I try to keep things simple. I ride my bike, and I write about it. That seems to be the one and only “technique” that works for me, and when I’m true to it, it’s true to me.
The problem comes when the motivation to ride everyday wanes, when getting out the door requires more mental calculus than my tax forms. That’s where I’ve been lately. Unlike past winters when I’ve ridden into the teeth of the wind, smiled, spit and rolled on, I’m finding it cold this year. My hands hurt. Rides aren’t leaving me satisfied and inspired. They’re leaving me trashed and tired, ragged and spent.
And the harder it gets, the worse is my rider’s block, the harder it is to get out the door. I am only really commuting now. Every other week or so the guys from the office drag me out for a trail ride, but I’m forcing myself. Even with a new bike, I’m forcing myself.
Fortunately, I’ve been this way before, and I have faith in the bike and faith in the process of riding and writing, and riding and writing, over and over until I’ve crossed all the invisible finish lines and rolled out of all the imaginary start houses and climbed all the unrated climbs and arrived at all the destinations that weren’t the point, because it’s the journey, right? Always the journey. Keep riding. Don’t stop. Find the rhythm.
Is it working? I’m riding everyday, or awfully close to it, and I’m still writing. I’m just not in that beautiful unconscious place you get to when you’re fit and motivated and every hill is a dragon to be slain and every ride is a deposit in that Swiss bank account in your soul. I’m faking it to make it. I’m muscling through, instead of finessing it.
In the past, when I’ve had conventional writer’s block, I’ve employed this basic method. Keep writing, or perhaps more importantly, keep reading. Find the inspiration. Write through all your bad ideas. Go back. Revise them. Make them worse. Start over. Put them in an envelope. Seal it. Light a match. Move on.
What I can’t figure is, the weather has been kind to me. It’s mid-January and we’ve had a dusting of snow. That’s it. The cold hasn’t even been very cold. Al Gore’s got his thumb on the thermostat, I guess. The conditions are right for success.
I must be one hard road ride away from salvation. Or maybe one day of trail flow, stump hurtling, switchback slaloming flow. Or maybe, just maybe, a few hours of wrenching will put me right.
I’ve done the hardest part. I’ve identified the problem. That allows me to accept ride invitations despite serious misgivings. That allows me to get out of bed before dawn and pull up the bib straps. Ride the bike and write about it. Keep it simple. Ride.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International