The Elliptical and Tonight’s Work of Writing

It’s one of those writing nights where I spend about a minute or two typing out clever sentences and then hold down the backspace bar until the page is white again.  It’s also the night of a thousand saves as I open and close new and old drafts of poems and essays. And the night of genre confusion as I try to twist an essay into a poem and realize the poem I just started should be an essay.

Also, the night of the social media newsfeed distraction and the seventeen different faces I can make at my webcam without actually pushing out pictures to my Twitter profile.

It’s time to face the facts. Tonight, I am completely and utterly without inspiration.  Seven hours ago, I had this spark of energy to generate some good details and descriptive language in a revision of an essay, and I really, really, really wanted to work on it right then, right when the words were fresh on my mind and the excitement about it was bright. But I was at work at the time, and tonight was trick-or-treat night, and the husband is out of town, and dinner needed to be prepared, and children needed to be bathed and put to bed and by then, well, this. This happened. This final last distraction of the night because I am determined to hit four posts in October before the month is over and without back dating the entry. 

I love this place where I can just type and sometimes find an answer or a revelation and other times it’s just me playing, me running the treadmill or riding the elliptical.  I’m not going anywhere, but I’m covering such a great distance.

Speaking of the elliptical, this morning I listened to the first six or seven chapters of Matthew while sweating on the elliptical.  I can’t remember the last time I read through the gospels, instead defaulting to Paul, James, or Peter’s letters or the Psalms and Proverbs for some quick and straightforward(ish) answers.  But the Gospels are rich with metaphor and puzzle, they are ripe with relationship.  This morning, I thought a lot about Jesus being tempted by Satan and how, in the story, Satan waited to start chatting with Jesus until after he had fasted for forty days. Thoroughly exhausted and empty of sustenance, Jesus gets this from Satan, “Hey son of man, ya hungry? Make these pebbles bread.”

All kinds of temptations come when we’re weary. We’re tempted by the quick and easy filling, the fast fix to our emptiness.  It’s hard to resist temptation, harder still to see the source of the hunger in the first place, to cure the disease instead of just managing the symptoms or popping pain killers instead of identifying the source of the pain.  After Jesus resists Satan and Satan wanders off to wait for a more opportune time, Jesus eats real food and is satisfied.  He finds a source of true sustenance instead of the shortcuts Satan proposed.

I thought about these things while the British man in my smartphone read to me from the Gospels as I climbed the stairway to nowhere.  And now I’ve thought about them again, cycled through the circuit and worked a few different muscle groups.  Tonight might have felt uncreative and uninspired but sometimes you have to just keep climbing, exercising for the sake of the burn, and save whatever scraps and segments you can from the spent time.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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