In Writing, As in Life: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

My 320-page manuscript weighs a satisfying five pounds, about the same amount I’ve gained while creating it over the last year. It’s a small price to pay for completing this creative marathon. As every writer knows, when you commit to this — really commit to the process — something has to give: time, sleep, social life, sex. In my case, it was my waistband.

To be more specific, it was my morning run that took the hit. It’s not that I gave it up completely. It’s just that by necessity it became rather abbreviated. In the beginning, I would wake at 5 a.m. with the best of intentions, determined to do it all: write for three hours, run for one. But as the coffee kicked in and I got down to it, it became excruciatingly difficult to stop at the appointed hour. So my five-miler dwindled to a four- or maybe a three-miler, the whole morning ending in a mad damp-haired dash to the office, where I actually get paid to write.

(Run at night, you say? Can’t. I’m one of those people who has to write and run in the morning. That’s when the “legs” are the freshest, for both processes. Evenings are for revising and yoga.)

Still, I had the sense not to give up the running completely, because what I’ve come to realize is that these brief workouts are exactly that: a chance to “work out” the kinks in my writing. They are as essential to my process as reading, writing, revising. They ignite the brain cells. A few minutes into my boardwalk run, the pistons start firing, and the mental edit begins. The sentences and dialog that stumbled from my brain to the virtual page in the pre-dawn hours coalesce. While I listen to the same 27-song playlist, I listen to the characters in my head. By the one-mile mark, some of the thorny narrative impasses I left on the virtual page no longer seem insurmountable. I have options, possibilities.

The result is that by the time I’ve finished my run, my brain is buzzing with so many notes and ideas that I’m terrified that I will lose them. I jot them in the small notebook in my car’s cup holder before they float away. I’m sure there’s some high-tech way to dictate notes to myself while I run, but that’s too geeky — like wearing the race tee shirt while you’re running the race.

At home, I transfer my notes to Post-its. I plaster my desk with them, the seeds for tomorrow’s work.


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