In the one-month writing challenge he’d taken on, he vaguely thought to weave it into rock climbing. He’d use the parallels of pain and expertise in each activity.
” It might just work,” he thought.
He started his daily writing just after midnight on day one. However, he’d heard creativeness goes out the window after sundown and just before dawn breaks.
With climbing, sinewy hands and tough fingers are needed to take on a free form style. No support to save a fall into the dark abyss. The confidence needed is said to fill the competitor with more than adrenaline. No way back.
For a writer once committed words cascade, no looking back to their origin. The backspace key, the least used of all. The pace a rhythmic cadence, a flow of the words. Each word a foothold. Every hundred words gouged from the face of the sheerness of the task, form and direction vaguely clear. Sometimes a side plot, a twist a glide to expose some other feature. He could see that as he wrote, eight extra fifteen-minute sessions might see this day’s world limit met. It’s a reasonable start, with some strategizing needed. Maybe sleeping on it. Some ways to make sense of a shambling start. Or is this groundhog day?
He was stuck. What’s a good idea? The same dang thought over and over and over. Boredom! As a climber, boredom is not an option. For a writer, perched so high above a forty-nine thousand word precipice is simply awesome!
The writer passes three hundred word marker. He chalks his hands to dry the sweat from his iPad screen. The screen glistens with the reflected oils. Bad ideas scream to be retracted. But the words need to pour forth and revision slows the flow. Sleep beckons. He succumbs to sleep, and clambers into a nook, far above the roar of failure below. He rests to just before the dawn.
Undisturbed he has slept the night away. An occasional word dropped into his subconsciousness which he swotted away. Lying there, suspended between failure and success, he was much closer to failure than success, twenty-nine days away.
But he felt it was a good start.
“Ah,” he thought as he greeted the day, “How can I use this night’s sleep to strengthen me for the writing climb ahead.”
The words seemed hollow. The image of the free climber had started to fade. The writer had imagined a boyish twenty-six-year-old climber with a mop of black lustrous curly hair and amazingly sensuous lips, big and fat.
The snooze alarm sounded, waking the writer. The climber came back to life.
“Shit, six-thirty, what were those night lessons I learnt?”
It was an hour to dawn.
He turned his mind back, slowly searching for the snippets he knew were lurking there.
From his writing perch, he could see he was five hundred and seven five words above failure. There were still over a thousand words left to make the safety of his first daily writing goal. There were just under eighteen hours to accomplish the goal. Each word had been original, though the idea of writing out each and every number in English struck him as being an insight. It was after all a way to increase word count!
Having the best equipment seemed a little strange to him as a free form writer. The free form climber in him saw the need only to be strong in himself, strong fingers, mind and balance. To make sure that each word was a handhold, a foothold, even though hurting or twisted. Each word gave purchase to the next word, phrase or sentence,
He had looked at some writing software before he got started. Sponsored sites offering all manner of means to stylise the form of writing. He’d chosen one. However, once he had downloaded the program, he wondered if there would be a place for it. He’d been asleep at midnight when the count down clock for the day ticked over to start. He’d decided that the best way to make progress was to share in writing forums. The forums were possibly a source of inspiration, but he didn’t feel the point of typing words in a forum, which didn’t go to his word count!
He realised he was firing up, as he typed the first words of the morning. His ‘word toes’ took the strain. He felt the ease of those first few words coming to life. Back and forth across the writing wall, he easily gained the first fifty, then a hundred words. He could see that a slower less rushed and more rhythmic style gave the best upward progress. Side slipping to correct, punctuate, capitalise, just wasted valuable word average. Slowing slightly meant that he could read on the screen and not look down at his fingers typing all the time. Though important to imbed each word, it was just as important to see and feel the way upward and ahead.
The daybreak brought the challenge home to the writer. There was nowhere to hide at his role in the mental health service ,when the winds of others demands, swept across the rocky face of his writing.
He imagined the free form climber big lips saying,
“There were faster and more experienced climbers than I, but what I do. I do for myself.” He felt no fear, yet there was no triumphalism in him. He’d done a demonstration climb for Sixty Minutes, before the start of the actual climbing attempt. Then away from the cameras, he’d slipped away for a more technically challenging ascent with a friend to ease his nerves. Nerves, not about the climb itself, but nerves about being watched. His was a normally solitary lonely pursuit.
The writer lay back into his overnight hollow and reminded himself of his rules for the challenge.
- Always have iPad charged and to hand, open at the writing page.
- Take each and every opportunity to write a few words, where you can see there are at least five minutes uninterrupted writing wall ahead.
- Keep the mind peeled for different approaches.
- Write slowly, so that each theme builds on its past.
- Reward success.
- Keep a log in the writing to see what worked and what didn’t.
- Review the competition rules.
As his body warmed to the writing task, he could see that another five hundred words had been achieved. It hadn’t been that hard. In just short of an hour, he’d had no difficulty keeping his rhythm and he had moved nicely to a position where the day target was in sight. He rose from his chair to face it, and arched his back to stretch.
“There’s no time or place for nervousness here,” he told himself, as much a warning as a pep talk. Directly in front of him were the twenty-nine days of physical and word breaking work. The prospect of facing the wall in a variety of settings was at once daunting and challenging. The tap, tap-tapping of other workers, engaged in paid key stroking, gave an eerie edge to his more thudding picking on his iPad.
He looked out over the window sill to the dominance of Mount Wellington. Enshrouded in a shifting cloud vista, its face changes, according to the glowering low-pressure weather pattern. He feared the rain. Perhaps the writing word wall would become too slippery. Maintaining a grip firm enough to reach out and scramble for another thought hold might be threatened by the rain.
“What would a slip feel like in word terms” he wondered. Climbing fast he’d had no time to contemplate a stumble. The fear of a stumble retched up from the pit of his stomach. A writer’s block maybe. He worried about a freeze with no obvious impediment, freezing hard at a point where there was no obvious impediment. No idea as to how to decide between the multiple ways ahead. No clear alternatives, and where they might lead. Big lips the climber, faced similar choices.
In barely ten minutes of typing the writer had got to within two hundred words of his day’s target. Refreshed he felt the urge to write on, to blow his way through the daily target and well, show off.
He stopped to reflect on what free climber big lips most enduring message had been when he said insouciantly,
“Well, it’s really no big deal.”
What did he mean? Was it meant to mean anything? If so what?
He watched the word counter climb to the magical one thousand six hundred and sixty-seven mark, knowing he would add a few words beyond to allow for excisions.
His mind had turned to the celebratory things he might do.
No, he realised his thoughts were the same as the big lipped free climber.
At the top of his climb he had removed his climbing shoes and remarked,
“Aww, I did what I set out to do, no big deal.”
Editor note: republished from 2011 – Writing a novel in a month