By the time you read this, the first real draft of the book I’m writing will be off of my plate and on my editor’s. The sigh you heard was me, enjoying the first real deep breath I’ve taken for about six weeks.
Writing the first real draft — meaning the first one that anyone other than me will see — is like running a long distance. To quote one Dimity McDowell, you have to chunk it up because there is no way you can handle it all in one big push. In this book’s case, that meant committing to writing 1,200 words per day for eight weeks so that I could hit my my projected word count of about 70,000.
Some writers allege they can’t pen a word unless they are visited by an ethereal muse. I am not one of those writers. My muse is an imaginary hairy-knuckled old-school newspaper editor who sits just behind me muttering, “You done yet, Martini” over and over again. Then he takes a nip from the flask he keeps in his bottom desk drawer and threatens to replace me with a trained monkey.
Whatever works, you know?
To keep the running and writing metaphor going, I did weeks of training (a.k.a research) and plotted my route before I set out on my 1,200 word runs so that I wouldn’t get sidetracked by having to figure out where I needed to go.
I treated the last eight weeks like a running streak. No matter what, I could not skip a day, which meant I would frequently get home from work, eat dinner, then disappear until bedtime. I have vague memories of my children. I’m told they are doing well.
About three weeks into this routine, my body let me know that any runs longer than an Enimen (that would be eight miles) would be a bad idea. More than distance ate up too much time and left my brain about as useful as a dish of pudding and decidedly less tasty. Fortunately, my Seneca Seven legs are just over three miles each, which is doable. I’ll be rolling into the Eau Claire retreat and half marathon sorta, kinda trained but sorta, kinda not. Which is fine, really, because my only goal will be to finish it and check off another state.
Oh — and run over all 11 bridges with unabashed glee because bridges are my favorite.
Speaking of, I’m currently in Northampton, Mass., to finish this first real draft. It’s a luxury to be able to pay for a hotel room so that I could get away from my family for 36 hours and do nothing but focus on the task at hand. I’ve enjoyed only having to feed myself and not be concerned about maintaining even marginal standards for personal hygiene.
I picked Northampton for a few simple reasons:
- It’s a 2.5 hour drive for me, which is far enough that I really feel like I’m away but not so far that I wasted precious writing hours getting there. Plus, I’ve been here a couple of times before and know the general lay of the land.
- The Hotel Northampton is surrounded by restaurants that I can walk to.
- Most importantly, there’s a lovely rail-trail that has a big ol’ bridge over the Connecticut River.
It’s totally normal to pick a place based simply on its proximity to a rail-trail, right?
I checked the trail out Monday afternoon during a break in a lovely spring drizzle. A four-miler with a little speedwork was exactly what I needed to get my energy moving again. Well, a run and a mocha, which I picked up on my way back to my room.
That run was much cooler and damper than the long run from the week before, which was in Oneonta. It was finally sunny enough that I regretted my clothing choices. After months and months of layers and layers, I’ve forgotten how to dress when it’s above freezing. Sadly, the way my layers were, I couldn’t take anything off without running a risk of being arrested.
It was also Wizard of Oz-style windy, which made the out of my out-and-back a joy. Less joy was had on the back -- until I spotted something that hadn't been there before:
It’s a rooster costume. In a tree. Over a fence. On a hillside.
I spent the rest of the run home pondering exactly what series of events led to this abandoned rooster husk. I never could work out a story that is even marginally satisfying.