How Running Made Me A Better Writer

11 thoughts on “How Running Made Me A Better Writer”

  1. You won’t believe what happened to me when I was trying to write a comment for you!

    First, I wrote a really long comment, and then WordPress failed to post it. Thanks, WordPress.

    Then, when I went to rewrite it, the power went out, and the school computer froze! I hate the school computers!

    Third time’s the charm.

    This was a beautiful and inspiring post! Thank you!

    I think your comparison between writing and running is incredibly apt. Athletics/sports are a great metaphor for writing. Both take practice, patience, and perseverance! (Ugh, I hate corny alliterations like that, but there you go.) I think a Living Writer in 2011 (Nina Revoyr?) said the same thing — that becoming a better runner or swimmer or basketball player takes the same amount of time and dedication as becoming a better writer.

    Positive thinking is just as important. Some writers have this image of being brooding and cynical, but there has to be some positive thinking there somewhere, or else their books would never have been written. And you’re right about the imagined obstacles — we create these things in our heads and then tasks become so daunting that some novels never get written. The key is to take the hill one step at a time — or one word at a time.

    Isn’t it funny when people ask if you’ve “won” something like a marathon? Like, that’s not the point! Same thing with Nanowrimo (although the definition of “winning” has been altered a little for Nanowrimo, haha). Nanowrimo and running marathons isn’t about “winning” or being better than anyone else. It’s not a race; it’s a challenge. It’s about proving to yourself (and possibly other people, if that’s what you’re into) that you can do something grand.

    1. Dude. Let me tell you a story. You know how you were saying it took you 3 tries to post this? The other day, I was working on writing this for a long time, and when I got to about 3k words, I hit save– and my internet stopped working and I lost everything I had worked on. Of course it was a post about patience and positivity, right? Haha. I was bummed, but I posted an HG Wells quote about challenges and decided to try again on this post the next day, and all was well. (It was actually probably a blessing in disguise because it helped me be more succinct the next time around.) But anyway, I do relate to your WordPress trials. Thank you for persevering and posting your wonderful thoughts again! It was so great to read!

      Nina Revoyr did talk about writing and basketball! Ahh, she’s so awesome. I really loved how hardcore and disciplined she seemed about everything– very inspiring.

      I swear, people come up with the greatest responses ever when you tell them that you do races. When I was in a cab once, right after finishing a half marathon, the driver asked me if I ran the marathon. I said “Actually, I ran the half marathon.” And he asked, “Why did you stop half-way? Did you hurt yourself?” I told him that it was a smaller event, but I don’t know if he believed me. “Maybe you can finish the whole thing if you try again next year,” he said. Haha. He was so kind and reassuring about it, too.

      I totally agree with you– challenges are so much more helpful than races. And looking at races as challenges really makes them seem less daunting, too, because when you’re only trying to change yourself, and not others, then you have more control over the situation. And, as Calvin’s dad in Calvin and Hobbes would say, “It builds character.” 🙂

  2. I used to sponsor an event that I called a “skate and write” for nano, a couple of hours of ice skating preceding the couple hours of a write-in. It never really caught on, but I still think that some kind of journeying, physical activity makes a good accessory to writing.

    I had a creative writing teacher once who told us about a number of writers who would engage in some kind of ritualized activity as a precursor to writing. It might have nothing to do with the writing, other than to (I think) create a space for the author to visualize. I used to work out a lot of musical compositions while riding my bicycle.

    I think the pacing thing is important, which gives me mixed feelings about the 50k word requirement. It’s flashy and impressive, but slow and steady may be a better mode of writing for many people.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! That’s really interesting! It sounds like a lot of fun. My friend recently showed me an excellent article about the ties between ritual and creativity, which basically says what you were saying:

      “When participants performed a ritual, they experienced heightened overall engagement—and that engagement, in turn, affected their entire experience. It’s not so strange, then, that in ritual, artists find such consistent gratification and creative value.”

      So in addition to helping people visualize things, like you were saying, it helps create a positive mindset, too.

      Here is the article, if you want to read it:
      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/literally-psyched/2013/08/12/can-what-you-do-before-you-write-improve-your-actual-writing/?WT_mc_id=SA_DD_20130813

      As for the 50k thing, I know a lot of authors have talked about how it’s best to write slow and steady. I think there is a lot of value in that. But something else to consider is how quantity is related to quality. As the oft-quoted anecdote goes from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

      ‘The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.
      Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.’

      Interesting to think about!

      1. Intriguing story about the potters. I have a whole response I wrote to your ‘fog’ comment that I hand-wrote today, while on the Gray Butte trail. I’m planning to post it to my blog.

        You have once more inspired me to write. :^)

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