life running writing

Tea, and Me

27 May 2008

teacup.jpg

This morning dawned, again, gray and cool. It was the kind of morning that makes you want to stay in and drink tea by the pot-full, sitting close by a fire and wearing lots of warm sweaters and wool socks. Welcome, summer?

Well, anyway.

I have a sort of romantic ideal of tea, especially on foggy days when the clouds drift silently by. I feel like it’s the perfect writing companion; in an ideal world, I’d sit down at my desk (in front of a big window overlooking redwood trees, or a field of gently waving grasses) with a stack of clean white paper, a freshly sharpened pencil, and a pot of tea for a few cups of strong tea-with-milk. I’d take my time, quietly sorting out my thoughts, and taking sips of tea as the mood moved me. If work was going well, I’d skip making another pot, but if I needed a little extra something I’d wander over to the stove and boil more water. I’d wrap my hands around my teacup and look over what I’d written, changing a word here and there, and taking a few breaks to gaze out on my beautiful vista.

Oh, if only.

I’m learning, as I stumble and mutter along, that writing is like — well, the closest analogy I can make is that it’s like running. Sometimes when you lace up your running shoes you’re full of energy and anticipation; you set your feet straight ahead of you on the road and can keep going for miles, until time constraints or blisters force you stop. On other days, your legs feel heavy and like those dreams where you’re running and running, but can’t seem to get anywhere (you do have those dreams, right? Maybe I should call them nightmares.) and it feels like running through molasses, or on sand. You try and try, but it’s just not a good day for running and you feel frustrated and irritated and like you just want to eat a big ice cream sundae and read Vogue to distract yourself.

Writing is sometimes like that, too. There are the days my fingers fly over the keyboard and it’s easy-peasy and I wonder why I ever thought it was a strain. Then there are the days — like maybe even a day like today — when I sit in front of the computer and nothing comes out and I grumble and curse and refuse all offers of help. I used to think writing was easy, and if it wasn’t, I guessed I shouldn’t be doing it. But, similar to running (see: 2005 marathon training and subsequent half-marathons) seeing down the longer stretch is what can save you. I’ve realized that even if it hurts it doesn’t necessarily mean I should give up on it; my knees may ache, my brain may be weary, but if I can make it to the turnaround point it’s all worth it. Besides, no one said this stuff comes without some modicum of effort (and, err, pain).

Tea helps, though.

teaclose.jpg
[Weekend tea, May 2008.]

So today I went for a 6-mile run and I wouldn’t necessarily call it easy

, but it wasn’t the hardest ever, either. Then I went against my own advice by having a large iced americano before attempting to work on a story I’m doing for NPR. It’s going a little harder than easier, thanks for asking, but — knock wood — I think I’ll make tomorrow’s deadline.

Tomorrow, though, I’m definitely having tea. That romantic ideal definitely dies hard … and I’m the hopeful sort.