It’s like biking, this thing. I’m not really good at it. I don’t have the stamina or the technique or the body-strength to do it well.
But I put the bike on the road the other day, and I went. It’s agony after a while. The hills in my part of the country are an almighty’s idea of potholes. They’re jagged and sharp, and unrelenting in the way they burn my legs. I suck air. Gravel trails are my favourite, but it’s inefficient riding them. The tires slip. Mechanical energy is used to cut ruts more than it is to propel you.
Meanwhile, now and then, some octogenarian passes me without breaking a sweat, and I wonder: where’d you get this ability, ma’am? How’d you get so good at this? Five minutes later, she’s a stick figure under an arch of trees, so upright. At the coffee stop on the way, she’s wearing a hat on a picnic bench, drinking decaf, reading a book. Meanwhile, I can barely see through my sweat, and my head is spinning so hard that I want to suck on raw coffee beans just to get me right-sided again.
Writing is like that for me, too. It’s like riding a bike. I have no natural talent. No hint of this art in my family. No easy path that doesn’t burn. No simple successes. I’m just a person. Ungifted, uncelebrated, desirous of more but unsure of what that means. Most of my days, I’m in this tremendous battle with our changing climate, and then simply being present with my (very large) family. In moments that sneak between these things, I hammer at a keyboard. I’m inelegant. Guttural. Simplistic and without guile or nuance. I know that.
In school, I overachieved. I worked so hard for every little bit, nothing came easy. People said I must be smart, but it’s funny how hard work can make you look exactly like that. Like you’re something, or having something, but you don’t.
Yesterday, the tires slipped on a gravel path, and my god it ached. Fifteen kilometres, twenty, thirty, thirty-five, for a first ride. This morning, I hurt so badly that I can’t picture getting out of bed, so I’m doing this instead.
Writing it just like that. Like riding a bike and having it hurt. I tell stories, that’s all. I’m not a natural. And I bet if you’re reading this, you aren’t either. I’m just here to tell you that I’m with you. Just you. Because I know what it feels like to keep hacking at the keyboard, and no one to really care. No real hope for the words to be read, but aside from that they still keep appearing on the screen because that’s just how it is. It burns. And so do you, with whatever birthed that desire for storytelling deep inside you. We’re the unrecognized. The unwashed, as it were. We’re the lumps of flesh sweating on the tree stump to the side of the path, sucking air – and then getting up and pedalling more. We have the harder road, the one with all the hills, and you cannot see the endpoint for the expanse of that crazy terrain, but still you keep going.
All I want or care about is that we keep going. We’re not naturals, no. But we have the most beautiful voices. Rough, maybe. Unrefined, sure. The type of voice that needs honing and time, the chipping away at the craft. And yes, people are going to pass you without breaking a sweat, but that just makes you a warrior. You fight for your stories. You push for every word, every idea. And you keep going, even if you fall over a few times and scrape the skin off your body. That’s what you do. And that’s what you’re going to keep doing.
The pain is bad. I mean, so bad. I swear I can feel my legs snapping shut like alligator jaws when I move them. But this is the point. All you warriors out there, keeping at it. I want you to know that I’m with you. If I can give you a push, or help you along that everlasting wheel of a trail, I’ll do my best. I’ll lift you up if I can, because we should lift each other as we keep going. Take turns riding out front, giving cover against the wind. Hollering encouragement when we get to the bottom of that damn mountain with the shifty, thin trail, like a badly-healed scar up to the green top. So here’s my encouragement. I hear your battle. I know this path. And I don’t want anything other than this, nothing more than the burning, the hardship, the difficulty – it’s what makes us who we are, success or not be damned. I want nothing more, this morning, than to tell you that I have your back.
Later today, I’ll get back on the bike. Because there is nothing that soothes the burn better than the next ride. The next hill. Each agony is a waypoint. Each journey a parable. Warriors fight, and that’s what we are.
16 thoughts on “Bike Story Hone”
Oh … I think you have natural talent as a writer, Trent. Maybe not as a rider … but I’m guessing there too. But definitely as a writer. Definitely.
I have always been a road cyclist. Trail or mountain biking just looks too hard and too painful.
My rear end hurts all the time. About half the time from the biking! Just kidding. I hate thinking of myself as talented. I just tell stories. As long as there have been people, people have told stories. I’m just another cog in a long, inexhaustible line.
I feel the same way.
I’m reading The Basement right now, by the way. Intriguing so far, just on the bit about the start of the relationship with John.
Well … I certainly hope it remains intriguing! 😉
I agree with Mark. You have oodles of writing talent.
Merci, Dale. You are a good friend.
Mon plaisir, Trent.
Yes, I agree as well. You say you’re not a natural, and if that’s so, you have definitely cultivated the talent.
Thank you, my friend.
I feel ya.
I’m glad I’m not alone!
You know already that I think you are one of the most brilliant writers I have the privilege of reading. However, I don’t think you know how many times I have felt that you lifted me up and had my back. Your kind words and encouragement have always meant a great deal to me and I truly thank you with all my heart.
That’s such a sweet comment, Michelle. I feel the same about you. Feel like you’ve always had my back and encouraged me to go on. I’m very grateful (and lucky) for that.
I enjoy your writing. Your thoughts are more universal than you may realize. Keep on keeping on!
Thank you – really appreciate this comment.