Friday, June 7, 2013

Tripping Over Myself

Blogging for writers is like practicing the scales for musicians. Virginia Woolf even said, “The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. These days, blogs have replaced journals and are public, but the concept is the same.

I used to be incredibly consistent in my running, sort of like a machine. My coach used to say that I only had good or great races. I was undeniably predictable until my senior year in high school. That's when things got difficult. I could no longer will my body to perform when I was feeling off or tired. Before that, I could run while sick or injured and put in a good and usually successful effort. These days I seem to curl up in the fetal position any time I experience discomfort of any kind, but that's probably because I've had enough, maybe too much.

My body hurts jogging. Ouch. I never needed a coach to tell me that everyone hurts the same, like we're all in this big pool of pain on the race course; I needed someone to remind me that it doesn't hurt when you are ready and having a great race. At least it shouldn't hurt.

If you are ever lucky enough to have a race in which everything falls into place, you know that pain isn't what you remember most. In fact, you might notice that you get past any discomfort to a place where it no longer hurts. You trust yourself to test your physical limits, face your inner demons and conquer your fears. It almost feels good. 

I haven't been able to do this in any area of my life in years and years, because my physical limits are so restrictive that it makes testing my mental limits nearly impossible. Still, it's not like I'm without any progress at all. Even in my compromised state, I do have good or at least OK days. 

One issue I have had in the past is falling apart after big events. It's more of a challenge to go for it when past attempts to find some level of improvement or success are marred with unpleasant experiences. It's easy to get caught up in the negative and let fears grow. Last year, I did this after racing. I had a breakthrough at the Rocky Mountain Shootout, feeling like I was stepping back into competing instead of just trying to survive a race. I saw my strengths and weaknesses. After it was over, though, I sort of fell apart. I see some mistakes I made, but this is a bit of a theme in the last few years with me. I'm not always able to regroup and recover after races. 

I remember a few years ago when I got to the start line after many, many years away from the sport. During the days after the race, I struggled on all levels: emotional, physical and even spiritual. I wasn't sure how to take care of myself in the right way. 

The same thing happens with my writing. I get into writing a short story, and it consumes me. I write during nearly every spare moment I have until it's done. When I come to the end, though, I trip over myself and  get so lost that I can't seem to even write a coherent sentence in an email. So I distract myself and avoid anything writing related. This might not be the best approach. I sleep or avoid sleep, binge watch whatever I can find on Netflix, feel frustrated and wait for the brain fog to clear. During these times, I can have good ideas about writing, but when it comes to putting them down, it's a disaster, and whoops! there goes my confidence. Just like with running, I don't know if the best approach is to force it or let it go and wait for inspiration.

Training is always about finding the right balance of pushing it and rest. You can only do what the body will allow. I guess in some ways writing is no different. The book On Writing by Stephen King helped me see that forcing things, whether it's attempting to use fancy words that don't quite fit or not offing your little darlings, won't produce the best literature. One has to stretch without overstretching. I fight it less with writing, but I notice that the more I get into it, the harder I am on myself during down times. I get caught up in the "I should" syndrome.

In other news, I think I need some rehab/PT on my foot. The problem is finding a place that is both affordable and good.

I rarely LOL for real at stuff on the internet, but this about made me fall over. I can't explain why I find it so hilarious, but I do:

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