Expressions of Truth
Instructions to see Larger Type
There are times when I am not sure whether I am a runner who writes or a writer who runs. Mostly, it seems to me, the two are inseparable. I cannot write without running, and I am not sure I would run if I could not write. They are two different expressions of my self, as difficult to divide as my body and mind.
Writing is the final form of the truth that comes from my running. For when I run, I am a hunter, and the prey is my self, my own truth.
The best writing is the truest writing. That truth must be sought deep inside. “Look into your heart,” said the muse, “and write.” When I write, then, the quest is to uncover what’s in my heart, my inner universe.
To reach these recesses, these hiding places below the conscious, I must first create a solitude. I must achieve the aloneness that is necessary for the creative act. Nothing creative, great or small, has been achieved by committee. And having reached this solitude, I must await the coming of truth. Without it, I cannot write.
But the process must begin much earlier, of course. First, an idea interests me. Then I put it in my head and allow it to germinate for a while. Each day I take it out and inspect it for substance. If it stands up, I go to the typewriter for a day or two and accumulate pages of copy. James Thurber referred to this effort as “mud” and saw it as the necessary first step to the finished product.
Next, I try to organize this raw material. To discover its essence, its true meaning. This is almost always a failure at first. What I have written to this point is only information. It can make me neither laugh or cry.
It has yet to be transformed into something true, something alive. That must wait until I am on the roads. Only when I am running does this begin to happen.
Creativity must be spontaneous. It cannot be forced, cannot be produced on demand. Running frees me from that urgency, that ambition, those goals. On the run, I can escape from time. I can await the revelation of the way things are.
On the roads, I can see truth revealed whole without thought or reason. There I experience the sudden understanding that comes unasked, unbidden. I simply rest, rest within myself, rest within the pure rhythm of my running. And I wait.
Sometimes it is all fruitless. I lack the patience, the submission, the letting go. There are, after all, things to be done. People waiting. Projects uncompleted. Letters to answer. Paperwork to do. Planes to catch. A man can devote just so much time, and no more, to waiting for inspiration.
But I must wait. Wait and listen. Only through inner stillness can we reach the miraculous intelligence that we all possess. When truth finally strikes, the brief, blinding illumination tells me what every writer eventually learns: To write the truth, you must first become the truth.
The mystery of all this is that I must let it come to me. If I seek it, it will not be found. If I grasp it, it will escape. Only through complete nonattachment, only by existing purely in the present, will I find the truth. And where truth lies, I will also find the sublime and the beautiful, laughter and tears, joy and happiness.
All this, of course, defies logic. But so does life. We live, then explain things after the fact, and imperfectly. Somehow, perhaps not the way I have said, running gives me the word, the phrase, the sentence that is just right.
But writing is never easy. And no matter how well done, never to one’s satisfaction. Writing, someone said, is sweating blood and turning it into ink. Suffering is so natural to both writers and runners it seems a common bond.
It comes as no surprise, then, when someone turns out to be both a writer and a runner.