Monday, April 28, 2014

Running and Writing: The Way of the World

I have been training for an upcoming race.  Just writing this sentence is surreal.

It is safe to say that for the first part of my life, I disdained sport and athletics.  I was a happy bookworm and had no interest in sweating or breathing hard.  I dreaded P.E. in high school and routinely irritated gym teachers by my refusal to participate in any meaningful way.  In college, I passed the mandatory swimming test and fulfilled my gym requirement by taking Modern Dance, which I very much enjoyed but which just barely qualified as exertion.

In my thirties, after I had children, I realized Something Had to Be Done, so I began working out regularly in a gym.  For the first time, I fell a little bit in love with exercise.  I learned how to lift weights, how to do proper crunches, how to lunge and squat.  I saw results.  I liked feeling fit and strong.
But still I avoided doing much cardio.

Now, some twenty years later, I have embraced it.  The reasons are health-related, unimportant to anyone but me.  It has taken me several years to realize that running and spin classes are some of the happiest hours of my day.  I sweat buckets.  I heave and pant.  And it feels great.

I decided to run San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers several months ago and have been running regularly, upping my distances, improving my splits.  I’ve got a sore tendon in my foot that may cause some problems, but I’m still hopeful that I will make the race.  I will report on it if I do.

This afternoon, I was thinking about how all of this relates to writing.  I imagined crafting some clever sentences about how the two efforts demand similar discipline and a similar approach to setbacks and disappointments.  But in thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that this is pretty self-evident.

Here’s the bottom line: serious exercise demands that you get off your ass and do it.  Every day.  Even when it’s raining.  Even when you would rather be watching Shahs of Sunset or having lunch at Gayle’s with a friend or buying new sunglasses.  Even when you are sad.  Even when dinner needs to get shopped for and made.  Even when there is no time in the day, not a second, that isn’t already accounted for.

Serious writing demands exactly the same thing, except you have to sit your ass down to do it.  And I would add that it must be done even when no one is paying you to do it, which is what you always assumed someone would do.

I wish there were another way.  I wish it were easy.  But there isn’t, and it’s not.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Writing through the Worry

I am a chronic worrier.  Worry is a part of who I am, as ineluctable as height. I have learned to live with it.  It is, to me, the most irksome of my unattractive traits.

Here are some of the things I worry about:

--my adult children’s health, safety, and general happiness;

--whether the rats that infiltrated our house two years ago (necessitating a new roof) will ever return;

--my 94-year-old mother’s diminished cognition;

--her sadness;

--the unhappy state of the publishing industry, resulting in people like Snooki getting book deals;

--getting punched on the street for no reason (note: this is now a thing);

--whether the dark brown item on the seat of my car is a rat dropping or (more likely) a crumb of gluten-free Oreo cookie;

--if I am drinking enough water;

--why I have no thirst mechanism;

--if it is worse to drink so much that I have to pee several times during the night (and get less sleep) or drink less and sleep for seven hours straight;

--if the egg recently hatched by these barn owls ( will hatch;

--how long people are going to be stupid about guns;

--if I will look silly wearing boyfriend jeans and oxfords.

And the list goes on.
When I was younger, I found it difficult to worry and write at the same time.  Writing demands a certain immersion—an intentional letting go—that worry works against.  Writing takes you away.  Worry holds you down by the throat.

As I age, I try to write through the worry.  Sometimes I am successful; sometimes, not so much.  I wish I were the kind of writer who finds solace in writing.  Instead, I find that the effort exposes my subconscious in painful ways.  Somewhat counter-intuitively, worry functions as a weird kind of anesthetic, numbing me to my own self, denying me access to the mental space where good work can happen.

I keep trying to find a way to manage all this.

I’ll tell you one thing: that better be an Oreo crumb.  Because if I am going to have to deal with rats in my car, then I may just have to check myself into some sort of facility.