipping the world the bird as I write??) :-O

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