Monday, December 03, 2012

We Are Not Alone

"The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other but to be with each other." - Christopher McDougall, author of  BORN TO RUN

I like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the same reasons I enjoy running in races. It's about being with others. We participate together, side by side. And although in NaNoWriMo we're each competing to get to 50,000 words and secretly hoping to write the magic number quickly or secretly hating the people who get to 50K without much effort at all, we're really only competing against ourselves. And most of us, loners that we are, need a structure to help us find other writers.

It's wonderful to know people who share our common goal. We’re so different and yet in November we come together for a common purpose. The books of my fellow wrimos differ greatly from mine. I typed 52,203 words of memoir about - you guessed it - running. As I wrote about buying my first pair of real running shoes and learning tricks to avoid chafing in awkward places, my friends wrote about exploding coffins, children growing up in cemeteries, historic race wars, time-eating space machines, and dystopian scenarios I can't even begin to wrap my head around. Yet at the numerous write-ins,  we were all together writing away.

A community helps us know we're not alone. When I sit here writing, I am alone, but there's this whole field of people behind me. On the back of my door in my office, I have pictures of photographs of women writers I admire. This includes many very famous writers such as Natalie Goldberg, Anne LaMott, Toni Morrison, Anne Patchett and many others. It also includes less well-known writers such as Tania Casselle, Martha Crone, Sammi Soutar, Deby Dixon, Wendy Drake, and Jamie Figueroa. These are the people who have my back. These are the writers I admire whether they've ever published a book, so much as a single line of anything, or nothing at all. These are my colleagues and my commiserants. We take care of each other.

On December 16th, when I toe the line with a few thousand other folks in Indianapolis for the Santa Hustle Half Marathon, I probably won't know any of the other runners. And it won't matter. I’ll stand out in the cold with like-minded people and be happy. When the starting horn sounds I'll run as hard and fast as I can, but that won't be my primary goal. That race is just an excuse to hang out with a bunch of other crazy runners dressed like Santa. We just want to be together.
Writing and racing have that common thread. We are ultimately alone. I sit here writing with my own fingers and my own mind or I race along with my own heart and my own legs, but I do it alongside others. We're all alone, together.
How do you find community support for whatever activities you enjoy? I'd love to hear about it.


Jenny Combs said...

I really loved your comparison between running and writing in that they are things you do with other people and yet you run your own race and write your own stories. Bicycling is like that for me, I generally ride in groups, but it is strictly for myself that I ride. I just kind of loose myself and become one with the bike and the terrain, challenging myself to go farther and faster. At the end of the ride many of us will gather somewhere to eat and trade thoughts about how the day went. Some of the happiest times of my life are when I am on my bike. I have never written in a group before, although I think it sounds like fun. Maybe when I am done with school I will take up writing books!

Nita said...

Jenny - Yes! I can see how bicycling is the same. And one day you will write your own book. I'm sure of it!!!

Anonymous said...

A friend said, "I write alone, except for the howling voices."

Nita said...

Refer your friend to this post:

Magnus Pym said...

Great blog!
Having done three campaigns/endurance events with the Leukemia and Lymphoma's Team in Training I agree with the comparison! I trained with an encouraging group of athletes, but in the end I was actually walking alone. (We dress in crazy purple colored stuff.)
When I send out my blog and narrative e-mails I am alone but when I get replies back I am in community.
It takes bravery to share writing and courage to do athletic events so I am very thankful to have friends who support my endeavors!

Nita said...

Thanks, Magnus Pym. I run with a team too (marathoner in training) and once I ran with a charity team (Gracehaven), but usually even in a marathon, at some point in the race I run alone. And, yes. The same is true with writing. Even when I am alone which sometimes I prefer, I know the others are out there. Someone else might not need this support, but I do. And I have it. That makes me very lucky and for it I am very grateful.