A couple weeks ago, I started running again because I’ve signed up for a 10K and two half-marathons. Yesterday, as I finished up my route, this occurred to me: writing is harder than running.
I’ve run a marathon–26.2 miles–without stopping. I’ve run dozens of 5Ks, and a few 10ks and half-marathons. I’ve logged hundreds of miles in races and in training for them. And I’ve done this despite being, for a runner, fat and slow, and coming to running after a decade of smoking two packs a day.
By contrast, though I’ve had hundreds of thousands of words published as a journalist, I have written zero books. I want to write books. Something about writing is just harder for me than running.
I think I know what it is.
Though I typically blame my busy schedule for not writing more, time isn’t the problem. (Time management maybe.) Running takes about an hour–sometimes two–out of my day. Good writers, I hear, dedicate at least an hour a day to writing.
My problem (and maybe yours) is that I need to lower my standards.
Running is easier than writing, for me, because my standard for writing is much higher than my standard for running. In a race, I just want to finish …and to beat at least one of the people dressed like Batman. But when I write, I want each page to be masterful, eloquent, world-changing. I need to lower my standards.
In our forthcoming interview with writer Kevin Maurer, he said, “You have to be willing to write badly.” (He has a lot of great insight on developing the discipline to write.)
Somewhere along the way, I embraced the fact that I’m a fat and slow runner who probably looks dumb doing it, but I have kept at it because it keeps me relatively healthy: both mentally and physically. In fact, I’d recommend running to any writer because when you’re running, there’s little better for your brain to do but chase storylines and develop characters. Otherwise you’re just watching for dog poo and distracted drivers.
So I need to embrace the fact that, as a writer, I’m fat and slow and probably look dumb doing it. I need to forgive myself for not spinning reams of gorgeous prose and just bang away at the keys. Why? Because I love the payoff. When I’m done writing, just as when I’m done with a run, I feel better.
That’s a lot like something else Kevin said in our interview. Clearly, he said some things that have resonated with me, but I’m going to make you wait to see it all.
Lastly, I know this to be true: Running has gotten easier the more I’ve done it, and so has writing. When I first started running–because I was still trying to quit smoking–I coughed and wheezed and hacked up a lung and on more than one occasion, barfed. These days, I can lay off running for a week and still knock out three or four miles and feel pretty good.
Now… if I can only get past the part where my writing makes me barf…
Chris Horne is a co-founder of the Crossroads Writers Conference.