I did a crazy thing the other day. Overwhelmed by inspiration from attending AWP 2014, I signed up with Blogher.com for NaBloPoMo, their monthly blog writing challenge. The idea is to write a blog a day for the entire month. I’m already failing. It’s March 3 and I’ve yet to produce a blog. It’s not like I don’t have any ideas, but I have this fear that when I start a blog, I won’t be able to finish it or wrap it up sufficiently. I am afraid I won’t be able to bring it on home, I guess. This is not an unfamiliar fear. It creeps in often around writing, especially after a dry period.
I have the same fear about running after a few days off. Due to snow and AWP, I’ve not been running for the past five days, and so when I got up this morning the pressure to go for a run was nearly paralyzing. I employed all of my tricks to move past the fear—I got dressed in my running clothes even though I knew I wouldn’t be heading out for a run anytime soon. I reminded myself that I had been feeling exceptionally healthy these past couple of months—a direct result, I am pretty certain, of my increased running activity. I looked at the pants I’ve been wearing recently—pants I couldn’t button before Christmas. That was motivating. Eventually I worked up enough momentum to propel me to lace up my sneakers and hit the road.
Writing is like running I thought as I surveyed the landscape on my run. There were huge branches all over the place, shaken from their trees by recent storms. Writing is like that too, I thought as I gave some trees with suspicious looking branches wide berth. I didn’t need a branch falling on my head. Writing shakes out those loose branches, those fears I encounter before embarking—what if I don’t get very far? What if I make it a mile and then I can’t go on? What if it hurts? But it’s raining. The bottom line is that by beginning, I will be no worse off than I was by not starting and the chances that I will be better off increase each time I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement. Past experience tells me this—it is a fact. I feel better when I run. I feel much better if I run more. I feel shitty if I run less and I feel shittier still if I don’t run at all. I know these things.
I know that if I write, I will feel better. If I write more, I will feel better still, and if I don’t write or write less, I will feel shitty. Furthermore, if I don’t write I will have no material. I cannot reach any of my writing goals without material—I can’t send anything out for publication. I cannot finish my book. I can’t even apply to attend writing retreats (at least the ones I want to attend) if I don’t have anything written down. Starting writing is as scary as putting on my running shoes—facing the blank page or the glowing white computer screen is a lot like taking that first step of a five mile run. What if I get to the end of page one, the end of mile one, and I can’t go any further? What if I run out of things to say?
Here’s what I know: I’m not any worse off than before I started. In fact, I now have approximately 500 words that I did not have a few moments ago. Just like after running a mile, I am ahead of where I was before I embarked. No worse off, certainly. Most likely better. Because one step leads to more steps just like one word leads to more words and sometimes the miles and the pages fly by and before I know it, I’m bringing it home. I’m cresting that hill, finishing that essay, posting that blog and running the final few steps to my driveway. I know that finishing feels so damn good.