Sunday, May 6, 2012

Write What You Know?

That's the traditional advice: write what you know. It's good advice. Nothing's more annoying to a savvy reader than a writer who doesn't know what they're talking about, right?

While I agree with this advice, I have a piece to add: experience more so you can write more. Why write the same old things when you can deepen your writing, and enjoy your life more, by participating in new experiences?

This weekend I participated in a four-mile run + obstacle course. Having just come off of my first marathon last weekend, I was still tired, but wanted to see what I could do.

Frankly, I wasn't very good at the obstacles. I don't have the upper body strength to pull myself onto/on top of the walls/cargo nets/rope swings/monkey bars/etc. I'm not flexible enough to fling my foot past my head, and when I get more than 50' off the ground, I tend to freeze like a deer in the headlights. Oh, and I scream like a girl just before I fall.

But what I really learned is the true meaning of the phrases "dig deep" and "push past the pain". Digging deep isn't a physical manifestation, it's a purely mental one. It's that second of realization where you have to make the decision to either overcome your obstacle or give up and fail miserably. In this case, finish the obstacle or fall and hurt myself. With your muscles screaming that they're failing, your body hanging 20' off the ground and your mind convinced you're going to die, digging deep means deciding you WILL keep going, you CAN keep going and there is no other choice BUT to keep going.

Pushing past the pain is so much harder than I expected. I didn't have broken bones or strained ligaments or anything serious. Just major bruises and exhausted muscles. But when it came to the last few obstacles, just leaning my shins against the ropes or crawling through another mud pit (filled with rocks and sticks) made me want to scream in pain. I wanted to quit. Take the easy way out. But in those moments I realized the pain wasn't really that bad if I accepted it and looked to the goal rather than focus on the pain. I was making progress with every step. Painful, yes, but each time it hurt more was one step closer to the end.

Lessons learned this weekend: 1. Pain is a marvelous teacher. I don't think I'm going to do that again for a long time. 2. It's good to have friends to LITERALLY give you a boost when you're too weak to overcome an obstacle yourself. 3. Wet scrub grass/gumbo smells like cow manure and doesn't come out of white underwear even when bleached. 4. I know how to "dig deep" and "push past the pain" a little better than I did before. 5. I scream like a girl when I'm scared. But that's okay because I am one.