Thursday, October 21, 2010

10 day cycle

It has been a while since I have done one of these! Meanwhile, the 10 Day Cycle has caught onto a few more lovely bloggers, including Jade of Jade's Musings and Hannah of Counter Obsession. (I would love to read anybody else's 10 Day Cycles, please send me a link if you are taking part!)

As I mentioned in one of my most recent posts, Infinity, I am currently rereading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir about (as the name suggests) running. Naturally, the book also explores the way that Haruki's vigorous daily running regime shapes and enriches his beautiful writing and his quality of life. As I face a grueling series of exams, followed by a plan to dive head-first into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month!) as soon as they conclude, I am in desperate need of at least a little of Haruki's discipline. As far as I can from reading his book, I think the key to Haruki's dedication to his chosen form of exercise is that he truly enjoys running; and his enjoyment has led to it morphing into somewhat of an addiction. Despite the negative connotations attached to addictions, being addicted to something that is good for you - one that enhances and controls your natural talent and livelihood- must be a positive thing, right?

So, with that said, the following are a few things that I want to implement over the next 10 days, and hopefully into the future:

... Swimming
Swimming may seem an odd choice of exercise for me. It is certainly not the most convenient or glamorous activity to choose, at least not for somebody as vain as I am. Don't worry, I am more than prepared. To alleviate the effects of the chlorine and salt water, I invested in a keratin hair treatment, low-maintenance hair colour (balayage) and a shopping spree at the delightful Kit Cosmetics (with a strict rule attached: the products I purchased there are  only allowed to be used AT THE GYM).

So why have I chosen swimming, when it has required so much groundwork? I love the act of swimming itself. The gliding motion, the effortlessness, the gentleness. Getting lost in my own thoughts, focusing on pace and even breathing. The independence; I feel alone, but never lonely.

... Pomodoro technique
I have tried this focusing technique a few times, predominantly for last-minute essays and assignments, and it is brilliant. Sustaining it for the next month or so will be difficult, but I will need to if I want to ace my exams and get 50, 000 words written in two weeks!

Sarah Wilson explains the technique beautifully in this Sunday Life column, citing the real-life example of Ray Bradbury who, as a penniless freelance writer, wrote his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 in thirty minutes bursts, at the public library. You see, as Sarah explains, the discipline accessed through the Pomodoro technique allows us to access "flow": when we are so completely focused on the task at hand that time stops, distractions cease and much gets done.

... Transcendental meditation
I have tried this meditation technique sporadically, but I have been convinced that it needs to be a permanent, daily fixture in my life.

Two things led me to this conclusion:

1. Sarah Wilson's revelation that six weeks after discovering transcendental meditation, she landed the Masterchef gig. She meditated in the car before her audition; the casting team said that her confidence and poise were what impressed them so much that they gave her the covetable role. I need some of that.

2. Watching Eat Pray Love last week. Admission: when I read the book, I skipped most of the India chapter. I love Liz Gilbert but, as an unwavering atheist, I dismissed her plunge into the world of prayer as something I wouldn't be able to relate to in a million years. I was, however, intrigued by Balinese guru Ketut's take on things: "To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clear away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver."

... Blogging everyday
So, this whole writer's block thing. Apparently it's a crock... according to a multitude of impressive, professional writers.

"There's no such thing as writer's block. That was invented by people in California who couldn't write."
— Terry Pratchett

"Writer's block? I've heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write, yes? Then that person isn't a writer anymore. I'm sorry, but the job is getting up in the fucking morning and writing for a living."
— Warren Ellis

"Writers block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol."
— Steve Martin

"Writer's block doesn't exist...lack of imagination does."
— Cyrese Covelli

And, most cuttingly...

"Writer's block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber's block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?

The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don't want to do it, and you can't think of what to write next, and you're fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don't feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP. I like the reply of the composer Shostakovich to a student who complained that he couldn't find a theme for his second movement. “Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!” he said.

Writer's block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren't serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they're not inspired as when they are."
— Philip Pullman

Harsh, yes? I think I needed to hear it, though. "Writer's block" evokes the idea of a kind of ailment; one which is out of the writer's control and can only be overcome with time or, as Pullman says icily, inspiration. I think these writers are right when they say that writer's block is an excuse concocted by failing, depleted wordsmiths, whose self-doubts are quelling their creative spirit. Clearly, it is something that needs to be conquered, if I ever want to succeed as a writer. In an interview I conducted recently, with one of my favourite Australian columnists, Susan Maushart, she divulged her very sage advice for aspiring writers: Write as if it were a job, not a hobby (or it always will be). So you can expect more blogging from here on out (but please don't be disappointed if I lapse; I am hopeful, but fallible). 

... Joy
Discipline can be very, very dull... So I intend to alleviate that dullness with little bursts of joy. Lunch at my favourite French cafe. Reading. Blogging. Staying up late to watch Dexter and Six Feet Under in bed, with my boyfriend. Writing lists.

... Sleep
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Glorious sleep, which I am so fond of in the mornings, but not so much at nighttime (when I can think of a million better things to do), will be vital to a fluid, dynamic, fruitful day. Hopefully, it will work itself out, as long as I expend lots and lots of energy each day so that I am desperate for my head to hit the pillow, at a reasonable hour, in the evenings.

So that is all for me! What do you have in store for the next 10 days? Exams? Exercise? Shopping? Reading something exciting? I would love to hear from you :)


Frou Frou said...

Beautiful post. I'd love to re blog the Ketut quote as it really spoke to me. Enjoy your 10 days of joy and focus!

Kimberley said...

This is such a lovely post Laura! It's so inspiring, many of your goals are the same as mine, I really need to get focused before exams! In the next 10 days I plan to get well again (by eating well and resting ) then to exercise, read, study (so much) and ace my exams!
I love all of the pictures in this post, looking at them just makes me want to get up and do something beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I need to do one of these again. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

Laura Valerie said...

Frou Frou - yes, please reblog away! I'm so glad that his words spoke to you too.

Thank you Kimby!

My pleasure Belle, I cannot wait to read yours, as always.

allanah said...

Thanks for a great blog. I've started up my own due to pure inspiration from yours. Blogging every day is also part of my ten day cycle.

Laura Valerie said...

Thank you so much Allanah, that is so lovely of you to say. I'd love to read your blog :) (I tried to access it through your profile but it's private.) Please send me a link, if you'd like to! xx