7 Things I Learned about Writing through Running

 Thing #5:  Vary which side of the street you run on.

If, like in my town, the sidewalks are actually just portals to the emergency room, you’ll find yourself running on the smoother (and, ironically, safer) street.  The cross-country coach at the high school where I work explained to me that, if I do, I need to alternate the side of the street on which I run.   At first, I thought he was playing with me, but after actually paying attention to the asphalt underneath my feet, I saw his point.  For drainage reasons, the sides of the street slope down from center.  When you run on the side of the street then, one foot is landing higher than the other which could create an imbalance.  Run on only one side of the street and after awhile you’re bound to end up with a serious case of “Gangsta Lean”– or at the very least some lower back problems of which I have enough.

Alternate the side of the street you run on then and you’ll keep yourself in balance.

And balance is the key to so many things.

I’m at my best, not just with writing but with life in general, when I’m balanced–when I’m taking care of those three important aspects of the self: the mind, the body and the soul rather than living only in one area.   After a long day of thinking at work, I find it takes a run to release that mental knot I tied in my brain.  Sometimes I need that silence or touch of the breeze that is so good for the soul.

I’m seeing the importance of alternating paths with writing as well. For awhile, I entire focus was on the novel.  Now though I’m writing on those alternating sides of the road and giving short stories and flash fiction pieces a go. I’m writing more blog posts, and I’ve even tried my hand at creative non-fiction.

Because I’m shifting forms, I’m not just working the vanity muscles of my mind, but am training those important auxiliary muscles that offer so much support and strength.

Writing the shorter stuff has forced me to continuously seek out new ideas and stay open to inspiration.  It’s forced me to create character after character, plot after plot, setting after setting rather than grow complacent while working with just one or two for months at a time. The non-fiction has forced me to keep my eyes open.  I’ve been able to use the analytical eye that is required to learn about new characters on my own memories and events.  I’ve been able to drudge up old feelings so that I can re-examine them with my current eyes.  As a result, I’m finding new story ideas that I can take to the other written forms. I haven’t been brave enough to try poetry yet, but I know I should to remind me of the importance of brevity and of using the exact word.

So mix it up.  Work not just the vanity muscles, but also those tendons and antagonistic muscle groups to keep your mind and body in balance.