Sunday, February 26, 2012

Imaginary Weather (running and writing)

I have gone back to a draft of a story that takes place on a hot day. A really hot day. 

Today is not a hot day, not where I live, and it is taking a strenuous effort to muscle my imagination anywhere near air shimmering over asphalt, t-shirts sweaty around necklines, glare that makes you squint. Anything more inventive than the clichéd sizzle of eggs on the pavement.

If I want to sweat today, I have to run. If I run, under (or over) the sweatiness, I will be cold. Not freeze-your-eyelashes-together cold (thank goodness I no longer live in that climate) but throat-stinging cold, tug-my-fleece-beanie-a-little-lower-on-my-ears cold. Most of all, mud puddle cold. Only in the winter is the much vaunted ventilation of my running shoes really evident. The air goes right through them, along with the water when I inevitably misjudge as solid one of the floating islands that decorate the jogging-trail-cum-mud-wallow where we crazies congregate. Kind of the local variation on mad dogs and Englishmen, here where there's not much midday sun this time of year.

So, I'm going to run (because it clears my head even if it sogs my toes) and I'm going to try, flexing my leg muscles, to push that mental muscle back toward that hot afternoon when my story is supposed to start, the heat that is somehow motivating to my character (how? when has she ever experienced heat that would make you choose? where does she live, anyway?). 

I know that more than a few of my brilliant insights-while-running are lost among the woodchips before I get home--how else to explain the recalcitrance of certain drafts that stubbornly resist revision? So I don't run too fast, hoping any laggard inspiration might have the chance to catch me up before I round the bend. But as a plan, a run right now seems more promising than one more sunny-side-up stuck on the metal bus stop bench in my little urban desert that refuses, today, to be more than a mirage.


  1. This is stunning.
    I used to walk before writing. The pace of my footsteps was perfectly calibrated to the rhythm of my thoughts. But if I rode a bike, I came home empty-minded (running wasn't part of my movement vocabulary in those days, unless I was about to miss a bus).
    Also, I thought I was the only one who was bothered by the cold air seeping through my shoes' ventilation.
    I hope you were able to conjure your hot day.

  2. Thanks, Ruth! Still conjuring. . . but I can see how biking wouldn't work as well--for me, at least: too much attention to traffic, squirrels, balance.

  3. I feel this run, the soaked toes, the stinging throat, the hurried wait for inspiration. I've run this run, though my puddles hide in snow covered potholes, like children playing peek-a-boo. I've run this run, chasing an elusive description or herding a wayward plot while my sweat freezes into frost. Whether we catch the muse or it catches us, running is a fun way to find it.

    1. Sometimes, by varying the pace, inspiration can be outwitted if not outrun. Or are outwitting and outrunning what we're trying to avoid? It's that hurried wait, that weighted hurry.

  4. Exactly! Love the word play, playful words.