This week we're talking about the things I'm learning about writing from my new work out program, P90x. Since this post is set for Wednesday, I'm driving back from my future hometown and taking a day off. But tomorrow I'm back at it!
So P90x's claim to effectiveness, other than its "extreme" regime, is variety. Tony (the speaker dude) says the cliche a few too many times--something about "spicy" variety. What he means is: "change it up".
The program itself is based on variety. For every video, there are four people on stage doing any of four possiblities for each move. Some are more difficult than others, but all of them work. I'm currently in Phase I, which means I do a specific schedule of videos in a seven day period. But next week is my "Recovery Week" and it'll be more stretching and cardio--not really resting because I'll have to do Yoga X twice! Then I enter Phase II, which has a completely different arrangement of videos. Tony says that by varying the workouts and changing them up just as our bodies get used to them, we'll confuse ourselves out of plateau-ing. They even have a nifty little graph to illustrate it, but you get the point. It's something exercise gurus have said for a while--don't do the same routine every day. Change it up. Push yourself. Don't get stuck in a rut--your body will too. If you want to see results, be willing to get out of that groove.
All I know is that three weeks in, I'm not bored. And that's awesome. Because while I used to have laser-like focus which lasted hours, I eventually went to college. And now I'm more ADD than I was going in. Still, it's getting to where I can quote Tony's bad jokes before he says them, which isn't the greatest thing in the world. Then again, I'm not particularly witty when I'm suffering either.
As it is with exercising, it's important to change it up when we write. Maybe we change our sentence structure, rebuild a scene, or subtract a character. Maybe we take the roundabout approach to a conclusion only to cut across at the last possible minute. Maybe a character says something out of the box, maybe a plot twist scatters everything to the wind, or we just need to re-think word choice. How can we make our stories the best possible? Often it means getting out of our own groove.
We're working with limitations: twenty-six letters...and few basic plotlines. But how we use those twenty-six letters, how we work the plot, and how all the other variables like characterization, syntax, dialogue, foreshadowing, etc., can make all the difference. Though cliches say it so well, we have the opportunity to make it new--and say it even better! Shakespeare was notorious for writing plays based on well known plots--even stories! I.e., Romeo and Juliet. What made his works so incredible weren't the barebones. What made R&J timeless was how he wrote the story. That doesn't mean we don't need to come up with stories of our own. Plagarism isn't cool. But it does mean we need to throw ourselves--and possibility--into every word. Though cliches say it so well, we have the opportunity to make it new--and say it even better!
Tolkien's a great example of this. He read Shakespeare's Macbeth ::swoon:: (I love love love that play--not so much R&J!) and was disappointed on a few points. Guess what came out of that? Ents. That's right, when he read Shakespeare's depiction of the Great Birnam Wood, he said, "I can write that better". So he did. And Eowyn's line in Return of the King: "I am no man!"? That too came from Tolkien's version of how Shakespeare should have written it. As much as I love Macbeth, I have to say, Tolkien did it better. He used every possible variable he could.
How do you change it up?
On Monday Elizabeth Spann Craig posted about the Basic Plots of writing. As always, a great post. And I thought it went well with the one I wrote last weekend for today. Great minds, eh?
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