Friday, February 19, 2010

Peddling at your own pace

Pythagoras and I have slightly different exercise habits. The key differentiating factor is that he actually has exercise habits. I have a pair of running shoes that function solely as a place for the cat to rest his head while napping.

Don’t get me wrong, I keep reasonably fit. I do this through a complicated routine of trickery and self-manipulation (no, not that kind of self-manipulation, though that is a fine way to burn calories). I can trick myself into a daily five-mile hike as long as I believe I’m just walking the dogs. I can be eased into an hour-long yoga session by telling myself I’m just going to lie down on the cozy mat for a little nap.

I’m easily fooled like that.

Pythagoras, on the other hand, is insane. When he tells me he’s going out for a “short bike ride,” he means he’ll be peddling for 90 miles, half of it straight up the side of a mountain. If he takes to the treadmill after dinner, there’s a good chance I won’t see him again until morning.

When we first met, I was a little intimidated by his fitness regimen. Would he think I was a slug if I didn’t share his single-minded determination to set the world jump-rope record? Did he find slugs erotic?

By now we’ve found a happy balance. Sometimes I can even keep up with him – like the time we rode 60 miles on our tandem bike and I totally kicked his ass. OK, fine, it was three weeks after his surgery for a torn Achilles tendon, and he was admittedly still wearing a cast. Even so, I schooled him.

Though I’ve stopped fretting about the difference between my exercise habits and my husband’s, I am prone to occasional moments of panic when it comes to comparing my writing habits to those of other authors.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with the same two terrific critique partners since the early days of my foray into fiction. Not only do we have wildly different writing styles, but very different habits.

Sometimes I find myself wondering if I’d be a better writer if, like Cynthia Reese, I wrote in a linear fashion and handed off one chapter at a time for critique. Her plots are always much tighter than mine, so maybe that’s the ticket.

But while that works well for Cynthia, I’m just not that sort of writer. I might not know until chapter 17 who my bad guy is, which means my early chapters will likely undergo a full lobotomy before I type “the end.”

My other critique partner, Linda Brundage tends to write at a slower pace than I do. I know she sometimes frets about that, and I’m prone to the same anxiety for the opposite reason. Maybe if I slowed down I’d be able to write beautiful, dark, heart-wrenching prose like she does?

But heart-wrenching isn’t my thing. Crotch-spliting, that’s more my style. And I’m slowly beginning to accept that, and to accept the fact that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write. There are a million different methods, just like there are a million different writing styles. The important thing is to just do it, and to work hard at improving my craft along the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I'm going to go trick myself into snowshoeing. It helps if I carry a mai-tai and tell myself I’m shuffling through sand on a Jamaican beach.


Linda G. said...

Now THAT kind of snowshoeing I could get into.

Okay, not really. If I have one thing in common with my mc, it's that we both think the best way to increase your heart rate is to read a steamy novel. Waaay more fun than exercise. ;)

Linda Brundage said...

Tawna, your post was spot on.

I know that no matter how hard I might ever try, I will never be able to write at your breakneck speed, while simultaneously turning out hilariously funny stories. And so for me, a lot of my writing "process" has been about accepting that I can only write like I write. And I will stop short of begging the cosmic writing forces forgiveness for using the word "process" since I am not sure I have one. OK, I have one, but that in itself is a work in progress! L Brundage


It's my lucky day, comments from TWO Lindas!

Linda G, I definitely agree with your mc. I'll have to meet her someday and maybe buy her a drink.

Linda B, I think that's a big part of maturing as an author -- learning to accept the fact that someone else's methods aren't our ticket to greatness. Can't say I've figured out how to mature as a human being, but at least I'm getting the author part down.

Thanks for reading, Lindas!


Minta said...

Tawananannana, you forgot our favorite exercise motivator: a $hitload of food and alcoholic beverages at Kayo's following the workout!! Boy, do I miss Kayo's Koolaid...err, I mean boy, do I miss our kickboxing class...

Lindsay said...

I'm pretty sure the monthly happy "hour" we take part in counts as exercise since we are walking from place to place within downtown AND back to our cars. It's exhausting!


Ah, many thanks to Minta and Lindsay for reminding me of the copious exercise benefits involved with pub crawling.

Minta, I've been meaning to blog about our sweat-soaked, bbq-sauced ladies' nights but haven't come up with a credible way to tie it to writing.

Lindsay, I heartily agree that visiting multiple bars in one evening should count as circuit training.

And now that I sound like a total lush, I'd better sign off.