Running to write
I ran seven miles this weekend. And while this is the lead in to a writing lesson, I absolutely admit that I’m also bragging a bit.
I am not a “runner.” Historically, I have not liked running much, although I have run off and on again over the years. I did it mostly because I knew I should to get/stay fit. I never had high aspirations, however. Mostly, I was just happy to run for 20 or 30 minutes. It was a major deal when I signed up for my first 5k. Three miles seemed like a huge distance. And it is. Or was.
Last year, a friend invited me to run a half-marathon in California. Of course I turned her down. Although I like my friend a lot, running for more than two hours is just plain unnecessary torture. Something happened, however, as I virtually watched her progress. She made it seem so possible and maybe not so horrible, and maybe even a little enjoyable. So when another friend invited me to run a half-marathon in Quincy, I heard myself saying, “Sure.” The part of me that wasn’t speaking was quite appalled and started to think of excuses, but that’s the part that sometimes needs to be ignored.
Running seven miles gives you a lot of time to think – especially if you’re me and running at a ridiculously slow pace. I realized as I ran past the three mile mark, how easy that part of the run had been. It would have been hard to convince me two years ago that running three miles could ever be easy and yet, it was sort of like a walk around the blog. (okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration)
Here’s the relevant insight – it’s like this with writing. Maybe it seems like a chore. Maybe you feel like you’re only doing it because you have to. Maybe you like to write but you are in a rut.
You want to get better? Then set a wild goal and push yourself to make it. Plan on writing a book. Start a blog. Write an article to send to a newspaper or magazine. Find something that feels just about out of your reach. Once you write more than you think you can, writing less will seem easy. I’m talking about quantity. I’s not that quality isn’t important – in the end, this will matter above all. In this case, however, quantity will lead to quality.
When you run a long distance, you are strengthening your muscles, increasing your lung capacity and naturally improving your stride. It’s the same thing with writing. The more you write, the more natural it will become.
I learned this as a participant in the Nanowrimo – the National Novel Writers Month, a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in November. I’m not a fiction writer. I’m not a novelist. Or at least I wasn’t any more than I am a half-marathoner. My novels are sloppy, unpolished messes, but there are stories and characters with which I can work later. More importantly, I learned to write fast without letting perfection become a road block.