“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” ~Solomon~
“Standing next to me in this lonely crowd is a man who swears he’s not to blame. All day long I hear him shout so loud crying out that he was framed. I see my light come shining from the west unto the east, any day now, any day now I shall be released . . .” ~Bob Dylan~
All he could do was run. Darkness was always around him. His footfalls were often his only companion. There’d be bursts of excitement when a bit of light would shine off in the distance, but every time he’d get close, it’d disappear. Dead ends were common—he’d slammed smack-dab up against brick walls more times than he could remember. It’d hurt and frustration would rear up inside, but after a spasm or two of catching his breath, he’d pick himself up, dust himself off, and be right back at it.
Running and running and running. The living thing behind him had no intention of ever setting him free—the urgency drawing him forward inched perilously close to desperation. He was propelled along by a force he neither controlled nor comprehended.
Around corners and through blind intersections he ran. Some said he was obsessed. Others wondered if he’d been touched by insanity—or perhaps a torment had etched its stain on his soul.
In those places where gossipers gather to live vicariously, his motivations and inner workings were psychoanalyzed by armchair amateurs. The way he ran didn’t quite fit and he never seemed to get anywhere. If he’d just do this or that, then maybe he’d enjoy a bit of success. The conclusions of the masters and gatekeepers who fine-tuned the rules about running were seldom encouraging—their judgment harsh and unrelenting. Rejection was the norm for the runner.
Yet still he ran—faster, harder, and with a refusal to quit burning inside him. Loneliness held him close and would not release him. Oh, there were always others surrounding him—those who loved him and those who sought to find themselves in him, but mostly he was lonesome.
Pain was an angry drill sergeant that motivated him—old heartaches forced him to run with even more intensity. He bore into himself, finding fragments of fuel in the strangest of places and memories.
He was just a runner, but he was good—sometimes an exceptional runner. His running could inspire and challenge others; it could force tears to come unbidden and unwanted; it could squeeze laughter out of tension.
Early mornings alone inside his brain he’d run. There was no stopping him. Through the rain, past graveyards filled with the moldering bones of friends and strangers, he ran. Setback and failures sought to beat him—to knock him down so hard that he’d toss in the towel, but he carried a resiliency that refused surrender or defeat.
The boy aged. Days were swept into weeks; weeks tumbled into months; months turned into years. Decades disappeared—a new century dawned. On and on he ran, a man possessed by a gift or was it a curse?
Replace running with writing—change ran into wrote. It may be a cliché metaphor that’ll break down upon too close an examination, but on its surface running expresses well the interior compulsions of writing.
I’ve been writing—marking up good clean paper—since before I was a teenager. It was the dawning of 1968 and a good friend had died. In my grieving I learned that those yucky feelings clogging up my heart could be loosened by scribbling them down on paper. Not healed exactly, but they could be sorted through and considered from different angles.
Since then, one way or another, I have been writing. Mostly it’s been in a vacuum with little or no audience for feedback. Not that I haven’t wanted or tried to gain readers; on the contrary, pushing for a breakthrough has at times driven me to the brink of madness. The craft thrills me, but the business of writing has always been and remains a maze of uncertainty that frustrates me to my core.
Very soon in my writing journey I ascertained that for me this gift or curse was profoundly spiritual. It has only been in the last number of years that I have ventured to share that fact with others. In my life writing is prayer, supplication and praise—it is devotional and sometimes confrontational with God. In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell is credited with saying, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure . . .” I fully understand. When I write—when I get lost in writing I feel that surreal pleasure—and it’s a sensation beyond description.
The writing life can be a tangled up mess of joys and disappointments, yet writers write, just like runners run. This tab shines a spotlight on the culmination of a lifetime of being true to what’s inside me. Books . . . books . . . books—eight published, with more to come because of making many books there is no end.