Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First steps.

So on my birthday (Monday) I drove to Reno (where it isn't so icy and snowy) to do a semi-long run. I stopped by the local running store to look into buying new running shoes. The tools of the trade-- like the tools a writer uses-- are simple, elemental perhaps. So I was surprised when Chuck, the store's owner, pointed out my shoes were long overdue for replacement. I had once been so vigilant about those things, preaching to others about the merits of new shoes every 300 miles. How had I allowed the miles to slip by? Needless to say, I bought a new pair and did an easy 13 miles that day. But I still wonder: what does it mean when we neglect our basic necessities?

This led me to question what is essential for a writer. Is it the pen, the paper or is it something else that needs "maintenance" every so often-- like, say our minds, or even imaginations? Why is it that there are months when I feel like I can't stop writing (even resulting to writing short stories on the backs of discarded receipts at work) followed my long dry spells when it's as though I'd never written a single word, ever?

Running is like that, too. Especially when recovering from an injury. In my own case, I went from running 70-80 miles each week to not running at all. I began to wonder if I'd remember how to run-- or why I ran in the first place. But then there was a moment eight weeks ago -- there always is one-- when watching television coverage of the race I ran the year before when I seemed to "remember" what running was. I remembered the hard work I put into it as well as how running made me feel more like, well, me.

And so, I started again. But I had to start slowly. And now I realize what else happens when you when you stop doing something you love. You forget. I forgot about changing my shoes frequently-- which leads, coincidentally, to injury. I forgot about my carefully kept logs, at first, and it took a few weeks for me to get back into the habit of keeping track of every mile I ran (or didn't run.) I forgot about the aches that come and go with high-mileage training-- the aches that aren't bad, necessarily, but come as a shock at first if you are not used to them.

In the same way, I think one can forget about writing-- or any pursuit-- as well. If I stopped writing, what would I forget first?  Would the need to tell a story disappear first, or the knowledge of how to construct a plot? Would the daily routine I do to keep myself in "writing shape" (reading, taking notes on what I've read, etc) be lost as well? I wonder: do lives so easily slip through the cracks, if we lazily allow them to?

So, in short: I bought new shoes and ran 13 miles. And then another 7.5 today. I want to write a short story about a runner who has to reconcile [her] attachment to solitude and self-reliance with her place within community and family. Neither act is much as far as accomplishments go, but they are steps.

In other words, I'm running and writing. Slowly staying the course. Dreaming of better days to come.

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