Monday, July 18, 2016

When Authors Are Athletes: The Writing/Running Connection


Over the past few years, I've taken up both writing and running. If you've never done either, then the connection may not seem immediately apparent. There are, however, strong parallels between the two.

Music Motivates

Runners fill their devices with playlists designed to pump them up and keep a specific pace. Sometimes the perfect song at the perfect moment inspires a new burst of energy (lately for me, it's been the praise song "Jailbreak").

Writers also find motivation in music. Because I can't listen to anything with lyrics while I write (or even instrumental versions of songs with lyrics I know), I tend to play wordless pattern music instead (Zoe Keating, Philip Glass, Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Yoshida Brothers are constants). Every once in a while, however, my brain becomes obsessive and only one song will do. (I wrote my entire play Enter Macbeth while playing "Scotland the Brave" on a loop. With Happily Ever After Hours, it was the "Overland Blues.")

Friends Push Further 

I would never have started running without the help of my friend Alissa. Correction: I would have started and then quickly quit. Alissa never criticized me for being weak, frail, and defeatist; instead, she praised me for small victories and jogged along beside me as I figured it out.

Likewise, I wouldn't have finished many projects without encouragement from family and friends. Although they aren't the strongest critics, that doesn't matter: I have editors for that! Just as having a cheering section kept me from throwing my running shoes into the backyard fire pit, so it also kept me from taking a blowtorch to my laptop.

Discipline Required 

Most days, I don't feel like running. I wake up stiff, groggy, and unmotivated. But if I'm ever going to keep in shape, improve my speed/distance, and complete in races to bring home medals, then I must put in time to train.

It's no different with writing. I sit down to the computer feeling mentally stiff and singularly non-creative. But if I'm ever going to improve my skills and complete my current work-in-progress, then I must put in the time and do the intellectual grunt work.

Confidence Needed    

Running in public -- especially if you're not very good at it -- requires setting aside your pride. You will be seen flailing up streets and down sidewalks, thrashing like a beached porpoise, panting and gasping, your face seemingly stuck in rictus as sweat streams from your head and pools in embarrassing places. Running in public also leaves you open for public comment, with everything from shouts of encouragement to catcalls headed your way. Like it or not, this is what happens. Love it or hate it, you must handle it.

Writing for the public (or creating any sort of public art, really) requires that you set your pride aside and open yourself and your work to public comment. Not everyone will like everything you create. That's actually okay: enjoyment in art is subjective. But once you publish, your work belongs to your audience, and they reserve the right to tell you what they think. Like it or not, this is what happens. Love it or hate it, you must handle it.

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

When I first start a new project, it's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed. I can't believe I actually have to write the whole thing--a task which, frankly, often seems impossible. That's why I have to pace myself. First, I tell myself, I just have to write an outline. That's not too scary. Then I break the project down into daily goals that are challenging and yet achievable. Eventually (after much weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, and guzzling of coffee) the project is complete.

It always feels like a miracle.

It's the same with running. I haven't run a full marathon yet, but each time I lengthen my distance or register for a longer race, even the idea seems daunting. I don't know how I'm ever going to make it the whole distance. So I set up a plan and break the training down into challenging and yet manageable segments. Eventually (after much weeping, flailing, gnashing of teeth, and guzzling of water) the race is complete.

This also feels like a miracle.

The Struggle Is Real

I'm not going to lie. Both disciplines are a struggle. While I'm pleased to have accomplished a measure of success in both areas, I know that the struggle isn't over. While the medals on my wall and the scripts (and soon-to-be actual books) on my shelf aren't going anywhere, the ability to produce such results will disappear if I don't keep after them.

So here's to all my fellow writing-runners and running-writers out there, and to those who aspire to become either one.

May God grant you the health, strength, and self-discipline to achieve for his glory.

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Image Attributions:


By User Gflores on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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