October 22, 2010

Run. Write. Live. An epiphany.

This morning I did the first run session of today, with a second one to follow in the late afternoon. As I have been doing in the past couple of months in preparation for the 100km Haney to Harrison run on November 6, I ran along the local trails with my trusted running buddy Luka. 

It's a rainy Indian summer's day. The leaves have turned and are at their most vivid right now. Luka and I settle into our easy pace, and silently enjoy the run that has become our joint routine that is different each time, discovering new ground on familiar terrain.

As usual we see very few people. Today we only run into a family of three walking their four-year-old dog (I know because I ask when we stop for a brief chat as our wet and muddy dogs sniff each other) in about 100 minutes of running. As has become my daily custom on my walks and runs with Luka my running allows my writer's mind to brainstorm freely. 

My mind wanders along various questions, of today, of tomorrow and beyond, of yesterday and before.

As Luka and I finally leave the trails and arrive onto the wide tree-lined street we live on I have a very acute sense of emerging, a sense of transformation. And a few 100 metres later, an epiphany. 

While I have long recognized the importance of running in creativity, mine and that of many others, I suddenly realize that as of very recently my running self has truly connected with my writing self, and vice versa, so that they are now in sync. This realization is an important one for me, and I try to hold onto as many details as possible as Luka and I run the final half kilometre home. 

After drying off Luka's wet and muddy coat in the garage and taking off my running shoes, we head insidethe dog straight for his bowl with kibble and I immediately to my computer to try to capture the main ideas of my revelation in short sentences, so I can work them out later.

In Dr George Sheehan's Running & Being he writes how he wouldn't be a writer if he wasn't also a runner. I've been wondering if the same holds true for me. My gut reaction had been, No because I feel more fundamentally a writer than I do a runner.

But is that true? There is no question that I would not be the writer I am today had I not been a runner. I also would not be the person I am today if I hadn't been a runner.

Somehow I do believe I still would have been a writer, even as I cannot imagine what kind I'd be.

I've been working on a draft for a book about the writing runner and the running writer under the not-so-original working title Run. Write. Live. Over the course of working on my first book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend I used many lessons I learned from my marathon experiences to help me keep working on that book when it was very hard, as I later described in my third book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing.  

And since then I have so often noticed similarities between the way you approach running and writing, and how they can support each other, run/walks and writing, as also written previously by famous authors such as Sheehan, Henry David Thoreau and Haruki Murakami.

Still, while most days I have been excited about the topic, thinking there are plenty of writing runners and running writers, I've also had my doubts.

From mid-May until late July this year I wrote 45,000-odd words under the working title Thoughts of an Independent Author. But when I printed it with the idea to start shaping it into a book and reread it, I considered it navel-gazing drivel and decided it better stay as a private file on my computer.

Today, three months later, as I look through Thoughts of an Independent Author again with the hope I may find a few useful paragraphs in it for Run. Write. Live. I realize so much has happened since thennot only is it a good reminder to see how much I have grown in confidence as an author and writer, it may also have merit as now there is the progress to compare it to/with.

I also wonder today, in my final long run before I start a 100km race in two weeks, why I allowed myself to be lured to ultrarunning, dropping all my speed sessions, instead of staying focused on my training and goal to get faster at the marathon distance. Intuitively my choices have felt like they made sense but I can't help but have considered at times if it is laziness, weakness, an excuse to not train so hard any more for getting faster.

Then I think that I have been doing so many longish runs, on the trails, with only the dog and how each one is a major brainstorming session where my running and writing meet. In my first author reading on Wednesday I read to the Squamish Writers Group from A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing's Chapter 16 "Inspiring". In that chapter, I wrote: 

"I used to think of inspiration as something that would just happen, a feeling that would suddenly arrive and prompt me to do—write—great things. Often I heard a story or got an idea that made me excited and wanting to share it. As soon as I sat down to convey my thoughts and the feeling that came with it on the page it all went wrong: the words I wrote didn’t come anywhere near what I had wanted to say. In fact the exact same topic that got me all enthused sounded banal and boring when I tried to capture it in writing. My inspiration left as quickly as it had arrived."

Often that inspiration arrived while I was running, and left very quickly when I tried to write it down afterward. Now I also no longer feel that disconnect between having a beautiful idea while I am running only to find it boring and banal when I try to convey it in words at my desk. While it still doesn't arrive perfectly on the page, I no longer expect it to which allows me to at least start creating, with the knowledge and trust I can and will reshape and improve later.

As a result these days I am excited, every single morning, to head to my desk to start writing. This feels normal now. But looking at Thoughts of an Independent Author showed that only in July I still talk about some dread and challenge.

I also realize how many great book ideas, realistic ones, I have had in the recent three months, as I have been training for the 50-mile STORMY I ran in August and the 100km in two weeks' time. 

The more I run the more I write. Perhaps I should run less as I have had too many ideas, and feel I lack time to write. It seems funny given how I felt just a few months ago,and I laugh out loud on the trail, as I think this.

That's when it dawns on me that my intuitive draw towards running ultras, and being a beginner at them and allowing myself to behave as one, is probably what my inner writer needed as it is such great brainstorming time for her, me, on those easy long trails runs. 

That connection between my runner and writer selves is a relationship that has had to grow and now has a chance, I think, to blossom.


Unknown said...

You inspire me!

Margreet Dietz said...

That's great Margaret, thanks so much for the feedback!