I’ll probably mention my novel throughout the year, well… I take that back. I’ll only mention writing the book for the first half of the year, then try and get you to buy it for the second half of the year. Got to start thinking positive that I am finishing this book this year, before summer.
I’ll cover the history of the novel tomorrow, but today is how it all started.
At the time, I was “working” on some sassy gay novel that was so important to me I no longer remember what it was about or its title. Literally, no clue.
I’ll dig through dates tomorrow, but this is somewhere around 2000-2001.
I was working at Macromedia as a writer in the corporate communications department, and would work out most mornings before work at Gold’s Gym, which was a block or so away.
At this time, I would wear headphones and listen to music when I did cardio, but not when I did weight training. One morning, I was doing weight training…
For backstory, I should point out that gyms in San Francisco, especially near the gay neighborhoods, are pretty amazing places. It is a confluence of models, porn stars, and people who could pass for either everywhere you look. So, if you aren’t totally cool with your body, even if you’re at a place where you are supposed to be trying to change it, you could definitely have issues surrounded by so many people who already look phenomenal.
There was one guy who I always assumed was a model, and I saw him across the gym. Well, to be fair, I heard him from across the gym, which is what made me look over to him in the first place.
Since I was finishing up my sets on one machine, I went over by him, since I found the grunting amusing. And I figure I may as well keep myself entertained while I was working out.
When I started working on the machine next to him, the grunting continued, louder than I expected it to be. And the more I listened, the more I realized it wasn’t a grunt, he was saying things with each rep.
“HIV, baby!” he would say during one rep.
“Oh yeah, AIDS…” during the next.
I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I looked around, and no one else heard him, as most people had their headphones on. But the more I listened, the more undeniable it was: “HIV, baby!… Oh yeah, AIDS…” There may have been others, but those are the two I remember, spoken repeatedly.
Nothing about his expression matched what was coming out of his mouth. I wonder if he was even aware of it. And, strangely, he was saying this stuff in such a public place, and loudly, but he was completely shielded by everyone wearing their headphones or just thinking he was grunting. I was the only witness, although it is safe to assume he did this all the time, so he could have been an urban legend for saying that every time at the gym for all I know.
It was a bit strange, but I finished my workout and got ready for work. But it sort of stuck with me.
I think I was struck by how I went to the gym with a negative self-image, and used it to try and get me to change my appearance. And, in my mind (since I never spoke to him), he was HIV+ and as long as his body held up and looked amazing, he mentally stayed one step ahead of his disease.
I wondered what it must be like to go to the gym every day and work out frantically because of hating what is inside of you.
After that, when I would pass him at the gym, I would make eye contact and say hi, and he’d say hi back, but that was the extent of our communications.
A few days later, I knew I had the seed of a story, but I kept trying to push it back down. I was already working on one novel, so I needed this to wait its turn. It kept fighting its way out, but I wouldn’t relent.
Shortly after this struggle, I woke up in the middle of the night, went to my computer, and with barely a thought, wrote about 3,000 words freeform. This thing just flowed effortlessly. It had the most distinct voice I had ever written, every part transitioned perfectly, and it was like watching something not-my-own come through me and onto the screen.
The next day, I woke up and wondered if it had all been a dream. But when I looked on my computer screen, there it was. And, then it passed my next test: It was as good as I had remembered it being.
Aside from some very minor tweaking, it never needed to be edited. And, it provided a roadmap for what is now an 86,000-word draft of a novel, almost all of which runs on the tracks set down in this original story. I have since added to the plot, but everything fit into the novel without breaking the outline.
It is strange knowing how fragile all of this is. How the seed was delivered because I wasn’t wearing headphones, which is usually not the case. How hearing what he said linked tangentially to my own story of having a negative self-image at the gym. And once this seed had gotten inside of me, how it literally consumed me and forced its way out despite my resistance.
The short story also came intact with a name: Haterobics, a portmanteau of hate and aerobics.
And it does make me a bit fearful about writing other novels, to some degree, since most of this one was given to me. The next one? I might be on my own.
Tomorrow, I’ll track everything that happened from this point to the present with the novel.
Updated: Changed it from 86,000 pages to words. heh. I’m not quite that crazy…