The Physics of Writing

I’m not usually a person who finds profound inspiration for life in mundane tasks and chores. That’s why I’m surprising myself by writing this post.

A few months ago, we added an adult Chesapeake Bay retriever named Circus to the household. We haven’t had a dog before, and she’s here on a trial basis. I’m not sure she’ll stay because fitting her needed exercise periods into our daily schedule is a challenge. Partly because we’re busy, and partly because my ongoing back issues make it hard to take her for a walk as often as I should.

Over the past week, her walks have been short-changed because I have been in pain. Each day, I promise her a walk, and I’ve felt guilty when I failed to fulfill that promise. This morning, despite being sore, I took her for a long walk before her breakfast.

Our target distance was about a mile, and we made good progress at first. We walked through the neighborhood toward the Hackensack River and turned along a greenbelt area that may become a park. She was trotting along, enjoying the sights and smells of the surrounding area. I was focused on managing her leash length and often distracted by the pain in my leg and back.

We hit the midway point in our walk, and I noticed her trot had slowed. Whether that was because she was tiring or because I was, I’m still not sure. A little bit farther, we started going up a steeper incline back toward home. When we hit that point, I could tell she was tired. Man, I was too. And sore.

I looked around. We were 2/3 of the way home, standing on a bridge over the water. Nothing in the immediate vicinity would give me a place to sit and rest for a minute. Cars raced past us, and Circus flinched at the noise and vibrations from their tires. Clearly, we had to keep moving.

We crossed the bridge and came to a residential area. The incline was getting steeper, and Circus was obviously losing steam. I was too, but we still didn’t have a good place to rest. I wanted to just sit down, pull out my cell phone, and call Jen to come get us. That seemed absurd though. We were only a few minutes from home. Surely, we could power through and finish the walk.

I spoke some encouraging words for both of us and trudged on. As we walked, I thought back to the Grand Canyon hike my high school science club took one year. I almost didn’t make it back to the top, but I couldn’t stop where I was. The only way to end the hike was to get to the top.

I’m in the same place with my writing that I was on that Grand Canyon trip. I’m stuck in the middle of revising my novel, and I have no idea how to finish it. I keep looking around for someone more accomplished to step in and say, “Here, Ruth, this is what you need to do.”

But that kind of outside help isn’t coming unless I ask for it. And I know my work isn’t ready to share with an outside editor yet. I have to dig deep and power through this part of the revisions if I want to reach the end.

The laws of physics say a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Likewise, a body in motion tends to stay in motion until another force stops it. For too long, my writing has been at rest because I haven’t had momentum. It’s time to use physics in my favor.

No, I don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing with this book. But I won’t learn how to revise my work until I try.

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