October 21, 2005, 11:24 am. 11 days, 12 hours, and 36 minutes until keyboards in motion.
I’ve decided to take a tip from the world of athletics; get in training. Athletes will spend days, week, months, even years preparing for an event. Aside from doing direct work on their particular specialty they will do ancillary exercises that they hope will be of benefit to them in their chosen endeavour.
For example a person entered in the one hundred yard sprint will not only run the distance countless times, they will spend hours working on the mechanisms of their starting technique, lift weights to increase upper body and leg strength, and gain an understanding of their body chemistry so they’ll know when to stop taking assistance.
Since I doubt that Dick (head) Pound and his dope police have figured out how to extend their witch hunt to include NaNoWriMo I don’t expect anyone to be showing up at my door asking me to pee in a Dixie cup anytime soon. Not that I have anything to worry about until they decide to ban coffee, cigarettes, and assorted junk foods.
So that leaves me with figuring out a training regime that falls within more legitimate parameters. If I tried lifting weights I’d probably snap off various body parts, so that’s out of the question, but it still leaves the question of what to do about stamina up in the air. What can I do to ensure that I’ll be physically and mentally capable of going the distance?
Since I’m planning on trying to double my output at the keyboard for the next month, I figure something that’s important to work on is my wrist flexibility. The last thing I need is to be crippled by Carpal Tunnel during the crunch time. Since repetitive motion is something I want to avoid, all those with your minds in the gutter can stop those thoughts right about now thank you very much.
One of the methods I’ve devised is very useful because it can be utilized while doing that important work of staring blankly off into space hoping for inspiration. It involves sitting with your arms dangeling loosely at your side and allowing your arms to gently swing back and forth, rotating your hands at the wrists all the while staring slack jawed and glazed eyed at the wall.
I find that the effect can be greatly enhanced by allowing your head to occasionally loll forward and to either side. This is probably something to be done in the privacy of your home, because doing it in a public space is bound to attract the wrong type of attention. It’s far harder to type when your hands are confined in a backwards jacket, and tranquillizers tend to have a negative effect on your creativity.
For those yuppies that want to take a more proactive approach to their exercise regime and would prefer to focus on strengthening rather than limbering, I would recommend variations on finger presses. A simple matter of laying your hands on or against any flat surface and pushing up or away, these can be done while waiting the two hours it takes Starbucks to make your latte pressed foamy thingy with some coffee flavouring, or on the now useless gun mount in your hummer, oh sorry, Humvee.
Of course the really gung ho may want to do finger press push-ups. But since that can result in anything from bad sprains to broken fingers, the drawbacks could end up out weighing the benefits.
On a slightly more serious note the thing to do would be to follow a procedure that a friend of mine taught me years ago when we had jobs forcing us to sit at computer terminals for eight hour shifts. Every hour on the hour stand up and stretch out your body. Even if it’s only to walk around for a couple of seconds it’s enough to get the blood flowing and prevent any part of your body from stiffening up severely. Drink enough coffee and you’ll be getting up regularly anyway, either to refresh you cup or for recycling purposes.
It probably would have been more apt to use a marathoner’s training than a sprinter’s as an analogy I realize, seeing how this is a novel writing month, not half hour, or even long weekend. So while short bursts of speed may help, what really matters here is staying power and endurance. Like anything else along those lines it’s not going to be something you’ll be able to do without some preparation.
The first thing that you have to do is deal with the psychological barrier of the number: 50,000. It sure sounds like a hell of a lot. But as I pointed out in the first post when you break that down into chunks of thirty days, the word count starts to appear more manageable. Even allowing for my horrendous math skills (my count was off by about 400 words) it still only comes out to be, the very obtainable, slightly under 1700 words a day.
So in an effort to build up my strength to achieve that daily goal of slightly less than (according to my calculator it works out to exactly 1,666.66 words per day) 1700 words a day I’ve started to do some timed distance training. For the past two mornings I have checked the time on my computer and started writing the first chapter of what I think I’m going to be writing about.
After a half hour’s solid writing I check the properties of the document I’ve worked on to see how much I’ve accomplished. On my first two days a half hour has equalled 680 or so words: more than a third of the way to my goal. Theoretically that means that it should only take an hour and a half’s solid writing a day to achieve the goal of 50,000 words.
Now I know that as the days run on I may not be as inspired, or that I’ll run into plot problems, or heaven forbid I’ll just not be able to think of anything at all to say. But those are fears and worries for another day.
What’s made me happy about this exercise so far is two things. One is the ease with which I ‘v been able to keep consistently writing. There have been no long groping pauses for words or phrases and I’ve felt that I could have kept going in that manner for quite some time with no problems.
The other happy thought was that in each instance, although I was working from the same story in my head, I naturally came out with different scenarios for getting the same information across. I also found myself able to visualize where these characters were going, where they had come from. Some of my mental pictures were so detailed that I could actually visualize dust particles on the roads they may have to travel in the future.
For the first time instead of feeling trepidation about the circumstances; excitement about a new creation was beginning to stir. I was visualising the characters that I was going to introduce; seeing the circumstances that pushed forward the main story line; and envisioning subplots and the interrelations between minor characters.
These are only trial runs and already the map of their lives is starting to unfold in front of me. All I have to make sure of is that I follow directions and don’t get lost. Of primary importance is that I don’t get ahead of myself and picture the finish line before I actually cover the distance.
If I allow myself to fall into the trap of believing this will only be a matter of sitting down at the computer each day and typing for an hour and a half, I will end up frustrated and disappointed. This is the reason that I’m doing the stamina building exercises. Hopefully I’ll be able to experience a variety of circumstances that could potentially surface, thus eliminating nasty surprises. It is very important for my confidence and comprehension to have experienced a good three or four days of full sessions before starting NaNoWriMo.
Today I’m feeling confident about my abilities to actually finish the contest. I’m sure that over the course of the next ten days something will happen that send me into turmoil again. Don’t worry you’ll be the first to know.