On NPR’s Radio West I was listening to host Doug Fabrizio interview author Christopher McDougall about his book, Born to Run. A devoted runner, McDougall suffered common injuries to runners and took time off from his loved sport. Serendipitously, he met Mexico’s Tarahumaras who taught him the secret of their world-famous sandal-wearing method of long distance running.
This isn’t about running. It is about when a listener called in to tell of her love of running and shared injuries. Paraphrased, her question was, “You said the Tarahumara run great distances feeling the elation I’ve also felt. But sometimes I don’t feel elated, it’s just trying to get through. It’s not always fun. Do they feel elated the whole way?” The answer was no. As much as the Tarahumara live it and McDougall has come to love it, its other-worldly elation is not present the whole way.
The comparison came at a good time. I was trying to lay out a writing course for adults who were new to creative writing and I felt a responsibility to make it a real, do-able and exhilarating experience. I also wanted them to understand it is revision demanding and sometimes mentally exhausting work. I didn’t want to send them away to meet with unhappy surprises they weren’t prepared to stare in the face. And overcome.
I decided to make the comparison with a pleasure. Were they married or in a long standing relationship? A parent? Did they love a career? Were they a musical or visual artist? A dedicated athlete? Loving someone or something and being truly ready to be devoted to a future with her or it, makes the work of improving simultaneously more serious and pleasurable.
Writing can be transporting and it has scattered times of elation. It is also a tedious, revision laden exercise where sometimes just getting through is a surprisingly monumental effort. Though both McDougall and the caller had stories of injury and depletion, neither of them were giving up running. They were perhaps making revisions in style or method, but they were getting through, waiting for that time of elation.