There’s a long tradition of writers leaving their pens or screens behind to stride along roads, tracks, and trails.
Jonathan Swift, according to Samuel Johnson, would “run half a mile up and down a hill every two hours” during his 20s.
Louisa May Alcott ran since her youth: “I always thought I must have been a deer or a horse in some former state,” she wrote in her journal, “because it was such a joy to run.”
Freedom, consciousness, and wildness: Running offers writers escape with purpose.
When confronted with “structural problems” in her writing as the result of a “long, snarled, frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work,” Joyce Carol Oates would ease her writing blocks with afternoon runs. For Oates and many other writers, running is process and proves especially useful for the type of cloistered, intensive work they do.
Whether their reasoning is practical or spiritual, many writers run with ritualistic devotion. The short-story writer Andre Dubus “ran for the joy and catharsis of it,” but like Oates and DeLillo, his running was also deliberately timed.
Dubus kept a log book that detailed his daily exercise output and writing word count. His method came from an interpretation of Ernest Hemingway’s dictum to stop a story mid-sentence, perform physical exercise, and then return to the work the next day.
Every writer has a ritual. And the best ones have the strangest. But most of them would agree that writing is one of the best rituals to help you when you are writing a piece of literature.
Why do writers so often love to run?
I’ve noticed that running is a form of active meditation
You are freeing your mind from the responsibility of thinking your next move. You run. You have a specific tempo, goal and course and there is nothing else to worry about.
It’s you and your thoughts. Your body is busy running.
Running affords the freedom of distance, coupled with the literary appeal of solitude.
This form of active meditation forces us to explore our Inner World and something about the increased pulse and blood flow unlocks the barriers of thought in your mind.
There’s a meditative cadence to the union of measured breaths and metered strides. Writers and runners both operate on linear planes, and the running writer soon realizes the relationship between art and sport is a mutually beneficial one.
They are like Yin and Yang two opposites that complete each other.
The novelist Haruki Murakami, a former Tokyo jazz-bar manager who would smoke 60 cigarettes a day, started running to get healthy and lose weight. His third novel had just been published, but he felt his “real existence as a serious writer [began] on the day that I first went jogging.”
The steady, repetitive movement of distance running triggers one’s intellectual autopilot, freeing room for creative thought.
Neuroscientists describe this experience as a feeling of timelessness, where attention drifts and imagination thrives.
Exertion frees this fictitious, creative other, enabling the mind of writers who run to wander without inhibition. Writers tap into this ghost-self whenever they construct narratives and characters; writers who run have the benefit of a first draft on foot.
Writing exists in that odd mental space between imagination and intellect, between the organic and the planned.
Runners must learn to accept the same paradoxes, to realize that each individual run has its own narrative, with twists and turns and strains.
Writers and runners use the same phrase —“hit my stride”— to describe the moment when exertion and work become joy.
Writers stuck on a sentence should lace their sneakers and go for a jog, knowing that when they return, they will be a bit sweatier, more tired, but often more charged to run with their words.
Running boosts creativity, motivation, it gives clarity to your mind. Its like a steroid shot for writers.
Thumbnail Image: http://runningmagazine.ca/running-books-on-going-the-extra-distance;