Saturday, August 1, 2009

Exercising in the Dark

My spinning class takes place in the dark--well, not true dark. There's the violet light that makes our socks and other white surfaces glow, and the wall sconces by each door burn softly. I always like that moment when the instructor turns off the lights, and I can only see a vague outline of myself in the mirror. In the dim light, most of us look like riders in the Tour de France.

I've often exercised in the dark--or at least, the halflight. My favorite time to run is early, early in the morning, long before most people drive to work. People always ask me if I'm scared, but I've felt that I was in more danger later, when the sun comes up and people speed through the neighborhood streets. When I run, at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning, there's a car here or there, but I see them long before they see me, and I can stay out of their way. Most of the drunk people have already passed out, so they're not a danger anymore, the way they might be if I ran in the evening.

I like that feeling of invisibility. I like that no one can see my flesh jiggle. I like that I can look my worst while working on transforming myself into some version of my best self.

As I pedaled and pedaled during yesterday's spinning session, I thought about how my writing life and my exercise life are similar. I prefer to write early in the morning, before the world wakes up, before phone calls start and the stores open and a thousand distractions tempt me away. I like to attend to my own priorities before I go to the office and face the demands of my bosses, our faculty members, and our students. The demands of the day leave me too exhausted by the end of the day to do much more than collapse in a heap. But early in the morning, ah, that's a different story.

Metaphorically, we're all creating in the dark, in many ways. Most creative types head off in directions they wouldn't have anticipated in earlier years. Many creative people work for years before something they've created gains some traction. It's not unusual for a person to work on a project for months or years before they understand the true shape of it. Every beautiful creation stands on top of mounds of failed projects that came before it.

I tend to be a solitary writer, as I've most often been a solitary exerciser. Yet, I don't mind having a group or a partner. One of my most fruitful periods as a writer happened during 1996-1998, when a friend and I met weekly to share a meal and to show each other a short story we'd written that week. Likewise, the most progress I've made as a runner happened during the years I'd be training for an event with someone. I'd never sign up for a half marathon on my own--but to run with a friend? Sure.

I don't need a friend or a group to force myself to exercise, or to write, but it gives my life richness. I feel lucky to be the kind of person who can adapt to my current circumstances, whatever they are.


Helen Harrop said...

I just wanted to let you know that your article really resonates with me - Until earlier this year I had a blog called Creating in the Dark (it's still out there but I've moved onto a new blog called Let Creativity Begin). The name came from a few things - the dark moments I had as a wanabee creative, the fear/freedom that comes from having no idea where my art is going and also the idea that if I wrote or drew in the dark then I would be free from my inner critic and would be less worried about whether it was any good.

I found your article because I have a google alert set up for the phrase 'creating in the dark' ... I'm so pleased I kept the alert going even though I've moved onto a new blog :-) It's so lovely to stumble across a like-minded soul!

Kristin said...

Thanks! I'm glad you came by.

Shefali Shah Choksi said...

Very evocative imagery here!
i loved this entry and yes, it resonates with me as well. i do agree that best things are conceived in the dark; that's why "chthonic" is one one of my favorite words!
i love the idea of using a friend to bounce ideas off!