Over the last two days, I have been working on a personal essay about the connection I find between running and writing.
Yesterday morning, I ran my husband to the bus stop, and as I often do, I discussed my latest writing pickle: how I was going to begin the essay.
My husband is a good person to discuss such matters with -- he's an editor at the Montreal Gazette, the local English daily here in Montreal. But yesterday, he was even better than usual.
I explained that I was thinking of starting my essay with the line, "I write and run every single day." But then I explained to him what the pickle was: I do write every single day (that's because, for years, I have started my days with three pages in my journal), but technically, I don't run every day. I exercise every day -- sometimes that means I lift weights at the Y or go to my boxing lesson instead. So my question was kind of technical, "Do you think I can start with that line anyhow -- even if there are days that I don't run?"
My husband thought about it for a few moments and then he told me he didn't think I should go with that beginning. He said, "Come up with a different lead altogether. If you're going to start off with something that isn't true, you're going to alienate yourself from your writing."
As soon as he said it, I knew he was right. I went home and re-worked the beginning. I came up with something that was just as good as what I'd had before -- but which was 100 per cent true. And I think coming up with a truer beginning led to a better piece of writing.
I too run and write. I run because, as a writer, I sit on my fat ass all day long. Which, if I didn't run would get fatter. When I have a writing problem, I often stick it in my mind in a free floating kind of way, before I begin my run. Then, without actually focusing on the problem, I let it drift around in my thoughts as I run. I usually find myself imagining the scene or coming up with an image and often, by the end of my run, I have a way into my writing for that day. I run with my dogs on a rural bike path so I don't have to be conscious of anything other than weather and whatever nature dishes out - a dead deer, a varmint or aches and pains I didn't have the day before. I never listen to music but sometimes I do a meditation to pass the time. The important thing is, when you've done your run, you've already accomplished something in your day and the blank page looks less daunting.
Dear Leila, aka Queen of the Family Drama,
The piece I was working on is for "Write," the Writers' Union of Canada publication. And you are part of my story -- in fact you play a major role, though I didn't use your name, just "a friend who writes for TV." Love what you say about the page looking less daunting after a run. I never thought of it that way, but it's certainly true. Hey, let's go for a run one of these days!