Writing is like Running, it’s all in the mind
I never used to run. I never reallly thought about it, only I assumed I wasn’t the kind of person who would like running, too much pain and sweaty suffering. I suspect that at the back of my mind I always wanted to try it out, to see if it suited me, to see if I could conquer running. About a year ago I decided to give in to this nagging idea and I bought my first real running shoes and some proper running kit (don’t like to cause myself more pain than necessary). So I’ve been running more or less consistently for the best part of a year, and to be honest I quite like it. I like it more in cold weather and I like it more by the sea, but I run most days, two miles, in my local park. I feel good about running, I feel healthier and my body is better for it. I track my running using an app on my phone which records my running speed and sends it back to base, which is an account in the Internet cloud. I listen to music while running, I really enjoy these times when I’m all alone with a strange shuffle of my entire CD collection in a situation where I can’t get up and change the track if I don’t recognise it. All in all, running suits me. I just tell myself one thing, and it gets me through–running takes place largely in the mind.
I never wrote a novel although I often tried over the years. I started writing what I thought might turn out to be a novel when I was fifteen. I was reading a lot of ‘golden age’ science fiction and I wanted to write some myself. I came up with a plot, I’m quite pleased with it to this day, what I remember of it, which isn’t much. I continued to start long pieces of wrting over the years, but I never got far into them. I would set off (sound familiar?) at a gallop, just churning out words and trying to get the story established, the characters into play. Initially I must have done this with pencil and paper, but later on computers, in Word. Word. A great word processor, but to write a novel in it? I know, many people do and many great novels have been written in all sorts of ways. But to me the lab of text that you lay down in a word processor eventually becomes so heavy that it’s impossible to drag it any further. The problem is that a novel is a very complex undertaking, all sorts of issues are in play and, frankly, it’s impossible to get from the start to the end without realising that it needs substantial revision. So try to do that in a single document–it becomes almost impossible to even remember what you’ve alread written, let alone find it.
What i needed was a tool, something that would work more consistently with my own way of writing, of creating, of inventing and of pushing the thing forward. I did buy various novel writing pieces of software over the years, but they never really helped. And then one day, I have no idea when or why, I downloaded Scrivener. Now, I don’t come here to make a commercial pitch for this software, but it taught me one thing: writing a novel takes place largely in the mind.
So I came to realise that running and writing are similar undertakings, for me, in that they are pleasurable, they are repetative and they will only work if I remember that it’s all in the mind. Day after day, in good weather and bad, in happy times and sad, I have to get myself into the mindset and just write/run. I found that Scrivener enables that to happen for the writing (and Endomondo does it for running). Day after day I can keep myself focussed on what I need to do next, on progressing all the complex parts. If I get lost or confused (or have a brilliant insight into how to restructure part of the story, which usually happens while running), Scrivener helps me do that without messing up the whole thing.
Getting to the end of a novel, keeping it sane and comprehensible, is a huge and complex undertaking. I learn that anew every day. But it’s all in the mind. If you still want to do it, if you can overcome your desire to jack the whole thing in, if you can keep focussed, you’ll reach the end. One day.