Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, December 10, 2004

When BIC becomes a PITA.

I got a good chuckle over a line I read in an article this week. To paraphrase, the line said that Sylvester Stallone had to handcuff himself to the kitchen table to get him to finish the script for Rocky. I laughed because it was definitely something I could relate to. What a coincidence that I read that particular sentence this particular week. I’ve spent the better part of this week doing some serious BIC (butt-in-chair) to finish up the final draft of a novel I have spent YEARS writing, rewriting and rewriting some more. But it’s been more like LIC (living-in-chair) because I was working on it anywhere from 4-8 hours every day. EVERY DAY.

And because I HATE spending so much time at the computer, I was NOT a happy camper. But neither was Jennifer; she constantly complained, “I want to go outside and play” and I could only whine, “I want to go outside and play, too.” Then after I read that sentence, I could actually start picturing myself handcuffed to the desk, because that urge to go outside and play kept growing stronger and STRONGER.

To compensate, though, I spent a lot of that time jumping in and out of the chair. I’d open my book file up at 6 a.m. then close it at 4 p.m., and during all that time I would be writing, jumping up to feed Jennifer, writing some more, jumping up to throw in a load of laundry, writing again, jumping up to vacuum the living room, etc. I wasn’t exactly sitting down for 10 hours straight but I did write so much in that book every day, it was amazing I could function in both worlds. Actually, that was pretty hard, because the more I got into finishing the story, the more absorbed with it I became. (There were many times I’d be sitting at the dinner table, blankly staring into space as I “lived” in my world.) I even broke down and cried when one of my characters died (THAT was a hard scene to write).

But at least all of that inactivity was made up for later on. After I was finished working on the book, I’d work up a sweat finishing up cleaning the house and playing outside with Jennifer (though I must confess that most of our outdoor activity this week took place after the sun had gone down). At first I thought I’d had more energy but I knew this was on account of my growing restlessness (one night I couldn’t go out, I spent a long time pacing all over the house). I can only hope I worked up enough exercise to balance the lack of it I had during all that time I sat down writing.

Which brings me to another point. You know how a lot of writers are overweight or a little pudgy? It’s because we spend so much time on our butt WRITING. I envy the person who can write standing up a la Hemingway, but a good many of us are sitting down. That’s why “BIC” is the standard term for writers at work. We’ve got our butts in the chair, WRITING. I remember looking at a picture of an author recently, who looked a little on the heavy side. I could only nod my head and say, “Yup, he’s a writer, all right.” I started to think you can really tell a person is a writer by how big their waist is.

I did finish the book and was relieved to finally get all 445 pages off to a publisher. But then I reread their guidelines and saw that, in addition to the manuscript and two synopses, I also had to include a marketing plan. Argh! Right about then I let out the biggest scream of my life. But I did as they requested (grumbling about MORE TIME in the chair) and got it all off. It's all DONE, OVER WITH and ready for come what may. And, after all that, I do feel good about myself. And gave myself two days off to "relax" before moving on with my other book projects.

Still, the BIC stuff no fun at all, especially for me. I mean, I CANNOT stay in a chair all day or for several hours at a stretch. I like to keep MOVING. But if I got a publisher ready to see it (as I did with this book) or if I got a deadline, then you can bet I’ll put in as much BIC as I can to get the job done. I can always make up for that inactivity later. We’re supposed to suffer for our art, right?


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