What Running Taught Me about Writing

I’m not a runner. At least, I’m not a very good one. If you knew me in high school (and if you can even remember me), you would probably laugh at this post, because I hated running and I think I looked awful doing it.

I tried to convince myself for a few months near the end of my 12th grade year that I loved it. Lying to myself worked for a bit, but didn’t last long. I stuck with Pilates, because I loved Pilates, and still do, though with kids around it’s harder to do them without having a random dog-pile attack.

But 2014 was a breakthrough year for me. I had a couple of my books out, finally managed to get a good work-life balance plan put into play, and I had my two darling children at home to keep me a bit more preoccupied with what is actually important in my life. But – as any mom who isn’t a celebrity will tell you – the baby weight around your hips quickly becomes an albatross around your neck.

So I decided to “learn to” “love” running again for 2015. (So much is wrong with that sentence.)

To help motivate me, I decided to sign up for the Color Run, supposedly the “Happiest 5k on the planet.” It just sounds so sadistic, obviously.

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Here’s what I learned about the experience that applies to writing as well.

1. What you see is far from what is involved. Michael Jordan’s ears are burning at this point, because he was right. He started practicing for long hours, running plays, lifting weights, and working out long before he became a star basketball player.

To get back into shape for running, I lifted weights, I biked, and I had to eat better. The last part was probably the worst part.

To be a good writer, you have to put time in. Reading becomes a necessary survival skill. Learning new words, trying them out, and observing every aspect of your emotions, sometimes developing that emotional range, takes time, and all of it is required when you want to write well.

2. The best of the best make it look easy. It’s not. This goes along with #1, but it’s true. Working out with a personal trainer to help prepare me for the 5k was an ego-smashing experience. I couldn’t even get on board with the C25K (Couch to 5K) App (there were moments when The Terminator began to feel all too real, with technological oppressors).

It’s the same thing with writing, as I mentioned the other day. Writers who are successful make it look easy. People who have been in the business awhile, and managed to come out on top make it look easy, even though it’s not. Which leads me to my next point …

3. Sometimes you have to figure out your path for yourself. I see A LOT of great ideas on giving advice for writing. I even give several options and talk about what works for me sometimes here. But the best thing I can say is try a lot of methods, but still to what works for you. And if you’re one of those people who make me angry because it all works for you, still with what you like and what works best.

4. It’s not for the fainthearted. Writing and running require a lot of bravery. I learned very well, by the time the Color Run came up, to know that it took courage to keep running when tired, half-hearted, or wanting to give up. Writing not easy, to just talk to wall and assume it won’t answer. You are not only rummaging around in your own mind, but trying to build a bridge of words and wings out to the rest of the world.

Sometimes the world will burn your bridge.

Sometimes the world will applaud you.

Sometimes the world won’t even notice.

Despite any and every answer, you have to keep going. You have to be brave to keep going, too. Sometimes it’s easier not to think about which of those is harder.

5. Hard work pays off. Most of the time, not right away. I had four months to prepare for the 5k. It seemed like a lot of time, but I pretty much wasted a lot of it. It was hard to get going, it was hard to keep going, but in the end, after two months of serious “deadline approaching panic mode,” I finally made it to the race.

And you know what? I managed to run (albeit very slowly) the whole way through. It was one of the best consecutive 42 minutes segments of my life.

6. Endurance can only be brought on by challenges. I’m hoping this story will give you hope when it comes to your own life. Find something you love, and run the race with endurance until the end.

7. Doing it for yourself is not always enough. I started running for myself. I wanted to get in shape. But I was really happy that I decided to do a 5k that gave back to a charitable cause (I just put in for the March of Dimes). If you really want to be a good writer, you should be okay with wanting to be one for yourself, but you might see how much better you become when you are working for someone else’s benefit, too.

This is another reason why I can’t resist crying when people who actually read my work reach out to me. It means a lot to me to write these things and have them help someone else’s life.

Anyone else have a skill or training help them build up another talent? It’s not just running and writing that will feed into each other. Let me know in the comments!

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