The Weight Of Hope

On Saturday, June 9th, I will be participating in CrossFit for Hope. In essence, CrossFit for Hope is a day for one workout and one cause–to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donations for me can be made by going here.

Now, as an author, I also wanted to give more than just my time, energy and sweat. I wanted to donate my words. Therefore, the poem below is about Hope, about its existence around us, and its power. Feel free to share it (#CrossFitForHope; #CrossFit).

Let it be a piece read on June 9th, prior to the workout. Let it be a piece that reminds you of the symbolic element of CrossFit.  Let it be a piece that helps you float on, in spite of the weight of this world.

The Weight of Hope

We are bound to this earth, tethered by its expectations,
its complications.

But Hope floats.

It lingers just above all the heaviness,
all that weight.
We need only to look up.
Yet we focus on the tangible,
the surface beneath us,
upon which we shuffle, plod, get by.

But Hope floats.

Like one’s thoughts materialized
around our heads, not halos, but a salvation,
if we just look up.

Because we are afforded chances to share our burden,
to receive assistance with our task.

And it is in these moments we feel the intangible—
that sensation of hope—its buoyancy.
And we are lifted by its strength.

Hope floats.

–Eric Devine


Advertisements

3, 2, 1…Write!

In CrossFit, a fair amount of our training is completed “under the gun” of a running clock. Workouts are performed at high intensity with the aim of completing the work under a certain time, or seeing how much work you can complete for a specified duration. I have used this methodology in my training for the past six years, and, unknowingly, have structured my writing schedule similarly.

I write in the morning, starting at five and continuing until I need to pull myself away from the computer to go to work, usually around seven. I do this every day of the week, and only on occasion write on the weekends. Therefore, in a year (260 days without weekends) I average 520 hours writing. That’s not a significant amount by most standards.

It was only recently that I began to understand how I can still produce a novel a year (90-100,000 words) in such a limited amount of time. That metaphorical gun to the head of the clock in my workouts applies to my writing.

I waste no time in the morning, usually eating my breakfast as I check email and wake up. The it’s immediately to the writing. I often start with longhand in my journal, clearing out the debris from the day before so I may concentrate. This doesn’t last more than 10-15 minutes. I immediately turn to the notes on the project I’m writing, make a mental list of what needs to be addressed, check my outline for the scene I’m creating and go.

At this point I usually have an hour and a half to crank. And I do. There’s little to no rest (coffee drinking and refills are allowed) and I try not to over think what I’m doing. Much like in training, the “paralysis of analysis” is crippling, and the running clock keeps me motivated to keep it simple and to avoid the unnecessary.

Therefore, when finished, I have crisp, active writing and have produced a fair volume of work.

Now, the paramount question: Is it any good? Yes and no.

Most often my first drafts are skeletal. The plot is hung, but the characters need fleshing out, the themes refined, the foreshadowing placed appropriately, and on and on. It is reasonable to say that my method is ridiculous since I have so much to do the second and third and fourth times around. I’d agree, if I had more time each day.

But I don’t. I can’t pause and reflect. I get those “first thoughts“–ala Natalie Goldberg–out. I try to get the entirety of the story complete within a season–ala Stephen King. Then I wait. Like with exercise, I recover. I mull over my weak spots–plotting or characterization–and I work on those in smaller stories, mere exercises for my “sucks” (those elements of craft I need to work on).

Then I attack the second draft with the same energy drive and determination as the first, now with different aims, but with the same running clock.

I repeat this process as many times as needed. It’s not pretty. It’s often a bit stressful at the start, but once I’m moving, like with any demanding workout, I’m fine. Because I know at the end I will be satisfied that I’ve written. Perfection comes in the revision. These sessions are about production. And under the clock, the 3,2,1…go! I’m on fire.

Revision Letter

I have been eagerly awaiting my revision letter from Lisa Cheng ever since we agreed to the book deal (can you tell I’m a newb?). I’ve looked forward to the feedback and the opportunity to make my work better. All the revisions Kate McKean has suggested have made Tap Out so much stronger, so I’ve wanted another expert opinion to assist me in taking my writing to the next level.

The letter hit my inbox on Saturday. I cringed. I felt sick. I worried that it would be 25 pages of instances where I thought I was all that, but really, wasn’t. I was afraid that it would point out more faults than I could ever overcome.

Not the case.

I read four pages of thoughtful questions and musings over the way my writing works and what it still has to achieve. The suggestions and questions were so pointed and precise that I felt an instant resonance and a level of comfort I did not expect. I was anticipating crapping myself, but, instead, walked away from my computer, made my daughters dinner, and felt happy.

My wife came home from running errands and I told her the letter had come. She braced herself as if expecting bad news. “And?” she said.

“And I’m going to be all right.”

She un-zippered her coat and sighed. “Thank God. You’re always so worried about perfection.”

I had to laugh because she’s right. If I weren’t so busy with teaching and CrossFit coaching I’d obsess over my writing incessantly. Previously, I’ve achieved such myopia with my work that I’ve made it worse and not better. Writing, like people, needs space, room to breathe, and time to grow.

I have trepidation going into this process, but I also have no doubt that I have grown as a writer since I last read this manuscript. I have faith in Kate and Lisa who have helped me get this far, and who believe that I can go another round. It’s frightening, these expectations, and how they make you question your abilities.

But they’re a blessing. I expect more of myself every day. Why shouldn’t I? Isn’t each day one revision after another, chuck full of novel situations that keep us intrigued?

Now, I’m off to see how I can make my fiction reflect that element of life.