I wrote a 20,000 word story during lockdown

It might seem as though I haven’t written in ages, but that’s only because when I’m not writing here, I’m writing elsewhere.

During lockdown, I decided to make use of my time at home, by writing a book. I decided to enter a writing competition, because the only way I was going to finish writing a book, was to have a deadline.

It was one of the most mentally draining things I’ve ever done. Mostly because I still had to work from home, with deadlines being thrown at me left and right by my boss and our clients. To top things off, I got a 20% pay cut due to the lockdown, so I was starting to feel like I was slowly chipping away. The only time I had to write was during the evenings after work, but I was already so tired that I barely got much done.

But I was determined to finish. I wrote one word after another until I got to 15,000 words. By now you’d think that thing would start looking up for me, that I’d start to get my juices flowing, but it took a turn for the worse.

Three days before the deadline, I realised that I still had another 15,000 words to write. That was a painful blow. The goal that I set in mind, was beginning to fade away. I was running out of time. It was impossible to finish, so I did the only thing I could. I started writing anything. It didn’t even matter how good it was, I just needed to put one word in front of another to hit the 30,000 word mark.

On the second to last day before the deadline, I stayed up till 4am just so I could write 5000 more words.

And then I read the fine print. It said: 30,000 words is the minimum standard, but we’ll still read you story even if it’s under 30,000 words.

So I basically butchered my story just to reach 30,000 words, only to realise that I didn’t need to in the end.

If I were to describe this writing process, I would say that it was like running a quarter marathon (I’m referring to a quarter marathon because I’ve never run a full marathon before) where the last 2 km are just so excruciatingly painful that it feels like your ankles are going to fall off. But you keep running anyway, because you don’t want to be the person who gets stuck in the middle of the road and needs a lift to get back to the finish line.

Anyway, I’m still glad I wrote the story, because I’m treating that as the first draft and now I’m rewriting it a second time. Things are much clearer, I know how to make it flow, what’s going to happen, which parts I’m going to keep, all because I wrote a crappy first draft that exposed all the story’s flaws and shone a light on its strengths.

20,000 plus words is the longest I’ve ever written. Doing this has given me the muscles to write longer, and write better. I’m super proud of my story. I really am. I can see it coming together nicely and I can’t wait to show you guys a little bit of what it’s about.

Anyway, I’ll stop writing now because I’ve got to go sleep and I’m super tired. It’s 12:30 in the morning and I have to wake up early for work tomorrow (or I mean today). Goodnight!

Heartbreak means I can no longer be lazy

When I woke up this morning, I cried. Then I wiped my tears, got up from the couch and started doing the five fundamental stances of Shaolin: The horse stance, the bow stance, the cat stance, the drop stance and the cross stance.

I am doing this to heal myself from heartbreak.

I’ve been lazy, letting my mind replay all the toxic emotions of heartbreak. Even before heartbreak, my mind was lazy. I left all the promises I made to myself for tomorrow.

But after heartbreak, I can no longer be lazy. After heartbreak, it is now necessary for me to keep the promises I made to myself. This is the only out I have.

Yes, the novel I’m writing sounds bad. But I’m finishing it.

Yes, people laugh at me when I practise Shaolin. But I’m sticking to it.

These two acts of commitment are a form of self love.

If I criticised someone for not being able to commit, then I have to commit to myself to show love.

Heartbreak means I cannot be lazy. Everything that I have been putting off is now necessary.

Kayaking on top of a dormant volcano

Every morning, to get to work, I drive past a lagoon. At exactly 8:00 a.m the surface of the lagoon is 180 degrees, flat and calm, producing a mirror-like effect.

I’ve driven past this lagoon at different times of the day: 8:15 a.m, 9:00 a.m, 12:00 p.m, and 5:45 p.m, but at no other time does the surface look as close to a mirror than at 8:00 a.m.

This is the lagoon’s magic hour.

From the road, you can easily glance at the lagoon and become mesmerised by it, forgetting that you are driving during peak traffic hour. For this reason, I’ve stopped driving the car, and take the bus to work instead, so that I can watch the lagoon as the bus drives by.

The history of the lagoon belies its calm surface. It is the product of a volcanic eruption, 28,000 years ago, forming a deep crater that extends unseen below the surface.

Of course, it’s dormant now, so it’s pretty safe to swim there, but I wouldn’t go down too far.

A body was once found by the edge of the lagoon, at 8:30 a.m, half an hour after the magic hour.

For this reason, I only go to the lagoon a few hours after 8:00 a.m, when the surface no longer resembles a mirror and the tide starts to move in and out.

There is a bank halfway around the lagoon that slopes down into the waters. This is the only way to get your kayak into the water.

You have to park your van there and carry the kayak out of the trunk, then push it gently down the slope until it rests in the water.

At this time of the day, the waves slosh around the basin, and seagulls line up in rows, bobbing on branches. Once or twice they dive down to catch some unseen creature lurking beneath the lagoon. 

I do a few laps around the lagoon, then when I feel tired, I park the kayak in the middle of the lagoon, rest my paddles to the side, and let the tide carry me whichever way it’s going.

If you are brave enough, you can also bring a book along to read. But this is only if you are not afraid of getting your book wet.

I suggest bringing along a copy of “The Lost World” by Arthur Conan Doyle because then you can imagine that you are really on an adventure.

This makes me sound so adventurous, but really, I’m not. I just like the sound of the birds, the crisp evening air and the tranquility of being alone on the lagoon. This is perhaps the perfect hour for writing a novel or getting some reflective thinking done.

See? That’s the power of this lagoon. Every hour is a magic hour for something to happen.

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