Thursday, January 27, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Waking early this morning, I watched dawn break. First in her fierce red glow, blossoming behind the mountains, like an ink stain spreading, then diffusing into paler pink and purple streaks; until finally day arrived, grey-blue at first, the sky clear but for the insubstantial threads of clouds above the peaks, still one-dimensional in the flat morning light. Below the valley was obscured by a softly rolling ocean of mist. Then the sun shone, now fully risen and the world turned on in all its three dimensions, shadow and light.
I went cross-country skiing, up to my favourite high spot, which overlooks Donner Lake. But the lake was hidden beneath the mist and I was high up in the sunshine, like a plane flying above the clouds. I was alone with the hills and trees and snow, the only sound my skis on the cold snow, scrape-y from yesterday’s rain, and my ragged-y breathing.
This is what “it’s” for, I thought.
It—meaning—skiing, and by extension, working out, being healthy, being in shape. What a privilege. A good reminder, too.
Because I’ve been a tiny bit sad this cross-country ski season, missing my best ski friend, who just had knee surgery. I’ve even felt sorry for myself at times (I know, I know, you don’t need to tell me that’s lame)—until I remember that I’m skiing and she is at home with her leg in a passive motion machine, working on healing.
I wish I could bottle the morning and bring it to Kristen, so we could drink it in together.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
And now…part two—as promised—on running for writers.
Used to be that writers were classically thought of as paler still than bookworms, possibly undernourished, definitely pickled by years of alcohol abuse and generally not the sort of physical specimens one envied. If that was ever true, it’s not now. As Murakami pointed out so aptly in his book, writing takes stamina, so why not run (or do some other sport) to build that stamina? Not to mention (as he does, too) that the discipline and stick-to-it-ness demanded of sports is essentially the same as what writing asks.
Same question as yesterday—how to start?
Lace up your shoes. Open the door. Take a deep breath. Starting is the hardest part of any run, of any workout (not to mention of writing a book). Once we’re started the inertia of continuing the activity in which we’re engaged takes over, but getting out there—why? Do I have to?
Nope. But why not try it a few times and see how it feels. Like trying on different perspectives, or what we call “points of view” or POV’s in writing (for example, first person, or third person), why not try out a different perspective on life, a new vantage point. After all, that’s what writers are good at. Think of getting out there as the real life equivalent of inhabiting a character’s personality. Say to yourself, “I am a person who…runs, cycles, does yoga, zumbas, swims, walks etc…” and then try the activity on for size.
In writing it’s important to let go of your thinking, thinking, thinking mind, that conscious part of yourself, which is, let’s face it, a bit of a know-it-all, always saying things like, “I’m the kind of person who…” or “That’s not my kind of thing,” that’s not necessarily knowing yourself, you might just be stuck in a rut.
Instead think in broader terms, such as, “I am (or want to be) healthy and happy.” Yes, I suppose I did just open the door to the age-old debate of whether writers (or any creatives) need to be depressed and unstable to truly access their artistic nature. So let me shut that door right away, because I don’t believe it for a minute. Being healthy and happy, in the face of what life throws at us, is hard work. We all have enough challenges and setbacks to fill the pages of multi-volumes, without expressly prolonging our suffering.
Go ahead. Think of it as a writing exercise. And in the process, you’ll learn something about yourself. Better still, your mind will be free to do what it wants, fill up with fleeting ideas, empty, fill up again.
Just like writing.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I’ve been (belatedly, if that’s possible with reading and books) reading Haruki Murakami’s, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I should say that he is (by my lights) a very serious runner, a fact I only point out because it’s often not the case when fiction writers write about running.
His second chapter is titled, Tips On Becoming a Running Novelist. Hey, I thought to myself, that’s me. The essay is a lovely meditation on the similarities between writing and running, the work of it, the gift of it, the joy of it, the solitariness and so on. My partner was reading over my shoulder as I started the chapter and he asked, “So is the chapter about how to write if you’re a runner? Or how to run if you’re a writer?”
Well, it was really about neither, but his question was thought provoking and I thought I’d undertake, in this and my next post, to look at both sides of the coin, both questions he posed.
So, to the first—on writing for runners.
It seems like many (possibly most) people I talk to have a “story” inside of them they want to tell.
How to start?
The same way you start running, actually; that is, one foot in front of the other, or in the case of writing that would be one word after another. When you first start running, it doesn’t have to make sense. In fact, if you aren’t the type to sign up for races and set goals, but would rather just enjoy running for what it is, then it may never “make sense,” at least not sense in the way people think things automatically do if there’s an end in mind. Happiness, of course, is an “end,” and a sensible reason to do something, we just haven’t counted it as such, though that’s changing.
Writing is the same. It’s best to start without an end in mind, without a sensible reason (i.e. I’m writing a novel or a memoir or…). And then see where your mind takes you. In fact, think about your mind when you’re running alone (which is how you’ll be when you’re writing)—your mind is roaming around freely. You might set it the task of solving some problem, but likely it will take off on a tangent. Write like that! Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just start, no editing, no erasing, no stopping and pondering.
Just like running.