Godiva by Nicole Galland
On Not-writing Well
by Nicole Galland, author of Godiva (pubs July 2)
When I wrote my first novel, The Fool’s Tale, I wrote for 15 to 18 hours at a stretch; even when I exercised (jogging, biking) my body worked on autopilot and I stayed in my “writing head.” I had no other job (I was living on my savings) and essentially no social life.
When I finished the novel, I realized that if I wrote a book again with that kind of white heat and nothing else, I would be dead before I finished it. Spiritually, if not literally.
With each novel since, I continually learn to balance life and writing. With Godiva I had to be particularly mindful of not living in my head, because Godiva herself required me to be fully present in the world. More than any other character I’ve channeled, Godiva relishes the sensory. She loves the feeling of silk against her skin; the weight of her jewelry; the smell and scent of good food; the charm of handsome men. She is a woman of the senses. In a way that I, in the heat of writing, usually Godiva is mostly famous (spoiler alert!) for riding naked on a horse. Thorough researcher that I am, I dutifully took a disrobed bareback ride myself. That ride was a revelation for me: it was a meditation in being fiercely present. I could not “check out” mentally or let my body function on autopilot; I had to live the moment, I had to keep my balance and my focus. When I dismounted, I felt an elating mental clarity. If I could maintain that level of alertness, I thought, I would be creatively unstoppable. But riding nude is not something I can incorporate into my daily routine. So I work on other ways to get out of my head and stay present.
First: I take a yoga class (martial arts or dance would do as well). Not for the exercise (although that’s important too), but because when I spend every working day being self-directed, it is a welcome relief to give up control and spend an hour doing what someone else directs – especially regarding my body. If I’ve been writing for hours, I’ve usually been telling my body “tense up and forget to breathe” without even realizing it. In a safe setting, it’s fantastic to let somebody else remind me how.
Second: I seek easy companionship. Writing can be isolating and lonely, but it’s also very easy to feel lonely in a crowd. Going from hours alone with imaginary people in my head straight into a group setting usually disorients me; the overstimulation often triggers shyness or self-consciousness, and I mentally check out (and thus remain stuck in my writer-head). Better, for me, to follow a writing session with meaningful time with intimate friends or family.
Third: Each day, I’m non-verbally creative. I’ve played the banjo; practiced photography; crocheted; gardened. Lately I’ve been improvising marinades and salad dressing. (It only counts if I am improvising, not following a recipe, because recipes are full of words.) I needn’t share anything I do, I just have to do it. It fires up neurons in my brain that would otherwise lie idle, robbed of attention by my writer-mind. Like one bad apple in a barrel, those idles neurons would start to rot my writerly ones, so I have to keep them engaged.
In short, Not-writing Well is an essential element of Writing. I feel a bit sheepish that it took a nude bareback ride to teach me this, but I’m grateful to Godiva for insisting I get out of my head.
About Nicole GallandThe Fool’s Tale, Revenge of the Rose, Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade and I, Iago. After growing up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduating with honors from Harvard, she divided most of the next 16 years between California and New York City before returning to the Vineyard to stay. During those 16 years she variously made her living in theater, screenwriting, magazine publishing, grad-schooling, teaching, temping, and random other enterprises. She is the co-founder of Shakespeare for the Masses, a project that irreverently makes the Bard accessible to the Bardophobics of the world. She is married to actor Billy Meleady.
Godiva by Nicole Galland
Amazon.com: Paperback | Kindle Edition
Book Depository: Paperback
Book Depository: Paperback
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (July 2, 2013)
Synopsis: According to legend, Lady Godiva lifted the unfair taxation of her people by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, by riding through the streets of Coventry wearing only a smile. It’s a story that’s kept tongues wagging for nearly a thousand years. But what would drive a lady of the court to take off everything and risk her reputation, her life, even her wardrobe—all for a few peasants’ pennies?
In this daringly original, charmingly twisted take on an oft-imagined tale, Nicole Galland exposes a provocative view of Godiva not only in the flesh, but in all her glory. With history exonerating her dear husband, Godiva, helped along by her steadfast companion the abbess Edgiva, defies the tyranny of a new royal villain. Never before has Countess Godiva’s ride into infamy—and into an unexpected adventure of romance, deceit, and naked intrigue—been told quite like this.
Check out the rest of the tour here.
And don't forget to come back for my review of Godiva on July 18.