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Rekindled Retires — Maybe

September 30, 2010 1 comment

NOTE TO READERS: This month I launched a new blog for my business. Rekindledreader is on hiatus–or retired if I can’t manage two blogs–for a spell.

Here’s where you can find me now:

I still write about running, only now it’s in the context of helping others find health and happiness.  It’s what I do–or strive to do–as a fitness professional. 

At WholeSum Fitness I hope to ignite a passion for health and well-being in those who are like I once was: inert and unfulfilled. It’s about the link between setting fitness goals and achieving results in life and at work.

Please drop by my new online home anytime–I love guests!

Cheers to your good health.

Shelly

P.S. For the record, I’ve also grown a bit weary of the rekindled moniker. Here’s its genesis: Re: Kindle dreader. Clever, yes. But my dread is gone now and all my fears are abated about e-readers: If people can co-exist then so can e-books and hardbacks.  And, oh–I’m also no longer rekindled. I’m just plain old kindled now–like all the time.

Authors and Athletes: 6 Traits Shared by Writers and Runners

August 25, 2010 13 comments

Some days I’d rather read about running than actually lace up my Mizuno’s and head out the door.  It can be that way with writing, too.  I’ll sooner flip through a how-to book for inspiration than just. plain. write.

That’s the thing about those disciplines.  Both require a lot of practice if you want to improve. That fact led me to wonder what other traits overlap between the two.  Here are my top six.  

Writers, like runners, are: 

  1. Patient.  Like ultrarunners crossing the Death Valley in June, writers trudge through their own low desert at times. The good ones stay the course, even when nothing important seems to surface with their story. It does eventually.  
  2. Introspective.  Natalie Goldberg called the process of writing a Long, Quiet HighwayShe’s a Buddhist, so silence suits her.  Goldberg is also a runner.   
  3. Courageous.  In her helpful guide, If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland said children are natural storytellers but observed that “creative power is usually drummed out of people early in life by criticism.”  The brave ignore their inner-critic and write anyway. As for running, if you think there’s no courage involved in reaching the tape of a 26.2 mile foot race, you’ve never hit the wall in a marathon.
  4.  Wasteful (I mean, Efficient!). Annie Dillard cut 970 pages from The Maytrees, her 270 page novel that took 10 years and several hundred revisions to complete. The result of her copious editing? A prose style one New York Times critic called “so gorgeously precise that every sentence sings.” Runners improve their style in a similar fashion.  A beginner’s bouncing stride and flailing arms give way to a smoother form in time—to achieve what Jeff Galloway calls a flowing “quiet motion.”  
  5. Tenacious. Good writing is hard work. Contemporary novelist (and runner) Haruki Murakami refers to it as grueling manual labor: “The whole process (of writing) requires far more energy, over a long period, than most people ever imagine.”  In his memoir, Murakami says running—he runs 200 miles most months—gives him the stamina to endure his tedious, labor-intense, and sometimes painful life as a writer. 
  6.  Focused. Again Murakami weighs in: “if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it.” He was referring to writing, but the same holds true for running.  In my last 13-mile race I ran with a pacer named Tonson. With nearly 100 marathons to his credit, Tonson helped us to our goal with this mantra: “Focus is your friend today.  Find your focus and you will find the finish line.” 

Sprinting to the finish of a 13.1 mile foot race.

 I did find focus that day—and managed to cross the line with a new personal best.  Like Murakami, running teaches me a lot about discipline and endurance. Turns out, when it comes to writing, getting better also requires a healthy reliance on the traits of an athlete.

Categories: On Running, On Writing

“High Tide in Tucson,” by Barbara Kingsolver

February 4, 2010 1 comment

Essays by Barbara Kingsolver

 If you want to write a personal essay, you’d do well to study “High Tide in Tucson” by Barbara Kingsolver. It is at once light-hearted yet filled with weighty matters, simplistic yet philosophically-complex; and introspective yet, in the same breath, hilarious. The author navigates these polar positions with ease and fluidity, while musing over the shifting tides of life.  Read more…

A Memoir Writing Tip (or Two)

January 20, 2010 5 comments

There’s an art to putting a painful past on paper. Part of the art is detaching from the hurt to write clearly. Who said, “You need to write cold in order to get hot?” I can’t recall but it is useful advice.  So that’s the first tip of memoir writing:

1. Write cold to get hot.

The second and equally important part of writing a past worth reading is this: be an enormously talented writer. I can’t stress tip number two enough for helping would-be memoir writers make good on a publishing goal:

2. Be talented.

As intimidating as tip number two might seem, stay with me here. By talent I don’t mean you have an innate gift of putting out perfect prose that seeps on the page effortlessly and without need of revision. By talent I mean you have a dogged determination—a compelling drive—to hold a mirror to your life that reflects your truth.

Let me illustrate these tips by giving you something to read. Well, two things, actually. First, read Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah.  Her memoir, published in 1997, took the better part of forty years to write. Not that she toiled at her manuscript for forty years.  Mah just needed to put some serious distance between the events of her young life and her adult self so she could tell the story clearly. This need for space between events—part of the write cold, get hot process–is detailed in the other thing to read, an essay by George Orwell called “Such, Such Were the Joys…” Read more…

Stalk Your Calling

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

pilgrim-at-tinker-creek

stonefor-the-time-being Who says writing is lonely work?

Today I feel the gaze of three stalwart knights looking down on me from a shelf over my desk.  Three books by Annie Dillard stand as paragons of courage beckoning me to bravery. Dillard’s rank as a master essayist is certain in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, For the Time Being, and Teaching a Stone to Talk— three of her books that inspire and daunt me at once.

They say that writers are sometimes lonely. 

I say maybe we’re not lonely enough.  Today I wrested sentences that jerked from my grip as I fought to bring clear thoughts to the surface. Write. Wrest. Write. Wrest. Well. It was a tough topic. Viktor Frankel-ish.  Existential.  The kind of stuff that’s way too deep to expose with succinct and poignant clarity.  I went for a run instead. 

Plodding around the reservoir  I stopped in mid-stride: Dillard could write  it.  She already has. At home I pulled down Teaching a Stone to Talk and there it was, human conflict resolved by her so simply. In the book’s opening essay, “Living Like Weasels,” with poignant and sometimes pungent prose Dillard sums up our human dilemma: we have too many choices.  We’d do better to live like a weasel and “stalk (our) calling in a certain skilled and supple way.”  Such terse and sure observations fill Dillard’s pages.   She uses words to unearth meaning the way an excavator uses a power shovel to crack open a creek bed.  Compared to Dillard most of us are merely kicking at the dirt. My instinct in that moment was to shut the book and forget I ever knew her genius.

Who says writing is lonely work?

Today I followed a Twitter about Dillard that led me to a beautifully written homage.  Alexander Chee’s personal essay, “Annie Dillard and The Writing Life” reminded me whyI kept company with Dillard in the first place–she helps me aim higher.  As is true with all great writers.  Listen to Chee on Dillard’s advice to her class:

If I’ve done my job, she said in the last class, you won’t be happy with anything you write for the next 10 years. It’s not because you won’t be writing well, but because I’ve raised your standards for yourself. Don’t compare yourselves to each other. Compare yourself to Colette, or Henry James, or Edith Wharton. Compare yourselves to the classics. Shoot there.

That’s when it struck me that the work of a writer is anything but lonely.  Indeed.

© Shelly Roberts and Rekindledreader.com, 2009