I rarely sit down to write these days.
That’s a lie, I sit down daily to write: articles, listicles, Facebook updates and 140 character tweets fall out of my fingers from dawn to dusk. But “writing” and “really writing” are very different.
I sat down to “really write” half an hour ago. In that time, I’ve made three false starts, checked my emails (three times) and googled “how do authors create subplots”. I’ve put away some washing and, delicately so as not to cause an avalanche of white china, emptied the drainer by the sink, before refilling it with newly scrubbed plates and bowls from breakfast.
It occurs to me now that I didn’t empty the damp smelling, yellow water that collects at the bottom of the drainer, and should do that when I’ve finished “really writing.”
As a teenager I used to write profusely. I found inspiration at the end of Camel Blue’s, as trails of nicotine snaked out of the window into the night’s sky. I wrote about adolescent goths who dressed in black to make the world turn away, angry punks that shouted so loudly that no one would listen, about quiet teenagers who only ever walked with their arms crossed and their gazes lowered to the pavement.
Most of that thought, that blew away into the night’s sky and made it to the pages of endless new notebooks, probably gets pushed to the edges of my mind these days.
I wonder if I’ll lose the thoughts, eventually – close off the slightly intimidating pool in the very right hand corner of my brain and print a “temporarily out of order” sign across the entrance. Perhaps “try again later” scrawled in hopeful anticipation beneath.
There’s no time to stop and stare in this world. The minutes that are spare are taken up with listless downward scrolling. There’s always a new listicle to skim about “x things you’ll know if…” or a Vice exclusive on the inside of a drug addled brain. All of it short enough to cater for the attention span of the modern day adult – ideally with videos to entice the senses and increase time on page.
I write in my head a lot when I ride. Yesterday’s first 10 miles were an internal monologue.
— — —
The lone rider pulled closed the front door with a satisfying click at precisely 8:20am. Spinning down the road she breathed in the headwind that signalled a tough day ahead, and glanced down at the miniature computer on her arm to note it was only six minutes of riding before the road ramped up and she began her ascent from the bowl of the valley.
Her heavy legs ached with the effort of every pedal stroke. The ride ahead seemed like a mammoth achievement, though it should be easy. The challenge she’s training for takes place in just three weeks’ time. It seems insurmountable, yet in reality it will be just another tiny dot on the scale of athletic feat. Not even on the scale, truth be told.
Why is it that she bothers, why ride, she wonders? Looking for adventure she finds only Garmin bleeps, heart rate traces and power readings that seem never to change. There has to be more, in the unexplored, in pushing the limits. But the idea of even pushing them for a measly 100 miles somehow seems beyond the glass ceiling. Perhaps she doesn’t try hard enough, perhaps she doesn’t believe in herself enough, perhaps she’s just never going to be good enough.
But how can anyone be good enough or bad enough at pushing their own limits? There is no good or bad, only exploration and adventure. And perhaps somewhere in breaking her body she’ll find the inspiration that will lift the gate on the pool of words in her mind and filter them to her fingertips.
A car passes closely and she braces – every muscle reacting, from fingers on the brakes to elbows and shoulders. She wonders if the person in the tin box realises the potential weapon they’re wielding on the road is so intimidating. She throws her right arm into the air to signal disgust, but the driver probably doesn’t understand their error, or care.
The road weaves and rises, sinks and swirls to the next town, and an uncomfortable bump on the descent signals that the new shorts she’s wearing are not going to be her new favourites. She’s not had saddle problems in over a year, and shifts her weight, wincing at the memories. She reminisces on her first time trial – “I might never be able to have sex again” (in that post race, so full of endorphins you’d tell anyone your life story sort of way), she’d said. Thank the saddle gods for Adamo.
During orgasm, she ponders, is surely the only time our minds are ever truly, blissfully, empty. A rush of nothing that feels like absolutely everything. Is total, all consuming empty-headedness a thought, or a physical impulse? It’s odd how the ultimate human pleasure is just as connected to the mind as to the body.
Perhaps minds and bodies are too closely interwoven to ever separate them. What we think we can do, what we think we can’t – is it a physical limitation, or a mental one? A mixture of both, perhaps – some people will never have the physical capacity, but some are perfectly physically capable, and simply lack the mental strength to push on. She reckons she’s probably in the first camp, but perhaps that’s why she never makes her way out if it into the second.
The next town leads to a steep ascent, and she pushes on the pedals, trying to empty the negativity from her mind and fill it with pure, unadulterated, nothing. The road narrows and she gets closer, thoughts turning to incoherent babble and white noise.
— — —-
I think when I ride, exploring creativity with my legs instead of pen and paper. Perhaps when I’ve really found a limit, searched deep enough, and found a story worth telling, I’ll take to the keys with a passion that matches the aspirations I’ve set myself.
Until then, I hit ‘refresh’ on my feed and slope downstairs to empty the drainer.