Of Ice and Pen – My Writer’s Manifesto

I’ve gained a few pounds the past month-and-a-half. Probably not coincidentally, I have been spending quite a bit of time writing this blog during that same period. It’s actually not the writing that’s the problem; it’s the research. I can write without breaks for a few hours when I don’t have to stop and look something up. Researching one item isn’t the issue though – it’s when that one thing leads me to another, then another, and I end up in a research rabbit hole. This is especially true for the America Great series – federal budgets, appropriations bills, tax plans, etc. It’s at those times that I visit the fridge or the pantry for solace.

That’s the pen part of the title, although I do my writing on an iPad instead of with a pen. About a year ago, I took a little writer’s retreat. I attempted to outline my future novel with a pen and legal pad, but while it began as an outline, it grew into paragraphs, narratives and scenes with each new page. I switched to the laptop and the same thing happened. This may be a result of listening to a lot of audiobooks during long drives; I hear the narrators’ voices speak my words as I write them down. I think that’s a plus, but doesn’t it go against advice that is generally given to aspiring writers. My ideas seem to come out pretty much fully formed, but I can’t seem to help going back to tweak things instead of working through to a completed first draft.

Since I don’t seem to be ready to finish that first draft, I decided blogging would help me gain the discipline and practice I feel I need. This was not an original idea. It’s been about five years since I first felt the call to educate the public about political, economic and religious matters in the hope that the country would become less divided, and perhaps begin working together to address the needs of all. This was certainly an ambitious goal, but that’s the thing about being called – it’s not about you. There’s a certain freedom in that. You don’t have to worry about the outcome – that’s not in your hands.

That, however, goes against my nature. I am the type of person who thinks he can do a better job at a wide range of tasks than the vast majority of people out there. A quick example, I hired a contractor to change some interior walls in a rental property. His crew put up a few walls, taped and covered the seams with joint compound. I did the sanding, priming, painting and put on the baseboard. It was at the baseboard stage that I discovered how wavy the walls were – they dipped in and out by about 3/4-inch. My walls, when I have done them, are perfectly straight. It takes me 10 times as long, but they are perfectly straight.

So back to the blog. I had owned AOneManThinkTank.me for nearly a year at this point, but hadn’t been using it. I knew it was time to start, but of course, I was busy with a lot of other things. Not counting the introduction which dated back to the beginning, it took me ten more months to write my first post once I made the decision to blog.

The ice part of the title has to do with – you guessed it – winter. I am by no means a capital “R” runner, but aside from hiking in the mountains, it is my preferred form of exercise. (I don’t live near any mountains.) A twenty to thirty minute run burns a decent amount of calories, curbs my appetite for a while and can be fit in at several different points of my day. I can’t run outside it when it’s icy though. A couple years ago, I slipped on the ice and torn the meniscus in my knee. It’s healed now, but I plan to go through the rest of my life without slipping on the ice again. I probably won’t meet that goal.

Winter started late here in the northern part of the Eastern time zone. I was able to run outside through most of November and December, and occasionally in January. I have never been a fan of running on treadmills, so my exercise program has greatly diminished with persistent ice on the roads and bike trails. In combination with the more sedentary lifestyle that comes from a writing regiment, I gained about five pounds in a week. There were a few other culprits in this drama with cheese playing a crucial, but delicious role.

So I feel called to do the writing, but I want to keep my weight in control. I need a writing plan, a research plan, an exercise plan, and a get other things done plan.

My Writer’s Manifesto (It’s the authoritative part of my brain directing the creative part.)
Writing Plan
Write for three to four hours in the morning after taking care of the dog and having breakfast. Write again after your wife goes to bed until midnight or 1 am. When you get back to the novel – work all the way through – don’t keep reediting the first thousand words. Try an outline again – maybe you will have acquired that skill by then.

Research Plan
Take one of the morning writing blocks for research when needed. Leave the house and go to a coffee shoppe or the library to make food less accessible, or at least more expensive which has the same effect on you. Take very good notes so you won’t loose much writing time when you need to locate something.

Exercise Plan
Go to the gym a few times a week after the morning writing or research block. You’re already paying for the membership, so run on the treadmill & do some weights – it’s good for you. Run outside when it’s not icy; cross country ski if there’s enough snow.

Get Other Stuff Done Plan
When the writing block is over, let it be over. You can still continue to think about where the storyline or blog post is going, and feel free to take notes, but get that other work done. There are people relying on you.

Well, that’s it. Now that I have thought it through and written it down, I’ll probably not look at it very often. Conceivably I could keep a spreadsheet tracking my progress every day, but I think it would be counterproductive. I believe that frequent periodic tracking would point out the failures more than the successes. We humans are just built that way.

About tonyj126

I'm a 50+ married man who always seems to have a large backlog of work to do, but also a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Much of the work I do is volunteer or taking care of extended family members. I suffer from, as my priest calls it, "the sin of self-sufficiency," which means I can figure out how to do most things myself, and consequently, reduce the need for community to solve problems. As a logical extention (at least to me), I find myself called to comtemplate the country's and the world's woes and offer my observations. I hope someone out there will find them useful.
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