What Jogging Can Teach You About Writing

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash — Writing and Jogging. This is not a photo of me (I mean, she’s rockin’ the Spandex).

Two months ago, I gave a month’s notice to quit my long-term, salaried job in healthcare communications.

Some folks told me I was brave. Others inferred that I was either spoiled or crazy or impetuous or all three.

I had a number of reasons for leaving, and most are too complex to go into here.

Overall, I knew in my bones that it was time, and the only way I could get or give myself a break was to make … well, a clean break. Also, I have a new book, Green Card & Other Essays, forthcoming, with a list of publisher’s suggested edits waiting. Add to this the crazy, sprawling novel draft that really, really needed some overdue love.

So I crossed my fingers, ignored my bank balance and granted myself a work sabbatical.

Now I’m two-plus months in, and I’m supposed to be basking in all this freedom, including more time to write.

Well, at least I’ve got the “basking” part down (smile).

I have always been an avid walker and hiker, so one of the best parts about being away from work is the extra outdoors time. Then, just before Christmas, I decided to turn my usual morning walk into a morning run.

Of course, I had a thousand reasons not to run: My mid-life knees aren’t what they used to be. Winter is cold here in New England. I hate Spandex (or is it Lycra?). And, if I got up to run a few mornings per week, wasn’t that cutting way into my prime writing hours?

My first few days out, I did a kind of power-walk-and-run combo. Then, one morning, I just kept running — all the way down our local hiking trail and all the way home again.

Now, for all you seasoned runners out there, this is where you’re allowed to snicker behind your hands. Pretty and peaceful as our local hiking trail is, it’s nothing that would prepare me for the Olympics or even a mini-marathon. But running there feels great — especially as I enter that last little lap toward home.

I also know that this new running gig is teaching me about life and work and writing.

Here are 5 things that this (very) amateur jogger is learning about creative writing:

  1. Nike has it right. For writing or jogging, there are morning when you have to shush the excuses and arguments inside your own head and “just do it.”
  2. Running enhances the writing: As I thump along the blacktop trail, my mind wanders into and out of my novel’s plotting cul-de-sacs. I worry over (and sometimes solve) problems. I make editorial corrections. I get new ideas. There’s nothing like the cold wind against your cheeks to pump up the creative.
  3. Push past your comfort zone: I’m learning that it’s all about setting your sights on a milestone up ahead and then, pushing to or beyond that set target. Like I say, I’m a long way from being a marathon-er (and probably never will be), but I’m learning that my body is capable of more than I thought. Also, that moment when I want to quit is also the moment when I should push on for an extra few hundred feet. Or, as writers, when we need to push on for a few hundred words more.
  4. Healthy body. Healthy mind: It’s all about taking care of our own daily wellness. This is especially true when the winter blues and blahs can and do eclipse our self-confidence and our creative selves.
  5. Prove yourself wrong: On the trail or on the page, I’m discovering the joy in proving my morning-grumpy self wrong.

Irish author, workshop leader in Boston area. Fifth book, “Green and Other Essays” just released. More at www.ainegreaney.com

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