Nobody ever makes the first jump. Only once I finish a paper draft do I begin to edit, proof and format. Paper forces you to not look back. The more you second-guess your words, the more the terrain comes to resemble a battlefield, carved up by the caterpillar-tracks of surreptitious strike-outs and adjectival regret. Word-processing is too much like Teflon. It also tracks your word-count, which is a distraction I can do without alongside chocolate and equestrian flamenco. My first drafts are measured in pages, or hours. If I get fatigued or restless, I remind myself that I’m writing not paratrooper-ing and it’s okay if I don’t make my next checkpoint in time. But I always do.
The first sort is the specific: write these words by this time, so that this person can react this way. Some things aren’t physically possible – I cannot type more than 2500 words in an hour, or do a bench-press – but a surprising majority are. You build up your fitness with exercises and repetition, like with marathons or equestrian flamenco. My first press-release took me 5.2 hours to write. After a while, you can load and aim and fire without breaking a sweat or the surrounding furniture. The other sort is the general. Find true love, look after your health, make responsible choices for the future. You build up to those with time.
The tragedy of Icarus is that his father would’ve loved him no matter what. On the particularly knife-edge days that punctuate most winters, my fingers stiffen up and have difficulty moving – a legacy of youthful novel-writing and flamencos played on oversized xylophones. I’ve learnt to wear gloves and buy clothes with warm pockets, but adaptability runs a distant second to prevention. Blunt trauma forces you to not look back. Making everyone happy is a fool’s goal, especially not since everyone wants to be. Sometimes, the hardest ones to manage are the ones you set yourself.