I was hiking at South Mountain today and thinking vaguely about my writing dilemma, and also about the half-marathon I'm running at the Grand Canyon in less than a month (29 days to be exact, and holy God it's almost here), and the way that a certain friend of mine doesn't seem to actually like running as much as he likes, you know, being done with running. Or having run so-and-so far. He complains a lot about running, especially while he's doing it, and as a person who runs solely because I like the way it feels when my body is in motion and I'm outside in the sunshine, and endorphins are f*cking awesome, his complaining gets irritating.
Now, sometimes running sucks. Sometimes you didn't get any sleep and you ate crap the whole day before and your shins are on fire and you had to squeeze in your last meal an hour before your run but that's the only time your running partner can go, and you end up pretty much walking your entire run because your gut feels like someone dropped a brick into it.
Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it is 110 degrees outside at 8 p.m. and your legs feel like jelly and you still have another mile-and-a-half to go and you're all out of water and even when you get home you still have to climb two flights of stairs before you can get any more water, or sit down.
But the question is, when that happens, do you still like running?
If the answer is yes, then you are a runner.
If the answer is no, you need a new hobby. One that's more suited to you and your habits. One where you can answer that question with a grudging, "Well, yeah. I guess. F*ck."
And while I was hiking up the third hill on the San Marcos de Niza trail at South Mountain, I thought to myself, "The real question is, Would you rather be the worst runner in the world than quit running?"
At which point I realized that the same was true of writing. When writing sucks--when you sit staring at your computer screen blankly and then write a bunch of stuff, realize it's crap, delete it all, write more crap, delete that, write something else, sit on it for a year and then realize it was all crap and you need to write something else--do you still like writing?
It was never a question that had even occurred to me, because the answer is "Duh!!!
And the real question, the one at the heart of my recent issues with writing, is "Would you rather be the worst writer in the world than quit writing?"
And the answer is, of course, "Yes!!!" The strength of my "Yes!!!" stopped me in my tracks right there on the top of that third hill, and I stood there grinning like an idiot.
Then I debated with myself about whether I should do the full hike I'd intended to do, or whether I should cut it short, and then I realized I had just told myself that a real runner would rather run than do anything else--
at which point I realized that the real reason I wanted to cut my hike short was to get home and write this blog post.
Because I would rather be the worst writer in the world than win the Boston Marathon.
So I went home.