Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Running and Writing

And now…part two—as promised—on running for writers.

Used to be that writers were classically thought of as paler still than bookworms, possibly undernourished, definitely pickled by years of alcohol abuse and generally not the sort of physical specimens one envied. If that was ever true, it’s not now. As Murakami pointed out so aptly in his book, writing takes stamina, so why not run (or do some other sport) to build that stamina? Not to mention (as he does, too) that the discipline and stick-to-it-ness demanded of sports is essentially the same as what writing asks.

Same question as yesterday—how to start?

Lace up your shoes. Open the door. Take a deep breath. Starting is the hardest part of any run, of any workout (not to mention of writing a book). Once we’re started the inertia of continuing the activity in which we’re engaged takes over, but getting out there—why? Do I have to?

Nope. But why not try it a few times and see how it feels. Like trying on different perspectives, or what we call “points of view” or POV’s in writing (for example, first person, or third person), why not try out a different perspective on life, a new vantage point. After all, that’s what writers are good at. Think of getting out there as the real life equivalent of inhabiting a character’s personality. Say to yourself, “I am a person who…runs, cycles, does yoga, zumbas, swims, walks etc…” and then try the activity on for size.

In writing it’s important to let go of your thinking, thinking, thinking mind, that conscious part of yourself, which is, let’s face it, a bit of a know-it-all, always saying things like, “I’m the kind of person who…” or “That’s not my kind of thing,” that’s not necessarily knowing yourself, you might just be stuck in a rut.

Instead think in broader terms, such as, “I am (or want to be) healthy and happy.” Yes, I suppose I did just open the door to the age-old debate of whether writers (or any creatives) need to be depressed and unstable to truly access their artistic nature. So let me shut that door right away, because I don’t believe it for a minute. Being healthy and happy, in the face of what life throws at us, is hard work. We all have enough challenges and setbacks to fill the pages of multi-volumes, without expressly prolonging our suffering.

Go ahead. Think of it as a writing exercise. And in the process, you’ll learn something about yourself. Better still, your mind will be free to do what it wants, fill up with fleeting ideas, empty, fill up again.

Just like writing.