(Photo thanks to Nathan Papes, Springfield News-Leader)
An old thought revisited: the other day at the gym I observed those around me who were working out in various ways. A few men were body builders. They were all muscle and dedicated to honing their sculpted physiques. Most were under six feet tall. Their arms and thighs were awesome. They never moved far from the weights, never looked at anyone else, stayed focused on what they came to do — become more awesome. Other men were rangier. Their muscles were longer on their arms, their hips thinner. They weren’t into lifting the big weights; stuck more to pulling themselves up on bars, machines that improve stomach muscles, and worked more with dumbbells than with dead weights. There were runners. These guys love that track and alternate slow walking with sudden bursts of energy that carry them around the 1/10 mile track in anything from a jog to a run to an all-out sprint. I don’t see them get off the track to visit the weights or machines very often. But boy can they move around that track.
Me? I walk ten times around the track, spend thirty minutes on the machines working on arm, leg, and stomach muscles, and call it good. My walking gate is steady but breaks no records. I pass a few along the way but am more often the passee than the passer. It takes me 19 minutes to walk the mile. A couple of the men I see now and then on the track are runners who lap me a number of times during my nineteen minutes of walking and wishing I were somewhere else doing almost anything else. I swear one of those guys is my age. My guess is that he ran track in high school and has never lost his lust for running. On rare occasions I try my luck at jogging for a while. I’m not accustomed to moving like that and it always makes me feel, I don’t know, a little daring maybe? Doing something out of my usual routine just because I want to?
Somewhere along the track, or later while watching the monster men go about their grueling programs, I start thinking about writers and how different we are in what we do. Some of us develop our skills in the short game: picture books, poetry, short stories. Others are more like distance runners who work on strengths for the long game. Each to his/her own comfort-zone specialty. We tend to follow our successes and build on them rather than change our writing workouts to take on new genres.
Changing from one regimen to another requires risk and the attempt to develop new muscles. It’s hard to make those decisions. When was the last time you tried something new? Tried a different form of writing, just because you wanted to? Failure, at least at first, is almost guaranteed, but the adrenaline rush is worth it. It’s like going where we’re not supposed to be, like going to a party without underwear. It’s our little secret, a mixture of sassy and bold and naughty. It’s very sexy. Best part is there’s no age limit. In parts of Europe they won’t rent you a car over a certain age. At the Grand Canyon they won’t let you ride a burro over a certain age. In writing? Age is no problem. Go for it.