When I was a kid in
Sometimes school let out early and the bus dropped us at the slopes.
Sometimes I found powder with my mom, sometimes I ran gates with my team.
Sometimes I’d leave a ski at the bottom so I could take a wild, one-legged ride.
My ski pass for the whole season (and I know this is gonna make you want to hurl) cost $57.
But here’s the thing. I was never great.
Nobody had their sights set on the Olympics for me… or even a decent college scholarship.
I knew it.
But I loved it just the same.
I loved eating Bit O’ Honey on the chair-a-lift.
I loved the names of all the runs and the signs with their geometric shapes and the little paper maps.
I loved pointing my tips downhill and pushing off.
Fast forward about 25 years.
My daughter asks me if I’m going to win.
She is not kidding and I love her for that.
I’m able to articulate, at this point, why I’m not going to win, and how deeply and truly okay that is, and how it feels like I’m getting my own big fat prize just for running.
Which is what has kept me writing all these years.
My own big fat prize.
Not the Olympics.
Not a college scholarship.
Just the totally exhilarating sense of working hard at something and makin’ it happen.
The thrill of fresh tracks.
The thrill of working those same tracks over – again and again and again until it’s almost easy.
The thrill of watching myself do something I only imagined I could do…
When Sara and I started talking about the physicality of writing, I don’t know what we meant, exactly.
Using sport as an analogy for what we do with words each day?
Using actual sport to support or inspire our creative work?
Using exercise to survive the anxiety of the writer’s life?
All of that, I think.
Body is inextricable from brain.
Writing is not entirely a cerebral act.
(There are times when I wonder if writing is cerebral at all.)
Twyla Tharp, the dancer, wrote a book called The Creative Habit and it is, unsurprisingly, filled with bodily ways of thinking about creativity. Tharp herself creates with her body but she speaks, in the book, to writers and painters, composers and chefs. And to all of us she says, “I can’t say enough about the connection between body and mind; when you stimulate your body, your brain comes alive in ways you can’t simulate in a sedentary position. The brain is an organ, tied integrally to all the other systems in the body, and it’s affected by blood flow, neural transmission, all the processes you undergo when you put your body through its paces.”
I, for one, am not gonna argue with her.
Writing is like sport – sprints and long slogs, blisters and, if you’re lucky, hitting an altered state.
Writing is fed by sport – the blood flow, the neural transmission – y’know, what Twyla said.
Writing is survived through sport – the release, the fresh air, the mind flush.
You there, sister????