I had a wonderful day Sunday before last at the Cheyenne Lions Ride for Sight. A perfect, amazing, glorious day -- 52 miles on the bicycle. Why yes, I AM bragging. So what does this have to do with writing? Looking at why I had such a good day, there were a few lessons for word work:
- I prepared -- I didn't go from zero to 50 without a few 20- and 30-milers. If I don't practice writing, I'm not going to able to succeed. Journaling and exercises all help me build up to longer and better work.
- I showed up -- That Sunday morning, I had little energy and wasn't entirely sure I had a long ride in me. Despite that, I showed up. If I don't show up to write, nothing will happen. When I make space for writing, it happens.
- I lowered my expectations -- I didn't engage in fantasies of riding the entire 100-mile course. I decided to do what I could do. When I write, if I think everything must be brilliant and perfect, I stop myself from doing as much as I can, because I get caught up in what I aspire to. The poet William Stafford was known for telling his students, "lower your standards and keep going." I just kept going.
- I trusted the process -- One year on the same ride, I had a horrible day because I got caught up in the outcome -- how many miles would I ride? I didn't pay enough attention to the mechanics of getting there. When I focused on a smooth cadence and a steady pace, the miles unfolded without misery. When I write, I need to focus on the process -- how to tell the story, what precise word do I need here, what I should cut. If I write while simultaneously fantasizing about publishing, it doesn't work.
- I fed myself -- I've bonked once or twice on long rides: collapsed on the ground, shaking and conversing with imaginary people. The surest route to bonking is to not eat enough. As writers, we need to do what "feeds" us outside of writing, whether it's time in nature, in the garden or with family. We need to take care of ourselves physically and mentally. Sure, on a big deadline we can push it, but we can't push it forever.
What writing lessons do you get from other activities in your life? Which of these here resonate with you?
And ... who wants to go with me on the Ride for Sight next year!