WordPress has this fun little feature where it tells you approximately how long it will take to read the story on the page. I said to Russ a couple of days ago, “You know, this says my piece is fourteen minutes long.” Sitting with that for a moment, I continued.
Rather rhetorically, I asked him, “Do you have any idea how long it took me to write this??”
He played my silly game.
“Oh, about six hours.”
“Does that include editing?”
“Yes, for the most part. I don’t ever feel like I edit enough though. It really needs one more sweep after putting it down for a bit, but I feel like it takes me so long to crank something out, I don’t have time to do that, and the editing becomes a bit abbreviated.”
Russ sighed and said, “Yeah, well imagine how a painter feels. After all of that work, I might walk past it in a museum, shrug my shoulders, and keep walking. How do you think that makes them feel?”
I know he’s right.
It was at this moment the irony of practicing riding for hours, in order to compete for five minutes, was not lost on me. I did it for decades. At the time, I was always amused by this juxtaposition in the sport of Eventing.
Now I know.
No matter what you do, it takes hours of scrubbing and sweating, to possibly enjoy five minutes of sheer delight. That’s why loving the journey you are on is so important. You spend exorbitantly more time there than in the spotlight.
Not only that, the spotlight might shine on you, not when you’re at your best, but when you are at your worst. All of that heavy lifting and toiling, only to crash and burn when it matters.
It’s the chance we all take, because it’s worth it.
What’s Your Speed?
It is also not lost on me that I seem to write at the same speed I went cross-country.
In horses, we might say one is a “fast thinker” or a “slow thinker.” This is in reference to how they handle a new question presented to them. Do they get quicker in their feet navigating the challenge, or does it slow them down while processing it?
Guess which type of horse I would be??
In my defense, I rode plenty that were a little slow learning the ropes. Every horse went at their own speed of learning. As a rider, that was part of the gold—letting each blossom on their own timeline. Funnily enough, when I was riding, I often considered each horse their “own novel.”
Each horse was writing his or her own story each day.
Also like when I was riding, I feel the need to write every day, a lot. I want to bang out the skeleton of a story every time, which takes me at least two or three hours. When I was riding, this translated into having two horses to practice on every day. I always considered this the very minimum necessary in order to have adequate practice time in the tack.
The similarities between my riding and writing are confounding.
I only wrote a short piece yesterday very early and nothing for the rest of the day or evening. So I might as well have done nothing at all. That’s how my brain interprets it anyway. Restless, it woke me up very early this morning, itching to get going.
Fear can immobilize you and prevent you from stepping into the ring, but fear also has the power to light a fire under your ass. In this way, I let it hold the handlebars sometimes and pedal the bike. When I don’t write, my fear—of forgetting how to do it—builds an arsenal of anxiety, brick by brick, throwing them at me one at a time to spur me into action. Complying brings equal tension and relief. The tension of, “Will I be able to create something?” and the relief of, “Oh thank God I have the opportunity to try and create something.” It’s a nice balance to have, although it’s always teetering off to one side or the other. I suppose that’s much of life….if you’re lucky.
Free Prize Today
When taking a break from writing, it always helps if I pick up a book (a wheel to occupy my hamster brain). Yesterday I started reading “The Emissary” by Yoko Tawada. I’m only 25-pages in, but it is a beautiful read, even if it is slightly dystopian (at least right now).
(That’s your free prize today in case you didn’t get it).
I used to always say, “There are people who ride horses and then there are riders. They’re not the same.” Sometimes people understand the point I’m trying to make better when I use a well-known sport such as golf. “There are people who play golf, and then there are golfers, and they’re not the same.” In other words, plenty of people can throw their leg over a horse, or pick up a golf club, but it doesn’t make them proficient just because they do it. Your journey can’t be five-minutes long, only the spotlight, after countless grueling hours pounding it out.
Yoko Tawada is a writer and I am someone who writes. That’s okay. I’m prepared for the long,tedious journey.
Good thing since I’m such a slow traveler.