Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Running’

Running and Writing (and getting inspired)

In Running, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline on March 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Going for a run and sitting down for a writing session require the same grit.

The obvious reason is the discipline, showing up day after day to get fit and maybe lose weight or to sharpen skills.

Various writers approach that grit in different ways: by writing 1,000 words a day or for a certain length of time, going for writing sprints, setting writing goals and incrementally meeting them, and doing things like writing a short story a week or the rough draft of a novel in a month.

Writing the first few times may be crappy—for new writers, figuring out how to translate what’s learned about the elements of writing into structure or overwriting or underwriting a messy first draft. The first draft can be too much with too many details, repeated scenes, dialog that drags and too many characters not doing anything; or, it can be too little with scene jumps, jumps in logistics, a lack in transitions and underdeveloped plot, character, setting or dialog.

Running daily incrementally builds muscle, increases metabolism and improves lung capacity, while doing it here and there is nice, but won’t change the body in any noticeable way. I ran my way three sizes smaller and wrote my way into lots of copy, noticing how both become easier through time and practice.

The less obvious similarity between running and writing is that it can be a real pain to do both. I don’t always want to go for a run, particularly at the end of a long work day when I’m already tired. I feel like I don’t have any energy until I get into the third, fourth or fifth lap, and then muscle memory takes over. Oh yeah, this is how running works.

I don’t always want to write, particularly after coming off of a sprint, such as a National Novel Writing Month activity in April, July or November.

I have to force myself into the chair and say just write. It doesn’t matter the result, and then the looseness of freewriting without the annoying boundaries of the internal editor or the need to write something good fall away. Muscle memory takes over, and I count the laps and the words, getting somewhere just because I showed up.

It’s habit, discipline, practice and wanting to change shape—fit in body and fit in my writer’s hand—that gives me that running and writing grit.

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Taking a writing (and running) break

In Getting Unstuck in Writing, Reflections on Writing, Writing, Writing Discipline on November 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

As a writer and a runner, I learned, albeit slowly, that breaks are important.

Breaks offer relaxation, a time to heal and a way to spur new creativity.

I pulled a muscle in my hip three weeks ago, but, being stubborn, I thought I could still run … when I couldn’t. Over the past week, I ran slower and slower, taking my mile down to a minute a lap at the gym, where 14 laps equals one mile. That’s pretty darn slow for someone who’s been running for five years.

As I forced my running, I got to the point where my back started hurting, and then my knee, my ankle and my other hip. Basically, it was a bad idea to run. I had to get a massage on Thursday and, with my hip still hurting, accept the fact I now can’t run for a few days.

I did the same thing earlier this year with my writing. I forced it, thinking, “Well, I’m a writer; therefore, I should write.” The ideas dribbled away, and, as was the case with my running, I felt stuck and unable to do it.

Luckily, I had to do lots of editing work on a novel I’m revising and some short stories, and I promised myself I’d only write when I was with my writing friends or felt the inspiration. I made it a matter of casual writing fun, though I recognized that daily discipline is important in writing with breaks just as important.

Taking a break is a way to relax and let the mind go, allowing for the subconscious to make connections that the conscious mind can’t force.

It’s a way to get new ideas or find new approaches to a project.

It’s a way to gain objectivity, because it’s hard to see the whole story or novel when caught in the middle or in the midst of the details. Stepping back lets the details or parts of the project become one overall piece, instead of the next part of the writing puzzle. It refreshes your mind for better critiquing by having a new view of the work that’s already been done.

And it’s a way to vary routine, so that things feel new, fresh and different.

Forcing writing can cause boredom, making it feel like a chore, affecting the quality of the work. The quality is evident when it comes to revising, because the work requires more layers of editing from line to content.

Taking a break is a way to come back to the work with a clear mind and a new perspective and, hopefully, an understanding of why it wasn’t working before. As with running, it’s a way to heal the mind, so that the writing becomes faster and better, just like I’ll be when I get back on the track—or, at least I hope so. Otherwise, it’ll look like I’m on a walk!

Running and Writing (and getting inspired)

In Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Inspiration, Writing Processes on August 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

Going for a run and sitting down for a writing session require the same grit.

The obvious reason is the discipline, showing up day after day to get fit and maybe lose weight or to sharpen skills.

Various writers approach that grit in different ways: by writing 1,000 words a day or for a certain length of time, going for writing sprints, setting writing goals and incrementally meeting them, and doing things like writing a short story a week or the rough draft of a novel in a month.

Writing the first few times may be crappy—for new writers, figuring out how to translate what’s learned about the elements of writing into structure or overwriting or underwriting a messy first draft. The first draft can be too much with too many details, repeated scenes, dialog that drags and too many characters not doing anything; or, it can be too little with scene jumps, jumps in logistics, a lack in transitions and underdeveloped plot, character, setting or dialog.

Running daily incrementally builds muscle, increases metabolism and improves lung capacity, while doing it here and there is nice, but won’t change the body in any noticeable way. I ran my way three sizes smaller and wrote my way into lots of copy, noticing how both become easier through time and practice.

The less obvious similarity between running and writing is that it can be a real pain to do both. I don’t always want to go for a run, particularly at the end of a long work day when I’m already tired. I feel like I don’t have any energy until I get into the third, fourth or fifth lap, and then muscle memory takes over. Oh yeah, this is how running works.

I don’t always want to write, particularly after coming off of a sprint, such as a National Novel Writing Month activity in April, July or November.

I have to force myself into the chair and say just write. It doesn’t matter the result, and then the looseness of freewriting without the annoying boundaries of the internal editor or the need to write something good fall away. Muscle memory takes over, and I count the laps and the words, getting somewhere just because I showed up.

It’s habit, discipline, practice and wanting to change shape—fit in body and fit in my writer’s hand—that gives me that running and writing grit.