Last Tuesday was a Terrible Writing Day. Lots of procrastinating, lots of despairing Art Feelings, lots of heavy sighing. I spent the afternoon “writing” a feature story, by which I mean that I rearranged the same sentences for three hours. Mostly: stops and starts, detours, much inward complaining.
I finally admitted defeat and went for a run to jar the words loose and…same. Starting, stopping, feeling sluggish.
As I plodded through Mission Hills, I passed a park where a little girl was playing soccer with her dad. The soccer ball came up to her knees and she was practically swimming in her Liverpool kit. She was small enough to walk through her dad’s legs without ducking. From the looks of it, he was teaching her to kick without success; girlfriend was not having it. He placed the ball in front of the goal and crouched next to it, windmilling his arms to encourage her forward. I could just picture what he hoped for: his toddler sprinting at the ball, scoring her first goal while he applauded. Instead she shuffled a few steps and stopped. Come on, he yelled. You got this. Head hanging, she managed a few more unenthusiastic steps toward the ball, which sat only a few feet from the goal. I thought, You and me both today.
As I ran, my inner toddler whined. Why is writing so hard? Why is running so hard? And why do they feel so similar? My friend Charlotte wrote a great satirical essay about how much writers who run love to write about running. It’s true, but there’s also an undeniable kindredness to the two. For example:
Both activities are largely unpleasant while you’re doing them.
Related: they feel best when they’re over.
They require a lot of self-psyching-up, procrastination, sweat, and snacks.
Writers and runners like talking about these activities more than doing them.
Both train you to pay attention to the world, and to use your imagination.
In both cases, if you know, then you know. Otherwise you seem crazy.
Halfway through the run I gave up tracking my pace and decided to enjoy the view instead. No epiphanies, but some pretty things, like a tree whose leaves were nearly neon, lit from within by sun. On my way down a hill I was pulled off the sidewalk by flowering weeds that rose up to my chest. A leprechaun hillside, with a path weaving through the weeds. All that green from ground that’s been fallow so long. I followed the trail and watched a chocolate lab’s tail sail through the grass like a ship’s mast. Everything shimmered and tickled my legs. As I walked I reminded myself of something I heard a friend say: A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people.
And I thought of these words from a favorite book, even though I didn’t believe them at the time:
El trabajo es bien duro, no?
Si, pero el trabajo es bonito.
The work is hard, isn’t it?
Yes, but the work is beautiful.