On Writing, and the Four-Minute Mile

iuFR5E7YN5Roger Bannister, the first athlete to break the four-minute mile, said this about his record-breaking run:

“The world seemed to stand still, or did not exist. The only reality was the next 200 yards of track under my feet. The tape meant finality–extinction perhaps. I felt at that moment that it was my chance to do one thing supremely well. I drove on, impelled by a combination of fear and pride.”

Writers can identify with the first and last sentences. I have entered that euphoric writing zone where the words flow as if of themselves, where the world seems to stand still or doesn’t exist. The zone where you’re hunched over the keyboard, your eyes staring hard in concentration, and your fingers moving as fast as words flow through them.

The feeling is similar to that of the runner’s high where your feet don’t seem to touch the ground, where your mind is floating and you don’t feel the beating your feet are taking or the hard breathing to maintain pace. Your head is in a cloud, your heart in your throat, and tears in your eyes. You don’t want to stop running, you don’t need to stop running, you feel you can run forever. I love that feeling, whether during running or writing and wish I could force it.

But you can’t force the euphoria. Sometimes you have to push through the hard writing. You have to make your fingers type the words and you have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until you get it right. You have to write on, impelled by a combination of fear and pride. Fear that your writing isn’t good enough, that your storytelling isn’t good enough, that you are not good enough. Pride that your writing IS good enough, that your storytelling IS good enough, that you ARE good enough. You have to write like it’s YOUR chance to do one thing supremely well.

Roger Bannister collapsed into spectators’ arms after breaking through the tape. He was exhausted. Supremely exhausted. He had done one thing supremely well.

Writer, You Can Do it.

 

Image from https://duckduckgo.com/?q=roger+bannister&t=h_&ia=images&iax=images

5 thoughts on “On Writing, and the Four-Minute Mile

    1. Will Pennington

      Thank you, Mr. Mel! I kept on my desk at work the obituary with the Bannister quote. I knew I wanted to use it somehow, but didn’t connect it with writing until this morning. Inspiration strikes in the oddest places 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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