Sunday, April 19, 2009

A rare moment of clarity

I’ve been sweating over a piece of writing for a couple of weeks now. I’ve forced myself to spend hours in the library working on it away from the distractions of home, but after a particularly unproductive four-hour stretch yesterday, I was despairing at ever producing anything half-decent. I eventually gave up in disgust and went home to drown my sorrows in a couple of glasses of TW Black Label chardonnay (a lovely creamy, buttery number with just the right amount of oak).

But as is often the case, all the pieces of the puzzle miraculously fell into place while I was out today on my morning run. I took one of my favourite routes, a path that winds in and out of a dozen small rocky bays strung along a wild stretch of coastline with nothing but ocean between me and Antarctica. The weather here can be brutal, with freezing southerly gales whipped straight off the ice and the sea all roiling, evil-looking grey foam. But today, the air was calm and still held some late-summer warmth, the sea smooth turquoise and so clear I could see a couple of feet down, to the starfish and seaweed that huddle along the shoreline.

So there I was, running along (well, more like trotting), enjoying the views and thinking about precisely nothing when suddenly, the whole structure of this essay just appeared in the front of my brain, as if someone had kindly written it out for me. All those awkward pieces that seemed to belong either everywhere or nowhere found their perfect place in the overall argument and the entire thing came together in a flow that was both logical and lyrical.

Such moments of clarity are a rare gift (and it must be said, they hardly ever eventuate when I’m staring down a deadline). I wish I could figure out exactly what triggers them, but I’ve noticed that they almost always occur when I’m not thinking about anything at all, but doing something repetitively mechanical or physical.

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