The Under Ground Writing Project

Making writers right since 2008.

Notes from Under Ground Post New Entry

When you just want to puke.

Posted by John Ridge on November 20, 2012 at 1:05 PM

For those of you who don't me, I once trained in Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit, Google the terms if they are unfamiliar to you.

My first year of training in Olympic Weightlifting took place at the Olympic Training Center, where the personal records of the people headed for the Beijing Olympics were posted on the walls. As I learned the movements, and lifted weight these people lifted in middle school, I would think to myself, "Okay, that's what I have to lift in order to go to the Olympics. Okay, guess I better keep working."

When I trained in CrossFit, I put my body through some of the most taxing, near tortuous physical exertion I've ever had the privilege of experiencing. I say near tortuous, because no one was forcing me to do it, except myself. Many, many times I brought myself to the point of incredible muscular pain, an exhaustive expenditure of glycogen, and near intolerable buildup of lactic acid. Especially at the beginning I often stood at the threshold of vomiting, while still hoisting heavy things over my head. As of this writing, I am having a difficult time remembering if I ever came in first place during a WOD. Usually I was either dead or second to dead last.

Both enterprises, in hindsight, were quite impossible. Between everyone else's lifelong time spent training, genetic potential, and blatant disregard for personal safety, I was completely out of my element. I was able to compete at the National Collegiate Level in Olympic Weightlifting, but I wasn't very competitive in my weight class. When it came time to see who could compete in the CrossFit games, I was in the bottom third for my region.

Why did I keep at it? Because there was someone in the room who was doing it faster, more easily, and without looking like they were about to puke. It bothered me enough that I couldn't do it as well as the other guys. While in the thick of it, it didn't matter as much that I couldn't perform at their level. What mattered was I was bumping against the ceiling of my own potential, and it felt damn good to make a breakthrough from time to time.

Over the weekend I sat in a write-in full of writers I hardly ever met before. I was (and still am) writing out my rewrite by hand, spending time to think about the next sentence, rather than blaze through and "just type" (like Jenny just talked about). I was surrounded by the sound of keyboard tapping, and stories of the amazing feats of imagination that are created when the mind is allowed to flow unrestricted. So many moments of, "Oh my god, I can't believe I just wrote that, but it makes SENSE!" The Bradburian Million was getting closer for a lot of these people, and it was exciting to watch.

One aspect of NaNo culture that I was previously unaware of is The Word War, also called The Word Sprint, The War, and really any other label for something competitive. You take everyone in the room, agree on a period of time, and then in a frenzy everyone tears through their prose, the goal being to write the most amount of words in the time allowed. I immediately recognized this as a CrossFit AMRAP (this is a test to see how thoroughly you Googled). My first Word War was completely comfortable for me. I've worked out in the same room as Olympians. Some of the people I worked out with in CrossFit were active duty members of the Special Forces. Writing with a pen when everyone else is typing? Bring it.

During more than one Word War, my hand cramped. You know what? It hurts a lot less than an entire body that's gassed from doing Grace. Sitting down for that long can make my back a little sore, which is nothing compared to seven rounds of deadlifting 125 kilos for seven reps, then doing ring dips for seven reps. Sometimes my brain started to fatigue, which is easier to deal with than keeping track of how many burpees I have left when I'm already overheated and my knees are shaking. Sometimes my brain wanted to puke. You'd be amazed how long you can maintain an exertion without actually puking.

Out of maybe eight Word Wars I've participated in so far in this NaNoWriMo year, only once did I out-write a typist. I usually ended up writing close to half or more than half the words that the winner wrote. More than once, the typists agreed the situation would be different if I were typing.

There are people who "thought about writing a book" and people who have written, or are writing books. I challenge you to see how close you can bring yourself to puking. At the very least you will no longer be one of the ones merely thinking about it. I don't think I've come close bumping against the ceiling of my potential with regards to writing. Have you bumped yours yet?

Now, quit reading this and go write something until you think you're gonna puke.



Categories: NaNoWriMo, Writing Prompts, Writing Process

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