Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Runs with Pen

I completed my first half-marathon this past weekend. It was odd for me, an odd goal, born purely out of my desire to button my pants and maybe wear a bathing suit this summer. But, I suppose that people have accomplished more for lesser reasons than those. While I was training for it, I had a difficult time balancing my writing life with my running life. The running seemed so all-consuming, so opposing the creative life, that my brain couldn't put a sentence together in a logical order. But during the half-marathon, something occurred to me—running and writing are really not that different. You need the same sort of things to accomplish both of them, like:

Inspiration. My inspiration for running and writing come from vastly different sources, but are essential, nonetheless. For running, I'm inspired by people (the very few) who don't do it as well as I do and for writing I'm inspired by the people who do it way better than I could ever dream of doing it. Usain Bolt (or Husband) are not inspiring at all to me when it comes to running. In fact, they frighten me a little and make me not even want to try. But the girl who just started out, who is struggling, but still lacing up her shoes everyday and putting one foot in front of another until she gets her miles in—she keeps me moving. With writing, I look to the writers that I admire and try to dissect what they do. Where do they use humor? How do they weave backstory in so seamlessly? When is it okay to indulge your desire to describe every detail and when do you need to add action? The writers who can do all this, and do it well, are the ones who inspire me.

Comparison will steal your joy. I have to recite this mantra to myself often when writing and running. If I compare myself with Husband who literally runs twice as fast as I do then I'm going to get discouraged and give up, but if I remember that the only person I have to worry about letting down is myself, then it's easier to push through. In writing, it's so tempting to let jealousy take over, but I'm on my journey and it's not going to look like anyone else's journey and that's okay.

Sometimes you suck. Sucking is okay as long as you don't let it eat your brain. You have to use it as a humbling experience instead of an excuse to quit. Let yourself screw up big, but don't quit. We all suck sometimes. Deal with it. At least you tried. Get up the next day and try again.

You need a place. Find your place where you feel comfortable. Husband likes to run down busy roads, I guess so that everyone can see how awesome he is. I like to run down blind alleys and cul-de-sacs, hoping that no one is peeking out of their windows to see my pitiful form lurching down the road. I bought a desk this year that I put in the living room and sat my laptop upon, excited to "write at a desk" like a "real writer." I'm sitting in my bed right now writing this blog post. Daughter uses the desk way more than I. Find your own place that works for you.

You need people. Running and writing are both solitary pursuits. You can do them on your own, but you won't achieve the same things you can achieve when you share them with other people. I have never gone on a run with another person and probably won't ever do it, but I do talk about it with other runners and share my milestones so that I can feel some sense of camaraderie and a feeling that I'm not in it alone. I wrote in isolation for many years and only started to see a significant improvement in my writing when I joined a critique group and opened myself up to the judgments of others. People are essential.

So, go write a book or run a marathon. They're kind of the same.


  1. Hollie,
    I loved this piece! I really stopped and thought about your message. It spoke loud and clear to me. Now I will apply the same discipline I used to have when I too was a runner.
    With your permission...I'm printing this out and making a poster of it to hang on my writing office wall. I will read it every day.
    Thank you. Thank you.
    Milt Saunders

  2. Love it! I agree that running consumes your life... I just read your blog about missing the holiday season... I feel like I missed it due to marathon consumed so much of my life. I completed my marathon yesterday; I've always wanted to write a book. Maybe that's next on the tackle list! You're an amazing, amazing woman!! :-D