Sunday, September 18, 2005

Writing is to work what a lifelong hater of exercise is to suddenly becoming a jogger.

Although I have never been good at ratios or approximates, or really any numbers other than phone numbers and how much money I might be owed at a given time, I decided today to do something practical for you today. I am going to attempt to quantify what different kinds of writing by comparing it to jogging. Now, this still may not equal an intuitive scale, as you may not jog at all; or you might think jogging is for sissies, and you’d rather take a nice little trek up Mt. Everest. So try to find your best way into understanding my ratios.

Straightforward fact-based journalistic writing = doing one lap, first thing in the morning when you’re full of energy, the sun isn’t your enemy yet, and you’re not even worrying about how much flesh is being revealed from your new jogging shorts.

Feature Writing (in which you are able to use a little style, a little flair, occasionally even in the first-person) = doing a mile at the track before the jocks get there to show off, hardly getting red in the face and being so high on endorphins afterwards, you aren’t even sore.

Cover Stories. For some reason, whether your cover story falls into the straightforward journalism category, or the looser feature writing category, the fact that it is the first thing people see when they pick up the paper has a bigger impact on the writer as she works and is = jogging that same mile in 100 degree weather, your legs like rubber, your arm fat chafing against your sides painfully, while some teenage show-off runs laps around you and talks on a cell phone at the same time.

Fiction Writing is like running that one lap above, only it FEELS like a mile, your legs weigh eighty-five pounds, saliva is pooling in the back of your mouth but you can’t swallow it, and your nose is running even though it’s warm out; an entire soccer team runs past you and laughs at your red face; the fire department stops to ask if you’re going to be okay, and between each rib a slow, steady pinching ache develops. On top of it, your underwear has slipped firmly up into the crevice of your cheeks and will not be removed, you’re developing a sudden aching shin splint, you narrowly avoid being bitten by a dog, splashed with mud and run down by a bicyclist, and a host of new blisters are developing because of the new shoes you spent a mint on.

So why do it? When it’s all over, it was worth it, your mood is greatly improved, you feel productive even if you’ve done nothing else in your day, and you’ve got a basic ground level start that is a lot better than nothing.

Actually, you do it out of necessity. You can't NOT do it, no matter how bad you feel, no matter how much you loathe yourself on any particular day. You write because you must (and some of us jog for the very same reason).



At 2:36 AM, Blogger Ellen said...

Ha! This is perfect, Jordan!!


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