Athletics vs creativity
Let's be honest. In January 2018 I've been cycling via my online game more than I've been writing. It's a bit embarrassing because Within These Trees is pretty darn close to being finished. I have needed a bit of a break from the book though, and during this break good and useful thoughts for improvements have drifted up from my subconscious. So, in a way, the break has been useful.
I've also been thinking about something that has bounced around in my brain in the past. It's a question that probably only occurs to a small group of people who have bounced between athletics and creativity in their life. Here's the question - what is more difficult, to train towards a fitness goal, or to write / paint / compose etc.
My take is that it is FAR HARDER to create, than it is to train.
One part of this is probably the social side. Creating artistically (in my case writing) is pretty much unapologetically a solitary and lonely endeavour. Even if you had a writing buddy, and he or she was sitting on the other side of the desk from you, you would still be alone in your own world and your friend couldn't help you at all. In athletics, sure there are those lonely misty mornings when you're out on your bike alone. But there are also all those group rides, or buddy rides, when your friend who is a little bit stronger than you are pushes you past your limits and you improve by hanging onto his or her wheel for an hour. Then there are things like Strava that build a lot of social interaction into the workout, and make it less of a solitary thing.
But I think the most important difference is that in athletics, when you're training towards a certain goal - you both know what the goal is, and how to get there. You don't know either of these things when you're writing.
In athletics, if you want to raise your FTP score 10 points, you know that that's your goal, and you can choose from a variety of widely available workouts meant to help you achieve exactly what you need. My online program alone has a few different FTP training programs a cyclist could choose from.
With writing - you don't really know what your goal is. Even if you've done a plot outline of your book, as you write, things shift and slide and characters and events move around on you. And, you don't really know how to get there (wherever "there" is). You write and write and write and in a way, you are creating a big pile of clay, creating it out of nothing, which is good. But then you realize you have a big pile of clay on your hands, and you need to start carving. And nowhere in that process is the way forward really all that clear.
Partly therefore, I think I've been cycling in January, rather than writing, because it is easier. Jump on the bike, choose a workout, and pedal. Listen to a podcast or a playlist. And pedal. No matter how brutal the ride is... it's easier than writing.
I use an online cycling program. It's pretty geeky. As may become evident, through these posts, I'm a cyclist. In the spring, summer and fall, here in central Ontario, I bike everywhere, and get a healthy amount of exercise doing so.
In winter, I ride online.
You pay a monthly fee to use this online program. Riding your bike, on your trainer in your basement, your trainer sends power / wattage data to your computer and to the game, and the sweat and effort you produce on your bike at home, is transferred to your character in the game. It makes indoor training not only bearable, but fun.
But here's the problem:
At the moment, winter 2018, I'm squeezing either exercise, or writing, into a narrow "wee hours of the morning" time frame, before the rest of my house wakes up, and before the rest of my life begins. Increasingly, I have misgivings about all the time I spend exercising, instead of writing.
I recently listened to an episode of Don't Keep Your Dayjob while riding my bike, and one of the guests gave that advice that many of us have heard before, which is that all you can really control is how hard you worked each day - in particular, how hard you worked on achieving some hard to attain goal. You have to beat everyone else in this area - YOU have to be the person who worked harder than everyone else each day.
Basically agreeing with this, I then begin to think, did that hour on my bike this morning help me become a better writer?
No, it didn't.
So why do it?
I don't know. But I find it hard to give up.
In 2015, via Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, I self-published Festival.
I've long described Festival as being my Catcher in the Rye book. A young man's coming of age story. In my case, having traveled a fair bit of the world in my mid 20s, the book is set in London, England, and in Toronto, Ontario.
The bulk of the book was written the year that I taught English as a Second Language in Poland. I still remember a light-bulb moment, in my small apartment in Poland, when I realized "A Ha! I should stagger in some Toronto scenes to show what happens to Peter after he returns home!"
I've always thought the book was pretty darn strong, to be both humble and honest! Through the late 1990s, having returned to live in Toronto, I sent it off to all the Canadian publishers and was rejected by all of them. I had a very close call with ECW Press, who almost took it, but alas, it wasn't to be.
I moved on to writing and fretting over other things, and then grad-school and "life" happened, and Festival sat as a paper manuscript in a filing cabinet for a LONG time.
In October 2014, I read an article in the Economist called The Future of the Book, which opened my eyes a fair bit to the wide variety of ways to publish in the mid (and now late) 2010s. The article mentioned Wattpad (which I'm on, but don't really understand), Smashwords (which I explored for Festival), Unbound (which I'm currently tinkering with), Indigogo, Pubslush, Kickstarter, and other publishing outlets.
Of the several books I'd quote-unquote "finished" during my 20s and 30s, Festival was the one which was truly DONE. The other ones required more work, required another go-around, but Festival was done. And, like I said, it was good - at least I thought it was. I believed it needed to live beyond my filing cabinet, and self-publishing as an ebook would at least get it out there into the world where maybe some reader would stumble across it, and it would mean something to him or her.
I used Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing to self-publish, and it was easy as pie. Done!
Has it been successful? Was it worth it?
I didn't expect to make any money on Festival, and I haven't. I also didn't spend any money getting Festival published, except for buying a few print copies of the book for myself via CreateSpace. So, not necessarily successful, but from a money viewpoint, a neutral outcome.
Did it reach the right reader, and mean something to him/her?
People have read it. A bit of anecdotal "it was good" comments here or there. No superlatives, no gushing emails. But, people have read it who never would have done so if the book had been left sitting in my filing cabinet, so, possibly we can call it a success in this light.
I'm Chris Tomasini.