learning to run/learning to write

14 November, 2009

As I was running round the park this morning, reflecting on starting running again (after over a year of being pretty inactive), I found myself thinking about how my experience of running might relate to writing – mainly because I’ve found them both so hard and scary in the past, and all of a sudden I’m now learning again to do this thing I thought I hated (ie running). I’ve actually thought about this quite a lot while huffing and puffing my way around the park over the last few weeks; at times it’s felt like I’ve been putting my energy into learning to run while I’ve been waiting for my brain/heart/soul/whichever bit of you the poems come from to feel like it’s ready to start learning to write in earnest. Almost as if my body’s doing the thinking for a while until the rest of me catches up. I can’t quite explain it, but it’s given me hope in a weird sort of way. I’ve really struggled not just with the writing but with organising my time and being productive at all the last few weeks – and then struggled with feeling guilty about it.

But as I struggled round the park this morning, I was thinking, if I can do this – if I can learn to run again, and make myself do something (ie exercise) that I’ve never liked and has never come naturally to me – then I can do this whole time/writing/working thing. I can. And I started thinking about the parallels and what my body has been teaching me while it’s been learning to run and I’ve been trying to write…

  • I need a plan. The great thing about the last eight weeks’ running is that I’ve had a timetable: do this amount of walking/running, on these days. Someone’s done the thinking/planning for me, so I can just get on and follow it, knowing that if I do so I will be able to run 5k at the end of it. And I think this is key for my studying/reading/writing etc. Without a map of what I’m doing it’s too easy to dither and delay and – whoops – before you know it, the whole day’s gone. Or a good proportion of it, anyway. It’s time to start timetabling my day/week and making sure I can just get on with stuff without having the agony of trying to decide what to do this particular moment.
  • I need to do the hardest thing first. Although there haven’t been many mornings when I’ve actively looked forward to going for a run (especially during the middle few weeks), apart from being ill/away I haven’t missed a single run, which is kind of astonishing to me given how lazy I actually am, and how much resistance you can feel to getting out into the cold/rain and doing some exercise. And the only way I’ve done it is by making it the first thing I do on running days. So there’s no messing about, and it just gets done. So I need to decide, I think, how the first two hours of my day are going to be spent, ie doing the thing I find hardest first. I won’t tell you what that is right now, but amazingly something has supplanted even the actual writing of poetry as ‘hardest thing to get around to’.
  • I need to start slowly. If I’d just tried to go for a 30 minute run eight weeks ago, I would have hated it, failed, and probably hurt myself. Instead I started out really small – almost pathetically small – running for a minute, walking for a minute, and building up from there, until this morning. And no wonder I fail and then feel guilty when I’m expecting to straight away be able to do a smooth eight-hour work day of poetry or whatever. I need somehow to timetable in really small bite-sized chunks of whatever it is I’m doing – both so it’s easier to achieve and also so it’s less terrifying. In the same way that I could say to myself, come on, you can run for just one minute – anyone can – so I can say to myself, come on, sit down and do some editing for just thirty minutes, and then we’ll do something different.
  • I need to find satisfaction in it. The more I’ve run, the more I’ve enjoyed it; it’s a combination of knowing that I’m getting better, simply enjoying being outside, and, well, finding out that I can actually enjoy running (though not all the time). I guess I’ve just got to hope that the more productive I am, the more I’ll find pleasure in it. I can’t force it, but hopefully expecting it to become more fun (at least some of the time) will be motivation in itself.
  • I need the right kit. One of the best things about running is that you really only need a pair of shoes to do it. But I did find that once I’d started replacing my thick, hot gear for lighter, better running stuff, it helped a lot. Not just because it was more comfortable to run in, but because I suddenly felt like a runner. I’m not quite sure yet how this might map on to writing, but I think having a clear workspace is probably a large part of the battle. And maybe if I get all my filing done this weekend…

Well, that’s it. Hope these reflections aren’t too tediously self-help flavoured… it’s just what I’ve been turning over in my mind recently.

This post brought to you by Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, Pow at the Mustard Lounge, Marky’s badly packed kebab and repeated viewings of Generation Kill. Swooning courtesy of Alexander Skarsgård.

2 Responses to “learning to run/learning to write”

  1. […] my time and myself in general, though I’ve slowly been putting into practice some of my running reflections. Workshop time is coming round again quickly and I’ve got to write three new pieces and […]

  2. […] the meantime I’m sketching out roughs of new poems: the sestina, and a poem about running and writing (boring, yes, I know). And I’m digging my inspiration (none of it’s coming from within […]

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