“Sweat” by Tim Lebbon
Writing is hard work. I’ve always said that, and I always will. It’s draining and challenging, both physically and mentally, and a good writing stint leaves me tired in the same way as a good work out: ready for a rest, but content, and perhaps a little smug with the feeling that I’m tired for a good reason.
But sometimes, a good workout is what you need to sort out your writing.
A couple of weeks ago I was moving toward the end of my current novel DAWN (I still haven’t finished, but it’s almost there … I’ve flirted with the ending, taken it out for a drink and nice meal, and now we’re back home at my place and … well, you know what comes next). But I was stuck. There were a few strands that weren’t coming together to my satisfaction, and a couple of the characters seemed to have lost their purpose. I didn’t like that. It made it feel as though I’d lost my purpose, and that just got me pissed and irritable and I took it out on my family. I hated doing that, so I just got more pissed and…
“Bugger off to the gym!” my lovely wife Tracey said. So I did. Took my mp3 player, plugged in and switched off. I pounded out a few miles on the treadmill and then moved onto the exercise bike … and then those characters started whispering to me. They told me what they needed to do next, and a couple of plot problems reared up and sorted themselves out, and I was pedalling with a stupid grin on my face, doing my best to remember everything that had suddenly come together in my head. The story suddenly felt right again, a three-dimensional whole rather than just a few notes on a bit of paper somewhere. It felt, as any good story should, more than a sum of its parts.
Stephen King once said in an interview somewhere that he’s not too concerned about ideas melting away from his mind, because the good ones always stick. Doesn’t work for me. I’ve got the memory of a goldfish. Eh? Oh yeah. Doesn’t work for me, I’ve got the memory of a goldfish. So I quit the gym, sat in the changing room for ten minutes and jotted down all these ideas, the strands that led me to them and where they might steer the novel toward the conclusion. Then I had went to the sauna and steam room comfortable that I’d done some good work.
See? Writing is hard work. It should make you sweat, and it should tease you. Like that ending I’ve just brought back from a fine meal … the music’s on … it’s teased me for weeks … who knows what the night may bring?