Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writing on empty

I love to run, most of the time. Lately, I am training for a half-marathon. In three weeks, I will try to run to Canada and back. Very exciting. The long runs for this, though, have been less fun. Yesterday, for example, I ran 12 miles that seemed uphill the whole way, with rainy wind in my face, and while fasting for Yom Kippur.

While I was running, I was thinking about writing. I do this a lot, especially since reading Haruki Murakami's memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I love Murakami's fiction and I love his parallels between running and writing (which you can read about here).

So yesterday, I was thinking, "How come it's so easy to make myself go running, even when I know it's going to be hard? How come I don't think about a day of running that isn't a race as lost time, but I think of a day of writing that I don't eventually use as a failure? How come I can't treat writing more like running?"

And this morning, it hit me, along with a pulled muscle and a bad case of chills. The reason is this: I ran 12 miles yesterday. It's over. Done. Nobody cares how well I did it. I don't have to look at a video tape and go back and run the bad parts over again. I don't have to re-run chapter three the third mile fifteen more times until I get it right. And I don't have to spend this whole morning staring at three or four words steps of the run, totally unable to figure out how to make them work.

Of course, on the other hand, nobody yesterday told me her daughter actually sleeps with a copy of one of my runs.


cath c said...

thanks for this. i guess for me, i have to equate writing with doing the laundry. which i don't want to do because laundry is my arch nemesis, but i do it consistently. writing however needs more inspiration and push than laundry. i.do.not.run. hhmmm, must work on this metaphor and how to make it work for my writing...

Diane T said...

Also, with a run (or a tkd class in my case), you have a goal, and you know when it's finished. If you can get yourself going, when you're done it's over.

It's hard to get up for writing when you know that even when you're "finished," you're not really finished.

Jacqui said...

cath c, I think laundry is like writing, because it's never finished -- just when you think it's done, you find something else you need to "clean up."

When we got our first house with our own washer in it, I used to do laundry naked, just so I could really say there was not a single item dirty.

Diane, tkd is a good metaphor too, though. I'd bet you value tkd practice (even though it's not the competition) more than a crappy day of writing.

cath c said...

that's it, isn't it? i really never can be satisfied with the results of getting what's in my head onto paper, or datafile.

i love the idea of naked laundry! too bad i have a rather crowded house and don't want to scare the older children or my mother-in-law should they wander into the garage.

i think of all the creative paths, writing is the most abstract. i've at least dabbled in everything else, and there is more a sense of finito than in writing. then again, i've only published a few poems and short stories here and there over many years. maybe, when i reach a point of no return in the publishing process of my manuscript, i will feel differently. thanks!

J. Thorp said...

This is a wonderful post, my friend, and SO perfect for my current mood: "...this year's man is last year's man ..."

Amber Lough said...

This is a day of no writing for me, so far. (Yes, I should be writing instead of reading your blog and looking up fabric patterns.)

Thank you for clarifying the difference between running and writing. I had heard people make the connection before, but now I have a come-back.

Amber Lough said...

I did end up writing! Elise is reviewing my ms and discovered that I apparently thought the past tense of "to hear" is "heared," so I spent my writing time RE-writing and finding other, just-as-embarrassing typos.

Jacqui said...

Amber, I have some things like that that I always get wrong, even though I am a great speller, etc otherwise. Like I always want to add an 'n' to dilemma, like condemn has. I'm glad you got to write!