In my day job, I do work that involves logic and things following a path. 1+2 always = 3 and never 5. So there is a part of me that wants other aspects of my life to follow the same logical path. And they never do. I have two primary focuses at the moment: Getting healthy and finishing my current work in progress (WIP). I’m going to talk about the health focus first, then the similarities I see on the writing side of the fence.
For getting healthy in broad terms, it involves making the right food choices, exercising my body, and simplifying things in my life to reduce stress. Losing weight is a big factor in the getting healthy quest, but it is a result of what I’m doing to improve my health. While I am focused on making sure the pounds are disappearing, the main goal is improved health. Since overall health is harder for me to see, quantify, and measure, I do tend to focus, at least right now, more on the weight than anything else. And I’d love more than anything for the path to be like a big ol’ highway with a formula like 1+2=3, that I can rely on. Eat X calories less than you burn, then Y pounds come off the scale. But anyone who has ever struggled with weight on either end of the spectrum will tell you that’s NOT how it works.
I had a big reminder on how things DON’T always work the way we expect them to this weekend. I stopped at the store to get a pair of “goal” jeans because the current pair were getting a little loose … and I am a goal oriented person. I knew there was no way I would fit into the jeans because I had only purchased the current jeans a few weeks ago and haven’t lost enough pounds to get into a new size since. Plus, having been up and down the weight road several times, I have weighed far less and not fit in the size I purchased for my goal. Only, in a supreme twist of the usual fate, they did. *pause for a momentary happy dance* This twist in the path happened to be a pleasant one (YAY!!)
So how does weight loss correlate to writing? Well, first both are a journey and sometimes there are starts and stops along the way, with a few reversals. Anyone who has had to delete chapters of work knows the pain of reversal, just as those who regain weight feel after having busted their butt to lose it in the first place. On the weight journey, my path has been much like a yo-yo, and I’m cursing myself for having picked the one with the longest string — always go for the one that lights up or sparkles. 😉 The writing journey has been much the same … up and down, and not always going the direction I’d like. Fortunately, for both I am certain I have the right team in place and the weight will go down and the writing career will go up.
Ten years ago, I was at my heaviest, and it was taking a severe toll on my health, so I had a start and lost a significant amount of weight. Five years ago, I had the amazing experience to be given the premise for the current WIP (work in progress). It amazed, excited, and terrified me all at the same time. I knew I wasn’t ready to truly embark on the writing process, so I made the notation of the idea in my file and went back to my current works. Both of those count as starts … the stop coming almost immediately in the case of the WIP, and taking a couple years with the weight. I’ll spare you the back and forths with the weight, but I experienced equal back and forth with the WIP. I wanted to write this book so much it hurt. I’d be working on other things, and ideas for the current WIP would hit me. And each time they did, I’d add them to the growing file, but fear kept me from putting pen to page or in my case fingers on the keyboard. There was always an excuse. And with the weight loss there was always an excuse … in both cases some very valid, but excuses nonetheless.
As I mentioned, I now have the right team in place for both … and not only that, I have the right focus in place for both. And the focus is not the scale for the weight loss, and really, though I am still so utterly delighted, not on the clothing sizes either, but on the process or plan of how to get to my goal weight. I check in on a daily basis on how I am doing against the plan, and that is working. Similarly, the focus on the writing side is on honoring the process. My process is not the same as any other author … nor should it be (and theirs don’t have to be like mine) … but it is the process that works for me. And my process involves letting the character(s) drive. It took a kick in the tail to get me beyond my fear of not being up to the task of this novel. Fortunately, I have the right person in place for that, my literary agent, Italia Gandolfo, and anytime I get stuck, she’s right there to administer the swift kick to get me on my way again (and she definitely has the boots to do it.) I have my plan for the WIP and I check in daily on where I stand with it.
I chose the picture with the track lanes because it expresses how I usually see things. I am competitive by nature, something I have fought to mold into competing not against others, but with myself. The race aspect resonates with me. How can I get there in the fastest time? How fast can I lose the weight? How fast can I write a novel? But if I keep my focus on the plan, the speed is irrelevant. If I reach my weight goal in nine months or it takes me a year, what difference does that really make? Especially, if in order to hit my goal in the faster time I had to take drastic measures to get there. Drastic measures in weight loss usually come back to bite you. Hard. What about the WIP? I wanted to be done with the WIP by the end of last year. It simply isn’t writing that way. But I still want to hit the starter block, bear down and sprint off — except Melody Fisher, my main character, refuses to play that game. This WIP will be written in her timing, not mine. And if I were to have finished the book by the end of the year, would it be the book that I am currently writing? No. Taking the time on this one is so worth it, regardless of how uptight I might get and fractious because it isn’t moving as quickly as I’d like.
Just as with the new jeans, I’ve been watching the word count at the bottom of the page creep up, like I sometimes obsessively watch the scale numbers to go down, but last night when I glanced down I realized I was so much further along than I had thought, and while there is still a chunk left to write, I no longer feel stalled (hello smaller jeans feeling) 😀 And when I have those realizations, I remind myself the competition with myself is not a race. It is not how fast I get to either finish line, but about the journey itself. What have I learned along the way? And how well am I doing it? For the weight loss, I have learned entirely new dietary habits and haven’t struggled with cravings as I have in the past. With the WIP, I feel as if I have truly written beyond my abilities at times because I am keeping myself out of the middle. This is not the story I want to tell, but the story Melody needs me to tell. By getting out of my own way, I have a manuscript I am more proud of than anything I have yet written. And if I rushed either of those things I wouldn’t have the results that I do.
And the final thought is that while I call my manuscript a work in progress, so am I. May I never stop striving to be better both as a human being and as a writer. Knowing the road ahead will not be straight and will contain lots of twists and turns, I move forward with confidence, knowing I am on the right path with both of my focal points, and who knows??? I just might have several pleasant surprises along the way.