Writing and Running

“But look how clean the house is!” That was my reply to my daughter when she questioned my progress on editing my novel. She was complaining about her precalculus homework and I happened to mention all the chapters I had yet to edit with a looming three week deadline. Big mistake. “You had ALL day, why didn’t you get much done?”

I have struggled with that question for months. It occurred to me that there are parallels between two of my favorite passions, writing and running.
I tried to explain it to her.

There are some days when I really don’t want to go to the gym but I go anyway. I walk around and feel unmotivated, but I am there so I do my best. Sometimes, the adrenaline starts pumping; my attitude changes and I work out twice as hard as I normally would. Other times it’s as if I’m in slow motion and everything I do is painful. I long to go home. Even on those days where I felt I accomplished little, I still accomplished something. I kept at it and I tried. Then there are the magical days when a little voice inside will say-I feel like running today. I’ll get on the treadmill, (too hot outside) and there is no pain. Everything within me wants to run and time disappears with the miles. When I am finished I ask myself why every day isn’t like that.

Writing for me is very much the same. There are the magical moments when I hear the words clearly in my head and they flow. I must grab a pen quickly and write them down. I distinctly remember this happening in my preteen years. I can picture myself kneeling on the floor with the pad of paper on my bed, scribbling a poem about a little boy I babysat. It wasn’t an assignment for school, the words came and I had to write them down. Afterwards, it surprised me because I didn’t know how I did it. I couldn’t explain why I heard the next verse so clearly. I had probably been playing two hand touch football with the neighborhood boys minutes before writing. Days like that continue to fuel my belief in a Universe that always whispers to us through all our distractions.

Most of the days I spend writing begin with me sitting in my chair and telling myself to get to work. It is the same as me putting on my gym clothes and driving myself to the gym. I could think of a dozen other things to do instead, but there is a pull towards running and writing because I know they are a part of me and if I don’t fulfill that part of me I will not feel whole. When I am done writing for the day just like when I am done working out, I feel great. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to do the things I love.

There is the occasional day where I sit at the computer and struggle. Sometimes it is because I know what I must write and it creates stress from within. Billy’s Story took me all day to write and I started and stopped six different times. I wanted to give up and walk away but I forced myself to finish. I tend to get angry with myself. There is guilt over having the time to write and not using that time wisely. There is an inner struggle that sometimes ends with me vacuuming, mopping, and cleaning out closets. I try to be thankful for the little I have accomplished and tell myself that tomorrow’s a new day. I kept at it and I tried.On those days you’ll find me on Facebook.If you see me,feel free to tell me to get my butt off Facebook and get to work!

Once while working out with my husband and daughter, they brought it to my attention that I don’t push myself hard enough on the weight machines. Eric bumped up the weights and I laughed. “Yeah right-I can’t do that.” They told me if I wasn’t in pain the next day, I wasn’t building my muscles. My reply- “Who wants to be in pain?” They laughed and I’m sure I saw my daughter roll her eyes. It occurred to me that they were right. I was stuck doing the same machines at the same weight and my body was not improving as well as it could if I pushed myself harder and learned how to use different equipment. I decided to enlist the help of a personal trainer.

After I finished my novel, I naively thought I was done. I went to a writing workshop and our genius editor/teacher, Patti Gauch, read it and started laughing. Not really. She compassionately showed me what it lacked. Just as I had been stuck in the same routine at the gym, not improving as I should, my novel had been written without guidance, not improving as it should. Talk about pain-realizing that three hundred and fifty pages had to be rewritten. That is the mountain I have been climbing since May. Some days I journey far and others I count every step and convince myself to keep going. I have little signs taped to the top of my computer screen. Energy! Passion! Texture-Remember Your Marbles! They are all reminders of Patti’s lessons.

It’s about the climb, isn’t that what the song says? Climb this mountain. Make this novel the best it can be and then move on to the next mountain. With each climb, I’ll be in better shape and have knowledge and experience as my guide. (Okay-hopefully an editor too!)

My daughter understood my comparisons of my two worlds. Still she couldn’t help but add a phrase that she has heard all too often- “You better get to work!”



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Dec 28, 2009 @ 07:46:27

    I had a dream the other night.
    In the dream, I sat at a table with several individuals, none of whom I recognized. We took turns describing the plot of the novels we were writing.
    The dream was vivid. In fact, images of the people talking at the table still shimmer in the darkness of my fading memory. I don’t know why.
    In the dream, an African American man wearing horned-rim glasses, hair cut short, but not spiky, wearing a pale blue, ribbed, turtle neck that nearly covered his chin, sat with his right arm resting on his knee looking like Goethe in that famous painting.
    But Goethe wasn’t black. In fact, in the painting, Goethe is wearing a glorious white cape and a large, wide-rimmed hat, matching the cape in its splendor. This was a dream. Its absurdity revealed in the life-like image of the African American man posing like Goethe.
    The absurdity of the dream ended abruptly when the man spoke. He described the main character in his novel. He spoke simply and eloquently. Each word was a dart hitting the bulls-eye. Every word he spoke pealed a layer of my being. He was describing me. I was his main character. I felt vulnerable. How did he know so much about me?
    I woke up. Perhaps the notion of being exposed in front of strangers triggered an inner switch that pulled me to consciousness. In the dream an eloquent stranger with pithy words told the world my innermost secret: that I cannot write.


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