Pull on the shorts, the t-shirt and the runners. Head out the door. Put one foot in front of the other. Again and again.
At its core, running has an attractive simplicity to it. If only writing were so simple.
There is a school of thought that writing is – or can be – that simple. The idea is that writing is a process, a practice, a method for getting at clear thought. Not a way of communicating thoughts that are already clear.
I like to call myself a runner and I like to call myself a writer. Judging from the blogs and social media profiles out there, I’m far from alone. Many writers run, it seems. But these days I’m finding it easier to keep up a consistent running practice than to sit myself down at the writing desk.
The parallels between writing and running are remarkable. A runner may have some basic ability but the growth, the improvement, comes about almost entirely as a result of getting out there and training. Start with short runs, gradually extend them, throw in some hills and speedwork and results will start to accumulate.
Writing skills grow in a similar way. There’s no getting around the need to simply write. Get words down on paper, then some more words, then some more. Over time, you start to feel those words flowing in more interesting combinations, you begin to weave more intricate patterns with them.
Writing a book is not unlike running a marathon. It would be foolhardy to think one could just set out one day and do it without any practice, without putting in the hours, days, weeks, months or years of training. When you’re starting out, it doesn’t help a lot to obsess over the long struggles ahead. Just get the pen (or the fingers on the keyboard) moving. Settle in. The practice makes you better.
The problem with writers (okay, ONE of the problems with writers) is that we also have built in critics – our internal editors. “That paragraph is flat and lifeless,” we tell ourselves even as the words are tumbling out.
Rarely do I fall into the same trap on a run – psyching myself into the belief that I’m not worthy – not fast enough, too old, too tired today. The reality is, I’m a recreational runner, not an Olympic competitor, and that’s okay. Running is good, healthy, fun.
Can I find the same perspective in writing?
Well, I’m practicing. By writing this.