Six years ago, I wrote a post connecting the two wonderful worlds of writing and running, and a lot has changed since then.
For starters, I’ve actually maintained a steady schedule for more than a year now, compared to the sporadic posts I used to put up when I was ‘in the mood’. Also, I’ve started running a lot more.
That’s why I feel that I’ve garnered the necessary experience to revisit this topic, which means you get to be the judge on whether or not I’ve actually grown in the past six years.
So scroll ahead and enjoy version two of this post. Go on. Run along now.
It never gets easier
Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first. Running never gets easier. And neither does writing.
I’ve been running for years now, but that doesn’t change the fact that every time I lace up my shoes, I feel as though I’m about to embark on some Navy SEALs shit.
The same is true for writing. I can stamp ‘THE END’ on my fifth manuscript, and still feel like I have no business being a novelist.
This is where it pays to remember this one fact: Nothing worth doing is ever easy. And it’s during these tough moments—when we’re huffing and puffing down the street, dragging our feet two inches at a time—where progress is made.
One day, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come, and that’ll be an awesome feeling, till you turn towards the horizon once more, see how far you’ve yet to go, and mutter to yourself, “Ah, shit.”
Ask and you shall receive
Cam Hanes runs one marathon a day, and Courtney Dauwalter runs almost 300 miles at a go (over a span of days, often without sleep. Here’s the thing, though: Cam was once a major slacker, and Courtney dropped out of her first 100-miler.
Even the greats like David Goggins couldn’t complete his first quarter mile.
The thing about our body and mind is that you never truly know what you’re capable of until you ask more of yourself. I’m not much of a runner, but I’ve worked my way to running 10 kilometres a day, and while that pales in comparison the the above names, it’s a very big deal for me.
Let’s take a writing example instead—I used to have a 1,000-word ceiling. No way could I write more. Nuh uh. Not for a paying job, not for my novel, nothing.
Then I was offered a month-long gig of touring across Myanmar and writing about my journey while on the road.
I accepted the job with the understanding that I had to produce one article a day. That ended up becoming two (1,000-word) articles a day. While I travelled around for research. For sixteen hours a day. Writing time not included.
I was livid at first, being stranded in Myanmar with no choice but to slough through article after article as I bounced around in the back of a van or a boat, the latter being particularly challenging due to the rainy season.
But I managed to meet my deadlines, all while developing a new superpower of dealing with motion sickness (almost puked so many times while writing in a moving vehicle).
Now my new maximum is 2,000 words per day. With research. While working sixteen-hour shifts. And battling motion sickness. And I suspect that’s nowhere near my true capabilities.
I just have to ask it of myself.
Your conscience will always guide the way
I can think of very few instances where running—or a creative pursuit like writing—would be a bad thing for you.
Okay, maybe you shouldn’t run right after heart surgery, but other than that, you never end a run feeling shittier than before you started.
Contrast that with the guilt you feel after going on a barhopping bender. Or lapping up every crumb from that Dunkin’ Donuts box.
For some reason, us humans are wired to pursue things that are beneficial to us, no matter how shitty those tasks may feel at the time. And it behooves you to be in tune with that feeling.
In this age of acceptance (even when the actions you’re accepting is damaging to you), it’s easy to chalk your internal pain as something you should avoid.
Hate exercising? Then let’s avoid all that toxic productivity. Feeling crappy for not writing (again)? Maybe you just weren’t ‘in the mood’.
I used to scoff at the saying ‘putting a bandaid on a bullet wound’, but now I totally see its point. We don’t need more spa appointments or retail therapy. We need to know why we think we need spa appointments or retail therapy.
I say listen to your feelings, both good and bad, then choose to do what’s right, not what’s easy.
But how do you know you’re choosing the right thing? Simple—it’s whichever choice you don’t feel regret after doing it.
It’s not the equipment, nor the circumstances
I love running because there are so few things you need to get started, yet it’s still very possible to convolute things.
I once had a friend who vowed to join me on my runs. But then he backed out of his promise, blaming the lack of a quick-dry t-shirt, a knee brace, or a phone strap for his flakiness.
I have to admit, I do the same thing when it comes to writing. Here’s my list of justifications: I need a MacBook Air to be more productive. Writing longhand just isn’t the same if I don’t have the fountain pen Neil Gaiman uses. I can only plot properly using Scrivener, not Google Docs.
You know how people used to write novels? With a quill. Or a typewriter. And here I am, showing the same attitude as my friend who said they wanted to run but didn’t really want to.
That’s why the tagline ‘Just Do It’ is so powerful. Because most of the time, that’s all you need to do.
If you run, you’re a runner
It’s weird how people hesitate to call themselves a writer even when they put pen to paper every day. Yet they don’t hesitate calling themselves a runner after buying their first pair of Salomons.
Either way, this is how I see it—it’s all about proving things to yourself. And that involves the non-optional requirement that is work.
Because you can’t write 2,000 words a day and tell me with a straight face that you don’t consider yourself a writer. I know tons of journalists and editors who write a grand total of zero words per day (besides their work, of course). And you know who they look up to? People who actually put in the writing work, regardless of their background.
So it really is as simple as that. Simple, but not easy.
I believe that all writing shapes your essence as a writer. Yes, even those rogue paragraphs you absent-mindedly scrawl into that tattered notebook that you’ll forget about. No effort is ever wasted. Even your mistakes teach you something.
Sounds doable, doesn’t it? Just write until you don’t mind calling yourself a writer? Here’s the catch though: You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write.
The biggest lesson of all
At the end of the day, we embark on our pursuits for different reasons. Some of us do it to find purpose, while others just seek that quick escape from life.
But no matter where you are in your journey, perhaps the most important lesson is realising that the best gifts lie in the pursuit and not the result.
Because medals or book deals may—or may not—come our way, but every time we choose to chase our dreams regardless, we end up learning that bit more about what we’re truly capable of.
And sometimes, that alone is worth the pain.
You know another thing that’s similar to running and writing? Growing your blog. It’s a unending journey, for sure, but I have a guide on how to do that through the art of commenting. Just click on the button to get it (and to also receive exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else on this blog).