Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Weather the Storm

Here in Toronto, it’s been a long, bitterly cold winter. The frigid temperatures, attributed by meteorologists to the “Siberian Express,” together with an infection that manifested in mid-February, sidelined me when it came to running. First, I wasn’t brave enough to run outside when it was -25°C or colder. Second, the illness took away my strength and energy. Occasionally, I went to the gym in my building but nothing beats running outside.

So ten days again, after about seven weeks of not running outside, I went for a run along the Martin Goodman Trail. I felt like a beginner again. I couldn’t run non-stop. I couldn’t run without feeling like my heart would, at any moment, jump out of my chest. When I resigned from competition, I let myself walk when the cramps in my sides were too painful; and I would run again when my body had recovered. Since that first run ten days ago, I’ve put in five other runs. Slowly, I’m getting better running more than walking, running longer and further. The point is I’m running again.

As a writer, there are days, too, when I feel like a beginner again. These are the days where it feels like I’m writing uphill, like the writing is static, lost its magic. I have trouble focusing. I wonder if I’ll ever be published again …? I think, “What’s the use?” Yes, these are the days when I can see self-pity making its way stealthily towards me, hoping that I’ll eagerly join the party it’s throwing in my honour.

I’ve learned to weather the “storm,” to let myself be a beginner again. At the end of the day, what matters is that I have put pen to page. If the writing on a particular day feels stale and rigid, I remind myself that it is only a draft. It can be tweaked a little, or a lot, or tossed out if a from-the-top rewrite is deemed more appropriate. Like with running, I have to resign from competition. I can’t worry about who’s doing better than me, who’s getting published. I can’t compare myself to bestselling authors like Danielle Steel, Dave Eggers, Anne-Marie MacDonald or Margaret Atwood. I can worry about what is within my control, and I control whether or not I show up at the page each day.

Taking it one day at a time, I’ve come to appreciate the creative process that I’m in. Each day offers a new adventure. Each day a writing project inches forward one word at a time. When I give myself over to that process, something magical happens: I finish something. Finishing something the final edit of a short story, the synopsis, the novel feels good. The completed project offers reassurance, when doubt lingers large and heavy, that I am on the right path. I am not necessarily at the beginning or the end, but somewhere in-between. That is the artist in me holding steadfast to my dreams.

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