June ended, and we’re nearly a week into July. I’ve started half a dozen posts and gotten nowhere with them. There’s too much going on right now to be clearheaded enough to write succinctly. But that’s precisely when I need to write more. Writing helps me figure stuff out. Running does too, but writing is different. It forces clarity or forces me to acknowledge my lack of clarity, both of which are good for me.
A dear friend recently invited me to venture into a personal writing challenge with her. For three months, we write an hour a day five days a week. During that time – no work, no email, no phone, no Facebook, no nothing. Just writing. The timing of the invitation was good for me because I’ve been challenging myself to write more. Last month, I challenged myself to prepare something for the Story Circle Network‘s recent contest. The theme was “Solitude.” I spent hours working on a piece that ultimately felt too personal to submit. The problem wasn’t only that it was perhaps too personal. I also couldn’t figure out how to end it because the issues in the piece are part of my life right now. How do you resolve in writing something that is fully unresolved in reality? I don’t know. So that piece was left unfinished and unsubmitted. And, after beating myself up a bit about missing that deadline, I’ve decided that it’s okay for that piece and that situation to be unresolved right now.
One great thing about writing is that you can just write without a goal. When I run, I am trying to run for a certain amount of time or a certain distance. If I break down and walk during that time, then the workout feels like a failure. When I race, I need to finish the race, as the course is set out before me. If I don’t finish the race or I don’t finish the race in the time allotted for the course (which is always my fear at Ironman), I am a failure at that event. But writing can happen in fits and spurts, and though it can be structured – like a commitment to write for an hour each day – that time, once it’s spent writing, isn’t a failure no matter how it goes or what the end result is.
Writing for an hour doesn’t mean I’m punching a keyboard for an hour. Some of that time could be spent thinking about plots or making lists of possible stories or scenarios or otherwise planning something to be written. Whatever the writing hour looks like, it always feels good in a way that an unexpected walk on a ten mile run can never feel good. There are times when writing feels more productive or less productive, but it’s all progress. It’s all writing.
So today, with my foggy head, my need for clarity, and my decision to give myself a break, I’m giving myself extra time to write. With time, the words will come. And if they don’t, it will still have been time well spent.