It’s been a few days since I’ve written anything at length. I’ve still been writing my journal, and small notes to myself here and there, but I haven’t sat down to update my website in over a week. It seems like my attention span is shrinking. I know this to be not the case, or at least I assume it to be, as I don’t have the same sort of trouble focusing on other tasks. Rather, I’m simply able to procrastinate and avoid writing enough that I don’t do it.
Over the past year, I became a runner. For the first time in my life, I went out with the intention of running, and joined the dawn crowd. I practiced and trained, mostly alone, eventually working my way up with a program to complete a 10k. Though, I did not compete in any events, I was happy running mostly by myself, and found joy in beating my feet into the pavement.
Now, while I would say I’m a runner, I’m not a lifer. Especially living in Chicago, the weather became a limiting factor, and my runs started to trail off towards the end of the year. I decided not to run any time the weather was below 30F, and mostly kept to that promise.
This Sunday, I went on my first run of the new year. A foggy, misty day, somehow we reached 41F by the time I hit the street. One of my biggest challenges with running has been pacing myself, as I tend to run a little bit faster than I’m able to maintain for a long time. Music helps, but it’s more of a feel that has to be developed and cultivated, by me. No one else can do it for me.
It was a nice run, but I ended after only a mile and a half, near out of breath. Did I get worse at running? Of course, partially. At least as much to blame was the fact that I hadn’t been exercising the muscles involved. I didn’t know what it felt like to run any more. I only knew the idea that running felt good. When faced with the contrast between your idea of a feeling and the feeling itself, you can find yourself disappointed by your experience.
Much like running, I haven’t been practicing my writing. With the freelance editing contract I’ve been under, I spend at least 8.5 hours of my day in front of a computer, but unable to write. Of course, this is a reality for the majority of people in the developed world, and I don’t mean to make it seem so bad. But it’s a far cry from my schedule when I was infrequently employed and writing all the time.
I’ve always loved the story of Haruki Murakami’s first writing. He was running a Jazz Bar in Japan, ‘Peter Cat’. After being struck with the idea that he could write a novel while at a baseball game, he set out to do just that, while still maintaining his business. He would sit down at his kitchen table, and wrote out his first works fervently in the middle of the night.
I thought I would be able to do something similar with this job, but so far it has proven to be not the case. I’m no Murakami, yet.
It’s not that I haven’t been inspired, either. Quite the opposite. Plenty of times I’ll see an illustration come up on my Twitter feed, or just feel a flash of inspiration, and I’ll do what I have always done, and write what I can down. I’ve sat through movies and thought of a different take on a plot point, or jot some notes down beforehand based on what I think it’ll be about.
When it comes time to tie that all together, or flesh out my ideas into something more solid, I freeze. These ideas blossom, bumping into one another, loose stars in orbit, but haven’t nearly as often formed constellations. It’s simply because I haven’t put in the effort to.
I’ve mentioned this on the site before, but Neil Gaiman has a quote, where he says-
"If you only write when you feel inspired, you may be a great poet, but you’ll never be a novelist." - Neil Gaiman
How true is that? You can plan out every scenario in the world, but until you are putting ink on the page you are not a writer. It’s that simple. A writer is one who write; not one who plans.
My one big goal for this year is to advance myself as a writer. To finish my book. To seek publication. And like all great goals, the biggest barrier to this is only myself. Because to publish a book, you have to fucking write one.
Even a single spark can start a fire. You just have to kindle it.