Write Within Yourself

The best advice I ever received when I ran track as a young man was, “Run within yourself.” This is a hard concept to define. In one way it means merely not running too fast or too slow – but really it means more than that. When a runner runs within himself he finds not just a physical but also a mental comfort with his race. This comfort is born ultimately from the runner understanding that the crowd, and the other runners, and the time don’t actually matter – only each stride.

I try to write within myself also. My sphere of influence is fairly small. I don’t know what anyone is going to think of what I have written. I don’t always know where it will be published or who will buy it. I don’t know what I will write tomorrow, nor even this afternoon. I do not know if I will like what I write next until I have written it. I do not know if what I like today I will like tomorrow.

My sphere of influence, therefore, is confined to the moment. But within the moment, I have all command. Within the moment—and only within the moment—I can hear the current of the story I am trying to tell. Within the moment I know what I like and what I don’t like. Within the moment I can eat the bread if I am hungry, pay a bill if it needs paying, listen to a song if it’s being sung.

I leave myself all the time to do things. It never works. Yet it seems useful to get something done before I am there doing it. I try to rewrite scenes that need to be rewritten while I am eating dinner or find an ending while helping my son with math. This is not the same as inspiration. What we call inspiration is allowing things to come to you when they will. Leaving myself to write while I am not writing is demanding something come now to prove to me that it can come.

So I write within myself as much as I can. And when I do I am reminded that there is actually no difference between writing and running, or writing and raking leaves, or writing and doing nothing. All of these things happen in the moment, and all of them happen within me.

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