Let’s say you were in the habit of running on a daily basis, or at least 4 or 5 times a week. You’d been doing it for a while, so your legs were in good enough shape and your lungs were strong enough to power through several miles or more easily.
Now let’s say that one day, despite stretching and warming up, when you were out running, you pulled something. Badly. Let’s say you’ve hit your mid-30s, and these sorts of things seem to be happening rather spontaneously to a lot of people you know who were supposedly in decent shape. Let’s say you went to the doctor and he told you to rest said muscle. Let’s say four months went by, during which time you were trying desperately to heal your leg. Finally, when you could jog without pain, you began to start your running routine again. Except because you’d been sitting on the couch watching writers’-strike-spawned reruns for four months, you found that your lungs could barely get you down the block. The wheezing! And your legs! Each attempt at running left you exhausted and barely able to crawl out of bed the next morning.
Now let’s say that by “running,” I really mean “writing.” I have just gotten off of the metaphorical couch — well, OK, maybe not that metaphorical — and have been trying to get to work on some essays. Except that rather than my lungs not providing me with enough oxygen or my legs getting tired, by not writing for four months due to spontaneous injury in my forearm that prevented me from using the computer, I am finding that my writing is, well … terrible. My sentences come out choppy. My word order is off, as if I have been speaking another language for the past few months. My spelling, atrocious. Even my typing is not what it was: I see a word in my head but I type gibberish. I skip words completely. Verbs? I am trying to remember some that are not forms of “to be.”
Obviously, returning to writing is just like returning to a running routine that’s been interrupted. It will take practice and daily, habitual work to rebuild my strengths. And maybe coffee. And snacks. Lots of snacks.