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4 Lessons Running Can Teach You About Writing

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I hate running. The only redeeming value I see in it is that I’m learning some lessons about writer’s block that maybe will help someone. I hope.

But despite my disdain for running I’ve begun hitting the road in the morning with my neighbor, Kevin. (Yes, he’s really my neighbor and his name really is Kevin. He’s one of three Kevin’s on our block. It’s a cosmic anomaly, I know.).

And thanks to my newfound hobby, I’ve learned a few painful lessons that apply to the writer’s life. Learn from my pain, dear friends, because something good has to come from my early mornings.

—by Kevin Kaiser

1. Muscles forget what they’re for if you don’t use them enough.

Creativity works like a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it becomes to tap. When you aren’t writing a lot, things get rusty. And rusty = painful. I’m convinced that the majority of people suffering from “writer’s block” really lack conditioning. All of the prolific writers I know scoff at the idea of writer’s block. They don’t have time for it, they say. They’re too busy writing and keeping the flow happening. If they were to stop their muscles would forget, too. Conditioning is the hardest thing to attain, but once you have it things are a bit easier.

2. You’ve got to start the work of training.

So if you’re struggling with block or having problems getting the ideas started, what do you do? Well, you start writing. Do it in short bursts. Make it a discipline. It’s that simple.

3. Realize, it’s going to hurt for awhile.

Training is pain. It is a process of breaking down, re-building, and recovery. Then doing it over and over again. It takes time and for awhile it hurts. A lot. Expect it. If you prepare yourself mentally going into it that it’ll be tough you’ll do OK. Go in expecting a cake walk and you should probably find something else to do, like swimming or badminton. Those are fun and you don’t get shin splints.

4. You’ll get better, maybe. That depends on you.

This is what separates the dedicated folk from the ones who cancel their gym membership in mid-February. There is no 6-minute ab workout for writers or Thigh-Master 2000 for creativity. All that matters is good old-fashioned work. You’ve got to show up day after day, or in my case Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Point is, your hard work will eventually pay off as long as you keep at it. But if you slack off, be prepared for the disappointment and frustration that come with it.

All right … so there you have it. Now I’ve got to crash because my 6 a.m. run is only a few hours away. (I’ll be a better person for it … I’ll be a better person for it … I’ll be …)

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Guest column by Kevin Kaiser, who is the author of @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers, the profits of which go to support the future of NaNoWriMo. He blogs about how to write for a living without losing your soul. Follow @KevinSKaiser on Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “4 Lessons Running Can Teach You About Writing

  1. Joshua Rigsby

    Great post. So true. And after winning a hard-fought battle with the will, you often feel physically better too.

    As a sideways corollary to the topic, I think a lot of writers forget how important taking care of their bodies is to the creative process. Good on you for the running.

    Exercise can fight off what I call “the Saturday Malaise.” http://joshuarigsby.com/2013/06/10/stay-at-home-dad-workout-plan-5-tips/ Running can also help you feel better after a rejection or a tough day of writing, as it increases the endorphin levels in the brain.

    Anyway. Good post. Keep running.

  2. Julie Luek

    I refuse to call what I do running. Jogging? Loping? But I am consistent. I even trained for and completed a half-marathon once in my life. Let’s call it a “turning 40 crisis”. I’ve since repented of such punishment.

    I like the parallel you you draw to running. I hate to sound cliche, but Nike has it right on with their tag: Just Do It. I think that almost every morning my couch-potato-by-nature inner voice tries to rationalize why I should skip the jog, just this once. Writing is the same way. It’s not always pleasant (sometimes it is) and sometimes it’s really hard (other times you catch your wind), but you do it because it helps you reach a goal you really want.

    Or else you have a dog whining at you until you get your butt in gear.

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