I just started reading Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and I was struck by his comparison between running and writing.
“What’s crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you’ve set for yourself. Failure to reach that bar is not something you can easily explain away. When it comes to other people, you can always come up with a reasonable explanation, but you can’t fool yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically, a writer has a quiet, inner motivation and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.”
As a runner and writer, I feel the truth of this. I run not to beat anyone else, but to beat my former self, or mainly just to achieve a feeling in my body and mind. Even when I run a race, I’m mostly just focused on my own run, my own breath, my own best time.
I have always written--illustrated stories about marrying Don Johnson when I was 10, tiny poems about a boy’s freckles when I was a teenager and sloppy notebooks full of philosophies in my 20s. Somewhere along the line, though, I started to think my writing had to do something, have a purpose or publication goal. That pretty much shut down my writing for years until I was inspired again by my friend who paints, draws, embroiders and writes songs simply for her own pleasure. So I started to try to write again in the same way. I write to achieve a feeling in my mind and body, to connect to some other part of me besides teacher, wife, mom, list-maker. When I come to writing in that way, it opens a door for me. It is a mini-vacation in my day, just like running.
I also think having a "quiet, inner motivation" and not "seeking validation in the outwardly visible" is an integral part of teaching, but I’ll save that thought for another day.