The Write Diet

It began as an exercise; a mental one. Everyone has a story in them, right?

Restless and loathing most physical activity I needed a project to get through my dreary thirty-sixth winter. Busy; I had a full-time job and a husband, I was mother to a demanding furry beast, and helper to my very senior parents, but I wanted to carve an hour out of the day that was just for me. Short of making a deal with the devil, finding the time didn’t seem likely, though I desperately needed a hobby. My mind was turning to slush, like the sticky mess that greeted me on my daily dog walks.

I tried knitting. That was the winter hibernation of 2005. Waking up in April with three horrendous, uneven scarves and another ten pounds, I obviously didn’t have the knit and pearl knack. Sudoku, well that’s math. I’m a banker. Why did I want to do that? Never an extreme winter sport type; shredding, I thought, was something to do with cheese. But I was a huge fan of the written word; I usually had three books on the go simultaneously as fuel for my soul. And I still had my paper delivered foregoing internet news bites.

Ten-thousand words, I asked of myself, could I write a story?

 I hadn’t written anything that wasn’t for grading a lifetime ago. Feeling the pull of creativity, but with no inherent talent, the only thing I produced now was business plans, so it was a stretch to build those non-existent muscles. Ok, I thought, challenge set. Game on.

The last creative thing I had committed to paper was born on an electric typewriter. Fondly remembered, though all but forgotten, the responsive nature of an IBM Selectric II’s strong keys made a beautiful sound as the whirr of the motor engaging the carriage brought the machine to life. The typewriter was long gone, replaced with a shiny laptop and while the keys didn’t have the same feel, I soon grew accustomed to them.

A few gruelling weeks passed and I had done it, it was a story. One I wouldn’t even show my husband out of sheer embarrassment, but a story nonetheless. And while he could not read it, he had heard every keystroke. I had been so thoroughly enraptured by the act of writing; the tapping tempo that echoed throughout the apartment moved from Adagio to Allegro. But there was a driving urgency to get the thoughts out of my head before they disappeared and it was our only conversation for awhile.

I finally typed the words, “The End,” and slumped backwards with an air of triumph. When was the last time that had happened? Caught up as I was in the drab routine that is a suburban little life, caring for and nurturing my loved ones, this challenge had given me time to reach into my imagination, open it up and let it fly. It was sloppy and amateurish and all mine.

The following morning I discovered an added benefit this little exercise had produced and it stared up at me from my bathroom scale. My weight had dropped a few pounds. I didn’t conciously try to, but my compulsion to keep writing a few hours a night had kept my fingers out of the greasy chip bag that had been a constant comfort and companion.

Daily details quickly swamped over the accomplishment, but something kept nagging at me. At the oddest moments my thoughts drifted to where the people I created would be now. My brief exposure to the characters wasn’t enough. They were living lives I hadn’t foreseen when I saved them on a USB stick.

So, with headphones snug, the laptop charged, and a new soundtrack, I stepped back into the story and proceeded to write it all down. When I next looked up, winters’ four months had passed and again I was able to type “The End.” No one was more shocked than I. A finished novel. Oh, it was truly terrible but the bones were solid and with them, even a little meat. The cork flew out of the wine bottle on its own accord as a goofy smile affixed firmly to my face. 

The next morning I stepped on my forgotten scale. To my shock and utter amazement, I was twenty pounds lighter. My chin scraped the floor and I stepped rapidly on and off the thin glass like a demented fitness instructor, convinced “the enemy” was somehow lying. But the big reflective numbers gawped back at me.

Deliberating over the last few months, I began to connect the dots. Writing had kept me out the kitchen cupboards for those addictive salty snacks.

And the sequel started a few weeks later.

Now the third novel is a work in progress; it’s nearly finished and fifty pounds have come off my frame. I am able to walk further with no need for anti-inflammatories or future anti-depressants; I can buy clothes in stores that were off-limits and my middle-aged back doesn’t require weekly manipulation anymore.

I feel healthier and more in tune with the fuel I really need, all because of a mental exercise.

Pills, potions and portioned meals aren’t necessary. Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that motivate a positive change, like a cold winter brewing. But look under your nose and find that sketch pad or notebook that may have yellowed with age. Maybe it’s the sad-eyed dog in the corner begging for another romp or donating your couch surfing time to someone who truly needs it.

You may be surprised by the results a little passion can produce. Allowing the imagination to breathe a little, releases the static routine of everyday and kick starts the unexpected.

Passion is the source of our greatest moments. From the joy of love to the wretched beauty of grief, passion is what makes us human. Without it we are truly dead.

And while my three novels may never see the light of day, I am proud of the accomplishment, a little challenge that was the cause of a surprising, but welcome, physical and mental transformation, with the write diet.

Leave a Reply