I've been mulling on structure recently. As you know I'm currently in the agonising process of writing another screenplay. Why agonising? Well, because as anyone who writes will tell you... we'll do anything to avoid writing. Making coffee and tea are the favourites but we have all sorts of other tricks - 'researching' (surfing the web), 'checking source material' (watching old movies), 'housekeeping' (doing other stuff like writing blogs) 'letting things sink in before committing them to paper' (training) and so on.
A regular favourite amongst screenwriters though is reading books on screenwriting. Usually these have titles like 'From Script to Screen', 'The Hero's Journey', 'Making a Good Script Great' and my current read 'Your Screenplay Sucks'. Usually these offer the opportunity to do nothing more than delay the tap tap tap of keyboard activity for another hour or so but sometimes... just sometimes, they can throw up a useful nugget of advice.
One such piece this week, garnered from 'Your Screenplay Sucks' was to use the early stages of the writing process to forget about structure. Just have fun with your mind... see what your characters do. Commit their actions only to a series of index cards and, if things aren't working, throw them away and start again or have them do something else. Don't worry about what goes where, simply enjoy the creative process. Worry about your story structure only when you've exhausted the process of scribbling and drawing mind maps and seeing what happens if a meteor carrying alien life form hits your character's village (now there's a thought!).
So that's what I'm doing and it's very liberating.
And not a little fun.
And much better than writing.
But structure plays a huge part too in my Ironman training. So it's good to have a period when I'm training without a particular agenda. Yes, I have the Luton Marathon at the beginning of December, but mostly I'm doing what I like, when I like and paying no attention to how many hours I'm doing or what the purpose of each session might be. It's resulted in a really enjoyable period of training and will, I'm sure, set me in good stead for the structure of my Ironman training which commences proper after Christmas with, once again, my coach Mark Kleanthous guiding me through six months of sweat on the way to Frankfurt on July 5th.
Ironman's not only pain and suffering though, it's also a very inclusive and sharing community of athletes. Along the way I've been lucky enough to make some new friends, none finer than Tom and Helen who I first met at Ironman Austria 2007. Tom and H are taking on the formidable Ironman Lanzarote this year, with Ironman Switzerland thrown in for good measure seven weeks later. They are both top athletes and - all things being equal - next October should see them at Hawaii having qualified for the world championships.
That is then, though and this is now. In what is their month off training, Tom and H popped down for the weekend carrying a bag of Betty's Fat Rascal scones from Betty's Tea Rooms (one of our favourite bike stops when I go up to Yorkshire to cycle with them). Being in our unstructured phase, we did what we pleased which involved movies, chocolate, coffee, Wii, Sunday papers, log fires and loads of chilling out. I also took them out on one of my favourite runs, an easy 8 miles over some tough hills including Ivinghoe Beacon, where we watched the sun set over England's green and pleasant land.
On Sunday we went for a swim along with Alice (my youngest daughter) and, once we'd scared the bejesus out of the swimmers in the pool's 'fast' lane Tom decided we should have a girls v boys race. Being Tom, he quickly devised a handicapping system which saw a best of three race being won by the girls 2 - 0 with Alice holding off her dad in the final strokes with a Phelpsian lunge for the wall.
Which accounts for the girls looking very pleased with themselves in today's photo.
But it was a great weekend and already I'm fired up for the season ahead. As ever, I'll be feeding off their training and success and, if you're interested in their journey, you should follow their blog here.
So, all in all this week's (unstructured) training looked like this:
Monday: 17 mile run at 2 hrs 25 mins
Tuesday: Recovery Day
Weds: 2.5km swim (4 x 500m finishing with 10 x 50m on 1 minute each)
6 mile run at Tring Running Club including 4 x 6 minute miles with 3 mins recovery between each.
Thurs: 5.6 mile 75% heartrate run
1 hour swim drills with Team MK
Friday: 1 hour 25 mins fixed gear bike ride (34/19 gear)
Saturday: 7.6 mile cross country easy run
Sunday: 45 mins swimming
All in all, a most enjoyable week.
Film quotes now and I can tell I'm going soft. Last week's was far, far too easy, spoken by WILL SMITH as Captain Stephen Hiller in INDEPENDENCE DAY. Well done to Gabriel, Alex, Rob Q, Ian West and everyone else who spanked my behind on that one.
Try this on for size:
"I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. "
So, I must leave you now and go write...
or maybe I'll make a coffee...