Monday, November 29, 2010

Keeping fit

A rare photo of me - after running six miles along the Derbyshire edges in February
You wouldn't normally associate blogging with keeping fit. Dexterity at the keyboard doesn't exactly set the pulse racing, even when the subject is as exciting as me and my life (... something not quite right there, but I'll let it pass)  That said, if I write a post tomorrow I'll complete the NABLOPOMO challenge, the second year I've done this, and I reckon it  requires a fitness of sorts.

Being honest, I planned to take it easier this time, allowing myself the soft option of posting photographs when I couldn't think of something to say. I'd also write some pieces in advance and be less particular about the flow of the words. But as it turned out, the only 'easy day' was my entry to a writing competition, and, with one other exception, I have crafted every post from a blank page each day - always, they take longer than I think.

So on balance, I'd say November has been a fair reflection of the blurb in the top corner of this page - musings about places and ideas and writing and painting and sometimes even bikes - ultimately, about me and my life. It sounds a bit self-interested, but I try hard to turn what delights me into something more universal - and if that sounds a bit pompous, I hope regular readers will forgive me and know what I'm getting at.

I'm increasingly aware though, of how I use chance happenings and what I call moments of seeing to keep what I write fresh and interesting. And this November I've been especially aware that if I don't organise myself in way that allows that serendipity to happen, then my thoughts becomes flabby and boring.

My new house is a good example, I must have mentioned it about one day in three - which is far too many, so my apologies for that. I'm sure it comes from the stress of moving, but it must also reflect how it's reduced the time I spend outdoors, in special places or even with new and interesting books It is not a coincidence that there are less posts on landscape, few on philosophy and almost none about painting or bikes.

And physical fitness matters too. The writer Huruki Murakumi runs at least an hour a day so he is fit enough to be an author. The mental stress of writing is balanced by the physical and spiritual workout that running gives him. Other artists have found they need to travel, to drink, to listen to music... whatever their means, the desired end is a stimulus to see things anew, for only by doing so, is there anything worth saying.

I used to have a friend who said the hardest thing about running was pulling on her training shoes - I know what she meant. Last week, at my snatched visit to the Tate, it felt like I was returning to the gym after a long lay-off. But no sooner was I in the first gallery than I loved it; seeing the paintings again reminded me how important it is to discover and rediscover different ideas and perspectives.

And all this week I've been thinking that I've not done enough of that this year. Or perhaps more kindly, that I've been kidding myself. Learning the banjo has been fun, but it's also a distraction - a soft option that means I've read fewer books, written less and spent too much time in my study. My new house is wonderful but it has dominated too many of my thoughts and too much time. And whilst breaking my ribs wasn't something I planned, frankly it happened in the spring and I ought to have been out more in the mountains. It's no coincidence that I'm over a stone heavier than last January.

I tend to be hard on myself; always pushing. But writing every day has reminded me that what appears to be a sedentary activity, relies, for it to be worthwhile, on having an active life to draw on. As I come to the end of November my thoughts are turning to the challenge of sustaining and improving what fitness I have regained.

All of which leads me to the less than obvious conclusion that to keep fit as a blogger I need to stroll round more galleries as well as pulling on my running shoes.


  1. I can remember a very wise writing tutor of mine who stressed that writing - or indeed any creative activity - is physical. He warned us not to underestimate the debilitating effects. I'm with Murakami. You need to be fit to write; to be trim and agile.

  2. I love the idea of organising oneself in a way that allows serendipity to happen. It has the makings of a short story. If you have any tips for enhancing serendipity, I'd love to know, and that is not meant as facetiously as it sounds!

  3. I'm not fit..not at all...but the daily walk is a see what is growing, what needs attention and a pleasant chat with the people I meet on the way.
    Then I have material for writing...even if not relevant to the task of the day.

  4. Well done Mark. You did it. We did it. Thanks for commenting on my posts every day and for writing something interesting every day too.
    I am decidedly unfit and writing blogs hasn't helped. I need to step away from the computer more often.

  5. If I did not have the dogs I would be a real lardy. There's no refusing them, any time, any weather, they want to go. Once I'm out I'm fine, but I bet I wouldnt bother if it wasnt for them.

  6. You know when you read something that says something you might have said, if only you had thought of the saying of it? Love this blog. I am always spinning between enough peace to be able to think and enough activity to have something to think about. Generally when I get it wrong I am doing too much, although just now I might be swinging in the opposite direction.