“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”
It’s a scorcher here in New Jersey. It’s Tuesday morning and one of my two running days. When I started out, it was 73 degrees; by the time I came back, the temp was 83 and rising.
Being of sound mind, you may well be asking, “Why, Karin, didn’t you chug a cool glass of lemonade and skip your run?” I have no rational answer. Here’s what I’ve got: It could be my obsessive streak — a trait my family knows well. Frankly, I prize it, because it’s a very useful, even essential, quality in any creative pursuit, writing included (see Happily Obsessive). It could be that my two runs help anchor my week and I need that structure. It could be my fear of slippage — if I fall off the wagon, it takes more energy to get back on than it does to stay on it in the first place. Or, it could just be that I’m crazy.
In any case, I wasn’t the only one out there on the track in a nearby park, heaving and sweating. As I loped round one curve, I saw two people stretched out next to each other doing push ups. The man was counting in Spanish, “Uno! Duo! Tres!” and both he and a woman were doing the push ups in synch. I assumed he was a personal trainer (wow, I could use one of those!). Now, this guy could have been lounging in the shade, sipping water, counting in comfort. But no, he was right in there with the woman, counting and pushing and encouraging her. What a guy!
OK, Karin, what’s the point? Here it is: I loped around the track once and when I started my second lap, these two troopers were still at it — pumping their push ups — impressive! On my third go round, they had taken off, but there were two big sweat marks on the track marking the spot where they had labored so mightily.
I’m sure that woman was hot and sweaty like me — even in their shady spot. I’m sure her muscles were burning and she felt like giving up again and again. But having someone alongside her gave her an energy boost and helped her push past her own self-imposed limits. What a gift! Because every time you push past the point where you want to stop in some endeavor — whatever it is — there’s a pot of gold waiting: You realize that you can actually push past the obstacles you face and that you have more gas in the psychic tank than your mind tells you you have. What a gift!
OK, here’s the deal: We can all push past whatever seems to be stopping us. When you hit a thorny paragraph, that just isn’t working, don’t throw up your hands and move on. Play with it! Rework it once, twice, again, until it’s closer to what you want to say. If you do, chances are good that the next paragraph you write will be golden. Hit a plot snag? Challenge yourself! Jot down three or four alternative ways to untangle it — even the crazy ones! You never know what might pop out.
I was so excited thinking about this on the way home, that I jumped through the sunbeams and into the shade — I should have been punked from my run, but instead, I was energized. Was it worth it? Sitting here, still in my sweaty T-shirt, dashing this out, the answer is, YES! On my way back home, I passed two rusty angels perched on a lawn — I think of them as my literary angels (see Writing Angels) — and I asked for their help — and they gave me this to give to you. Write on!