Seek Friction

A couple great takeaways in this interview with David McCullough from The Paris Review.

The first, LOOK AT YOUR FISH (as shared by Austin Kleon, check out his summary here) is a great reminder that the answer is often right in front of you. The question is whether you’re able to see it.

The second is McCullough’s description of his process of writing on his typewriter:

I love putting paper in. I love the way the keys come up and actually print the letters. I love it when I swing that carriage and the bell rings like an old trolley car. I love the feeling of making something with my hands.
Don’t you love that? For McCullough, writing isn’t merely a mental task, conveying abstract ideas from his brain to his readers’. His hands and senses are part of the process, part of making his work enjoyable.

As of this 1999 interview, McCullough still refused to switch to the “more efficient” computer as a writing tool. As he continues:

People say, But with a computer you could go so much faster. Well, I don’t want to go faster. If anything, I should go slower. I don’t think all that fast. They say, But you could change things so readily. I can change things very readily as it is. I take a pen and draw a circle around what I want to move up or down or wherever and then I retype it. Then they say, But you wouldn’t have to retype it. But when I’m retyping I’m also rewriting. And I’m listening, hearing what I’ve written. Writing should be done for the ear. Rosalee reads aloud wonderfully and it’s a tremendous help to me to hear her speak what I’ve written. Or sometimes I read it to her. It’s so important. You hear things that are wrong, that call for editing.
The promise of technology has been to make work more efficient, to reduce friction. But here McCullough describes this “friction” as making his work better, and more enjoyable (which echoes author Wendell Berry’s sentiment in his essay, Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer).

Friction can be beneficial for writing, but also for reading, which is why reading an book on an iPad screen might never be the same as flipping the pages of a physical book. The friction is part of what makes reading enjoyable.

If we’re looking to think more deeply, do better work, or find more satisfaction in it, maybe we should stop avoiding friction, and start seeking it out.

Brevity

In autumn the whole world speeds up and slows down at the same time. Leaves change from green to yellow to fallen in the blink of an eye. The sun’s path across the sky shortens by the day. As the changes accelerate, we’re reminded to savour the season even more, knowing that it will soon be gone.

Jayber Crow’s words have been echoing in my mind lately, “Often I fear that I am not paying enough attention.” There is so much to see, so many scents to inhale, and so little time.

But that’s the magic of it, isn’t it? We might say that we want to want to stay in this moment forever, but it’s precisely the brevity of this moment that makes it beautiful.

Pay attention, this moment won’t be here for long.

Run Together

Today’s an exciting day. Let me introduce to you RunHaiku Volume X: Run Together.

From the outside, running is often viewed as a solo activity. But once you start running, you find a community of runners that help make the miles more enjoyable, and encourage and inspire you to keep going when the going gets tough.

This is why running, for many, is more than a sport.

Writing, too, is often seen as a solo activity. When I started writing haiku during my daily runs, I thought I was the only one who would enjoy such odd entertainment.

But I was wrong (and I’m glad I was).

RunHaiku Volume X: Run Together is a collection of haiku from fellow runners, cyclists, swimmers, hikers, walkers. People moving through their world under their own power, with open eyes, who decided to document their noticings in haiku form.

This is so awesome. I hope you enjoy these.

Big thanks to Dave, Jonathan, Edwin, René, Greg, Casey, Martin, The Mindful Runner, Jake, Skip, and my very own mom, for sending your poems and inspiring all of us to move with open eyes.

If you’re inspired and would like to submit your poem, head over here to do so.

RunHaiku Volume 2

When I started my daily RunHaiku rhythm last fall, then continued it through the cold and dark early mornings of winter, I thought, if I could tune my senses to wonder and attention in the bleakness of winter, how amazing would spring be?

Well, spring arrived.

As temperatures rose, I found myself obsessed with arrival of birds, leaves, and blossoms. The change was everywhere. Bare fields became head-high walls of corn. A collection of twigs and trunks became a lush forest bursting with flowers and berries.

Spring is a bundle of miracles unraveling all at once.

RunHaiku Volume 2 – Springtime Strides is now live! Check them out here. These poems represent my noticings over 80+ runs (and nearly 550 miles, you can see this whole thing is getting out of hand…) from Mar 23 – June 30.

Hope you enjoy.

Oh, if you’d like to join the RunHaiku revolution (that’s right, a revolution ;) ) submit your haiku here! I’m currently packaging up a collection of awesome submissions, and I’d love to include yours!

Really Winning

In one week I’ll be participating in my first marathon, and I’m planning on winning the race.

That’s right, winning the whole thing.

Make no mistake (barring some kind of freak Rookie-of-the-Year-style “injury”) there’s no chance of me crossing the finish line first. Not going to happen. Finishing will be accomplishment enough. But when it comes to running, as with most of life’s endeavours, “winning” can have many definitions.

Kilian Jornet has crossed the finish line first in countless ultra-marathon races around the globe, but this is what he has to say about real winning:

An ultra is not a competition. It is much more. When you finish a race having won it, it’s happens many times that you’re not satisfied. You’re happy, but that’s it. The next day you see people arriving at the square and you see they are crying with joy and happiness. Then you think, Look at them, man, they really won.

(Note, when he says “the next day you see people arriving…” you know both how long these ultras are, and how fast Kilian runs them!)

This advice, reminiscent of Scott Jurek’s, reminds us of the importance of not only running as fast as you can, but enjoying the experience.

On race day, I’ll be watching my pace and giving my whole effort to running, but I also hope to enjoy the day and the race experience with fellow runners and supporters. Hopefully at the finish line I’ll all be able to say I “really won”. And if you have a race or endeavour coming up, you “really win” as well!

Attempting the Impossible

For the past 3 months I’ve been preoccupied with preparations for my first marathon. This morning I completed what will be my longest run before the big day.

I get a variety of reactions when people find out I’m planning to torture myself by running 26.2 miles – not to mention the hundreds of training miles – on purpose, for enjoyment.

It is admittedly, a bit of a strange obsession. But for me, this process has been one of exploring what is possible.

When someone reacts with, “Oh I could never do that,” I have to laugh. Until recently, I would have said the same thing! Running 26.2 miles was an impossible feat best left to a breed of super-humans known as “marathoners”.

Yet, here I am, registration paid, betting on the expectation that, come race day, I will in fact be able to complete the distance as well.

I clearly remember the first time I ran 6 miles (roughly 10KM) while training for my first race of that distance in 2012. At the time, running for 10KM, without stopping, without seizing up and passing out, felt impossible. When I hit the 6 mile mark, I was forced to re-calibrate my expectations. The impossible 10KM was now possible!

The next year I signed up for a half marathon, but I didn’t actually believe I could run the required 13.1 miles until a couple weeks before race day, when I ran the full distance, just to make sure I could do it.

And now, here we are, 3 weeks away from race day of my first full marathon, where I will again attempt the impossible.

Here’s what I’ve realized as I’ve developed as a runner:

I’m capable of more than I think.

When we say, “I could never run that far,” it’s kind of the truth. The Couch-to-Marathon program isn’t an afternoon workshop. But when we consider what is possible or impossible, we often forget one key part of the equation: you.

You are not a static entity. Just because you can’t run a marathon now doesn’t mean that you could never run run one.

You are a variable in the equation, a living, changing, adapting, growing organism that is capable of more than you think.

Now, we all know that not every child who dreams of flying to the moon can be an astronaut. Genetics, opportunity, passion, and luck are all factors in people accomplishing their dreams. Not everything is possible, realistically, (even if you “just believe”).

But if you’re like me, I bet you often underestimate what you’re capable of.

Zen Pencils illustrates a great passage by British pianist James Rhode on this topic. He suggests that many dreams get discarded early because they look impossible, when in fact, just a small amount of dedication over time would see you realize the impossible.

You might not be a marathon runner or a concert pianist today. But have you considered what you could do if you devoted a small amount of time to daily practice?

It’s still not a guarantee that I will actually be capable of running 26.2 miles, 42.2 KM, come race day. But I’m starting to think that it’s possible. Here’s why:

For the past 3 months I’ve been running nearly every day. My own humble version of The Trial of Miles, or Miles of Trials (a term from the cult-classic Once a Runner). The work that’s necessary if you want to accomplish the impossible. Thanks to a great coach, and encouragement from family and fellow runners, I’ve stuck with it. An average of just an hour a day, rain or shine.

So while race day itself will be a big unknown, I’ve got a hunch that I’ll survive.

And if that’s possible, what else is possible with a bit of persistence over time?

RunHaiku: Call for Submissions

I recently launched RunHaiku.com, posting my first 100 haiku from my daily running/seeing habit (read more here).

Probably the most fun and unexpected result of the project so far is that friends have started writing their own RunHaiku (and WalkHaiku, and BikeHaiku) as a result! Love it!

This got me thinking: wouldn’t it be fun to create a volume of collective RunHaiku?

And that is what we’re going to do! Want to participate? Here’s the challenge (if you choose to accept it):

  1. Go outside. Move. Walk, run, bike, swim, crawl, camp, etc.
  2. Pay attention. Earbuds out, listen to your surroundings. Smell the fresh air. Watch the clouds. Feel the burning in your calves.
  3. Write a haiku about what you notice. The common rule with haiku is 3 lines, 17 syllables (5/7/5). But there’s a lot of nuance to “what is haiku”, but this is just a tool, let’s not get hung up on that.
  4. Head over to this form to submit your haiku.

The idea of RunHaiku isn’t to create beautiful poetry. This is a tool for paying attention. Don’t overthink it. It’s about the process, not the result.

Once we have a good compilation (100 or so would be wonderful), I’ll post them in a future volume on RunHaiku.com.

Sound like fun?

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Click here to submit your haiku.

RunHaiku Volume 1

So I’ve been doing this thing…

Every morning I wake up, throw on my running shoes (and as many layers of clothing necessary given the weather) and go for a run.

This is my chance to disconnect. I don’t bring my phone. No earbuds. Instead I listen. I connect with my own physical body through the motion of running, and to my physical environment with all of my senses.

The Rarámuri “running people”tribe of Mexico have a saying: “When you run on the earth, if you run with the earth, you can run forever.” I can’t run forever, but I like the idea of connecting with the earth. In our climate-controlled screen-centric existence, it’s easy to feel divorced from our planet, environment, and surroundings. I’ve noticed that if I go too long without picking my head up to look around, and feel the outdoor air on my skin, I start feeling a little off.

So when I run, I try to re-connect. I pay attention.

As a practice of paying attention, last fall I started recording the things I notice while I’m outside, in the form of haiku.

Roughly seventeen syllables, nearly every day.

You must understand, though, this isn’t the Colorado foothills I’m running in every day. It’s southern Manitoba. The past winter I was running before the sun came up against -30 windchill. Not what most people think of as poem-inspiring. On those days, writing haiku became a challenge. Could I notice something new? Could I see the same old trails differently than I did the day before? (Hint: there’s always something new to see.)

The Bush Farm Trail, one of my favourite go-to running routes.

Some people use photography as a tool for noticing the world. Others draw. Because I don’t like hassling with camera while I’m running, and don’t have much time to process after a run, I’ve found that chewing on a short poem and quickly jotting it down while I get ready for my day suits me well.

Fresh Track in the Snow

Now I’m excited to let you know that I’ve collected my first batch of haiku! The first 100 poems, written from Oct 15, 2017 through Mar 22, 2018. These are a record of my encounters with the fall and winter worlds from the trails and roads that I call home.

Read them at RunHaiku.com.

I’ll be adding to this collection and updating this site as this project continues. I hope you enjoy them, and that they inspire you to get outside, and to pay attention.

Thanks for reading.

Treasure

I found a treasure
Beside the trail
A whisper in the wind
An overlooked flower
Hidden in the grass

I snatched it by the whiskers
Wrapped it carefully
With my fingers
I’m racing home now
To plant it safely
In my garden

The First of March

I had forgotten
the scent of wet soil
or rather, the fact that
under all these layers of snow
there existed a thing called soil
at all

Until the first of March, when
under the unrelenting force
of the noon-day sun
all the memories
of dirt under fingernails
and the crunch of fresh carrots
came rushing back
on the wind