For six years now, I’ve belonged to a gym and taken group exercise classes four days a week. Last week I realized that almost without exception, I think my car is parked considerably closer than it actually is when I leave the gym. This is hundreds of trips across the same parking lot, into the gym when I’m feeling energetic and eager to start class, and the same number of trips when I’m physically tired and my steps are heavier. Yet part of me always wonders: Where’s my car? Did I park in a different row?
There is a similar effect when I’m writing. I don’t always want to go to the gym, and I don’t always want to sit down and write. In both cases, I force myself, and in both cases, I do it anyway and eventually get into the flow. I’m not physically tired when I stop writing, but I’m typically in a state of writer’s fog. I sometimes walk into rooms and have to stop and think why I came here in the first place. I often have to look at clocks twice, because the time didn’t register at the first glance.
Another similarity in my writing and exercise regimes, is that my physical weariness makes me less sharp. Over the years, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t try to revise a chapter or scan for errors when I’m physically tired. It’s the writing equivalent of wasting time by wandering randomly around the entire parking lot, thinking I’ve got to change this or that—figuratively move other cars. If I’m feeling refreshed, the steps that I need to take are relatively easy to take, and the shortest path is easy to find.
Six years ago, I would get exhausted and confused in my Zumba class and my aerobic step class. They come much easier to me now with all of my practice. Similarly, I’ve been rewriting a book that was a close-but-no-cigar sixteen years ago, and it’s now embarrassingly clear why it didn’t sell. Yet, these many years later, I am still not as good as I’d like to be in my exercise classes or in my writing. That can be extremely frustrating to me. Some of the time, however, I’m able to remind myself what a wonderful gift it is to have pursuits in my life that, every day, provide me with an ability to learn and inspire me to ask more from myself.