I run. Not often enough, or fast enough, or far enough, but I do run occasionally. Running gives me useful time to think about stories, as well as making me feel better about the hours I spend sitting on my bottom at the keyboard.
But there is another connection between running and writing. Motivating myself to get up and go out for a run is quite similar to motivating myself to write.
No-one makes me run. I don’t enter races. I don’t have an immediate goal for my running. I’m not answerable to anyone else for running. I don’t have to tell anyone I’m going out for a run, or prove afterwards that I did run. No-one is checking that I’m running. If I decided not to bother going for a run, no-one would know. And if I decided during a run that I just couldn’t be bothered running any more, and sat down in the middle of the path and sang a little song instead (or simply walked home at a comfortable pace, nibbling chocolate bars on the way) no-one would know, no-one would care and no-one would be able to criticise.
All of which is remarkably similar to writing a novel.
Novels take a VERY LONG TIME to write. The deadlines start off ridiculously far away. And if I didn’t sit down and get on with it, if I chose to sit about singing, nibbling chocolate, or even going out for a run rather than writing, no-one would know or notice, until it was far too late.
Except me. I’d know, and I’d feel guilty.
So, even though I don’t run as often and as far and as fast I should, I still do it.
And, even though I suspect I don’t sit down and write as often or as fast as I should, I still do it. Even months or years before the deadline, I do it. Regularly, steadily, and moving the story forward all the time.
Why? How do we motivate ourselves to get our writing shoes on and keep pacing through the story, without the urgency of an immediate deadline or an editor at our shoulder?
Is that why so many writers like to tell the world how many words they’ve written each day on Facebook or Twitter? Because otherwise, there is no-one but ourselves to push, encourage, cajole and motivate? Because otherwise, writing a novel is like going out for a run in the rain, in the dark, with no finish line in sight?
I don’t share word counts or small writing victories on social media. I tend to keep that part of my writing fairly quiet and private. But then, I like to run on my own. I don’t like to run in a group. And actually, I’ve always enjoyed running in the rain.
Lari Don is the award-winning author of 22 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers.
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