aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Running and writing - how one teaches me to be better at the other

I am a slow runner (10-minute miles, maybe a little less if I’m running downhill, there’s a good song on the i-pod, and I have a tailwind) and a fairly fast writer (two books a year, plus a little more). I’ve been a runner for three decades, a writer for nearly two decades, and a published writer for one decade.

Some of the things I’ve learned about running apply to my writing, and vice versa.

1. Mix it up. In Swedish, it’s called fartlek (which would be a really funny word if I were 12), or speed play. Research shows that running just parts of your route at a faster pace than normal can improve your overall pace even when you don't consciously set out to run faster. Sometimes I just tell myself that I am going to see how many words I can write in 15 or 30 minutes, and I don’t re-read or ponder. I just write flat out.

2. Try a different direction. I have run the same route for years. Part of it includes a 2.5 mile loop. Recently, I have decided to start running the loop in the opposite direction. It is amazing! I’m seeing flowers in people’s gardens I’ve never noticed before. Even whole houses I’ve never noticed before. And I’ve knocked off three minutes off my time. [Full disclosure: part of that is because I realized that I was running faster, which is an incentive to run faster still. Once you know your time sucks, there’s a lot less incentive.] Lately, I’ve tried printing out my manuscript to look like a book (thanks Lisa Schroeder!), or going some place to write that has no internet access. A book I sold recently had a format kind of like a scrapbook, with diary entries, to-do lists, and newspaper clippings.

3. Music. This is vital for running, and I think it helps when writing, too. (Although sometimes if the songwriter has a real flair for words, I have to turn it down so I don’t catch on them.) Plus I got a whole book idea from eight words in a Kathleen Edwards song. And I’m totally stealing these lines from a local band, Furr,
“It was just a little while past the Sunset Strip
They found the girl’s body in an open pit.
Her mouth was sewn shut, but her eyes were still wide
Gazing through the fog to the other side.”

4. Just do it. I have had this as my keychain forever. When I lost my first keychain, I found another on ebay. (Although it is a little creepy that the inspiration came from the last words of Gary GIlmore.) With writing and running, you don’t wait until you feel like doing it. You start doing it and then you feel like doing it. And even if you finish feeling like it was a chore, hey, you still accomplished something!

If you run AND write, what parallels do you see?

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Tags: running

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