Running took the place of writing this year and I called it a bad thing. I pushed the writing out with the running. It was a form of procrastination dressed up as achievement.
But what if it wasn’t?
A distraction, I mean. What if it were good, and helpful and necessary.
Which is more difficult, running a marathon or writing a novel? I’m doing both and I’d choose the 42.2km any day. But there’s the rub. Maybe it isn’t a choice. Maybe they go hand in hand. Maybe the small voice that says ‘run despite the rain’ is the same that says ‘write despite the fear’. Maybe the pre-race anxiety mimics the excitement of starting the manuscript. Maybe hitting the ‘wall’ at 30km is equivalent to getting 20,000 words deep and discovering the story is a wash. Too far in to give it all away, and yet achingly far from the finish.
Maybe this is exactly what I needed. Some subconscious endurance training, beyond the simplistic voice of reason that insists ‘if you can run a marathon, you can sit comfortably on that chair, warm by the heater and write a story’.
In novel writing the playing field is a blank page and the competitors are hidden. And D-day is now and never and yesterday and today and tomorrow. And noone feeds you powerade or writes ‘Aussies do it better’ on a placard. The battle is quiet, individual; dramatically lonely. There are no bands, no professional photographers, no tshirts, and no guarantee of getting a medal or even half a banana at the end of it.
But there is a common reverence. A feeling of beyond-normalness. And the sense that the process: the lacing up of sneakers and the sitting-down at tables; the rhythmic pace of footfalls and the pitter-patter of keystrokes, that the doing, rather than the finishing, is the point.
In a world where what we HAVE and what we KNOW is king, the process; the incompleteness and not-quite-rightness of testing and seeing, might just be the whole thing after all.