After about a month of training, I am two days away from my first 5k race. I don’t remember what inspired me to start, but I am encouraged to know that for many writers, distance running is a part of their creative process. Nick Ripatrazone explores the phenomenon in November’s Atlantic article, “Why Writers Run.” Joyce Carol Oates, for instance, “eases writer’s block with an afternoon run.” Haruki Murakami says he “became a serious writer, ‘the day [he] first went jogging.'” I’ve only just started, but I can see the connection: it involves the same clock-checking doom (it’s better done without checking a clock); it’s got the same accomplishment relief/joy of putting pages and hours into a novel.
One thing I enjoy about introducing running into my writing life is that it dispels the myth I once believed of the unhealthy genius. In the past, my understanding of a serious writer involved a hungover, cranky artist enclosed in a small workspace, escaping to a porch or balcony to smoke through sticky sentences or plot points. Cigarette breaks were my writing process but these days, I’m able to work for longer durations without the help of any sort of substance. It took me a long while to get here, and some days are better than others (God, I miss smoking sometimes), but it’s the best way for me to persist on what I like to call “the horrible uphill climb of writing a first book.” Literally running up hills somehow equips us for literary hills, if I may drop some cheesy wordplay onto this blogpost. Pushing through discomfort and discouragement–that’s probably the thing that separates the real writers from the wannabes. Not publications, but persistence.