Writing Bootcamp

During my birthday dinner a work colleague asked me what it felt like to write so much. This question gave me pause. Most people question me about the physical challenges of becoming Feminist Figure Girl. In previous blogs I have addressed the embodied experience of working out, considering endorphins, muscle failure, and the sensation of health, but I have not analyzed the literary side of things. And I should. Feminist Figure Girl is, after all, a writer.

In an early entry I mentioned my sore back and the tendonitis in my wrists, conditions produced by the repetitive stress of using a keyboard and mouse (the latter is now in the garbage). These bodily traces of writing were not caused by blogging; they resulted from past academic projects. These days I don’t write more than I used to; I write differently. While I continue to produce scholarly texts–I sent a book manuscript to a publisher in May, an article to an editor in July, revised a book chapter yesterday, am currently working on another that is due by the end of September, and must complete a chapter for my writing group which meets in early October–I now also blog for pleasure, potentially addressing a broader audience. I love writing this blog, and I am getting positive feedback about it. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy writing for more formal venues as well, particularly when I interpret contemporary art. I have never understood professors who dread writing or find it difficult; for me it is the best part of this career and I feel uneasy if I don’t do it on a regular (ie daily) basis. To summarize: I won’t be jumping off a ferry because I can’t finish a manuscript like John Goodman in Treme. Actually, I think he simply stepped into the Mississippi River, otherwise there would have been a noticeable splash. 

The practice of writing should not be limited to the production of words on the screen (I don’t take notes or write anything in longhand). Writing, at least for me, occurs primarily while I am walking or biking or listening to a conference paper. I come up with ideas, select evidence to include, and ponder various intellectual arguments all day long. Of course, I also think about recipes a lot too. I imagined this blog while cooking gin-martini chicken and doing the laundry this morning. The laundry is my partner’s chore, but he returned home from the casino at 6 am–just when I was getting up–making me doubt that he will be of much use today. But I digress…

I mentioned my writing group above, four women who meet on a monthly basis to read each other’s book chapters. First we eat a meal–prepared by whoever is presenting her text–and chat. Participating in this group is a joy, and I think we are all benefitting from it. When we first organized it, I read a book called How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul Silvia, a psychology professor. Much of what he related was specific to his discipline, but I agreed with his claims that it is necessary to prioritize writing, reserving at least three hours a day for it. I likely write more than three hours a day, defying his assertion that too much writing will result in dribble. Anyone care to comment? Well, just keep those opinions to yourself. Back to my point. For me, writing is like working out: a necessity that I privilege and schedule. Neither writing nor weight lifting are luxuries that can take a back seat to all the other demands in life, such as graduate students, teaching, administrative duties, grocery shopping, trying new recipes, or responding to 10,000 e-mail messages.  

I have just come up with a fucking great idea (I almost forgot to swear while blogging, so sorry) about how to combine physical exercise and writing, encouraging others to do the same. I will call it writing boot camp. When you arrive at the gym, you will first agree to obey me, your worthy leader. Then you will move between different stations, performing assigned writing chores for one minute, while I time you with my stopwatch. My vision: I will be wearing red satin shorts and a tank top, along with a large, shiny silver whistle on a chain around my neck. I will blow this whistle frequently and shrilly. First you will have to pen a filthy limerick, shouting it out at the top of your lungs at station number two. After a 30-second rest pause, you will be required to create a romantic love poem (mine would probably be about sex as I am not in the least bit romantic), before moving on to produce a 100-word abstract. Then we would all meet in the centre of the room to do jumping jacks and jumping lunges, after which I would shout ‘Drop to the floor, you egghead bitches, and give me 30 pushups.’ I would punish your audible moaning and complaining by demanding 10 additional pushups. Oh God, I am getting a little excited right now…. Back to the stations: one minute each to write a thesis statement, a short biography, and then analyze an art work in 50 words or less. Then we would stretch together, rolling out our wrists, and I would finally let a few words of praise escape from my pursed lips: ‘Good job today, you academic whores. I saw some improvement and will expect more next time.’ I wonder how much that sort of gig would pay? Stay tuned for the advertisements; writing bootcamp will soon be coming to a gym and/or classroom near you.

Welcome to the Feminist Figure Girl Express. Destination horror.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

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