I love reading and writing. Actually, some books, I’m so glad I’ve read them I consider myself a lucky person. Just for that.
But no matter how deep my love for reading and writing is, I could never sit at my desk for hours and hours every single day. And keep on reading and writing.
Fact is, after a while I’ve been sitting my legs need, or rather reclaim, their share of activity. I get restless. My mind begins to wander. And I either find myself rereading whole passages I’ve already read while zoning out on a sort of autopilot, or rewriting passages I’ve written under the arcane spell of the same atrocious autopilot.
Because, if it’s true that practice makes perfect, it has to be of the right kind.
I define such autopilot atrocious because when I write–so to speak–in that mode, I tend to restate everything at least thrice. I mean: His girth measured more or less like the room he was sitting in. When he slept his belly towered on him like a proud and bulging mountain, and each step he took sent telluric waves that made his rolls of fat tremble like ripe fruits ready to fall.
When my writing gets like this I know I need a pause. I need to go for a run or a hike–at the very least for a walk. In fact, although these activities seem to be a world apart from reading and writing, they all share interesting commonalities.
Sometimes hiking up a mountain can be maddening. Especially when almost from the very start you can see your destination–but then it takes you three, four or even more hours to actually reach it.
This is a lot like writing a novel. Often I know how it ends from the very beginning, or at least I believe I do, but to get there I can’t just jump to the final chapter and write it. I’ve got to write down with painstaking accuracy each and every word, building the scenes, the chapters.
Besides, on some occasions, when I get there, I discover the end I had envisioned at the beginning no longer works. But that is fine, because if I’ve taken the time to write down all the necessary parts, by the time I get to it I’ll know how the whole thing needs to end.
Hiking taught me patience when I was a child. And I’m glad I learned it that way. In fact, there’s nothing like climbing up a mountainside, feeling smaller than an ant, and yet just as full of purpose and unstoppable.
Because the size of the task we’re working at isn’t only a geometric property, for example like altitude and distance. It’s also and above all a matter of inner representation and of our willingness to take another step, and then another. To keep going and trust the process.
Also fatigue and exhaustion, and even a certain degree of pain are all part and parcel of hiking up a mountain.
Of course, the fitter and better trained you get the less you’re going to experience this kind of discomforts.
But they never disappear. Because when you’re stronger you’re bound to set for yourself more difficult destinations. And also because you can’t cheat. You have to hike on, you’ve got to climb up for 4.000 feet, all of them, if you want to reach your destination. You can’t skip to the end, like when you’re reading a book and you finally decide you’ve had enough of it. That said, in any case, skipping isn’t reading. You get to know the end but you don’t know how you got there.
With writing is the same. Writing can be an extremely difficult process at times. This is especially true for beginners. But even experienced writers can find it quite difficult. Indeed, it’s not per chance that Dorothy Parker quote’s is so famous- I hate writing, I love having written.
As a result, I noticed that the more I hike and run and the more I am able to sit for longer and longer sessions of writing. It’s as if enhancing my resilience to the discomfort these physical activities involve I also enhance my ability to cope with any other kind of discomfort.
Some years ago, while running, I had an accident. Without even realizing it, I injured my left foot’s sole. The morning after the run, I could barely walk and discovered I had a vast bruise all over my sole.
To make a long story short this injury prevented me from running for a couple of years. Two whole years!
Up to that moment, and to this day, that’s the only injury I’ve suffered in almost four decades of running.
But that taught me an essential lesson. That’s to say that humans, machines, works of arts, really everything, are going to be as strong, resistant, compelling or moving as their weakest parts are.
I mean, to run a marathon it’s useless to have a near perfect body if then you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis. All the necessary parts of our mind and body need to be in perfect order.
There’s no any other way around this.
And this is why also a thorough knowledge of grammar is essential for every serious writer. Not because you have to write at all times according to the strictest prescriptive rules–that would be boring, and incredibly unimaginative. But because in this way you can make sure your work won’t be defined by your weaknesses. Only by your decisions.
Of course, sometimes our decisions suck. But at least we have the opportunity to make such decisions. And the next time, with appropriate feedback we can refine our decision making process and come up with a better result.
Rules are safety nets. One of the many different ways you have to understand language.
The more I think about running, hiking, writing, and reading and the more I can think of similarities. But these days I’m moving. So, at least for a while, I’d better to get back to more mundane tasks.
And you, what kind of writer are you? Do you have some hobby to help you recharge when you feel your well of inspiration is drying up?
Pictures: I took them =)