Writing, Running, and Flow

I’ve been running more lately.

I like to run. The trouble is I’m not very good at it. It’s the sort of thing you need to be doing on the regular to make any real improvements in. Actually, I’ve discovered you can take a substantial break, once you’ve got a bit of a stride going, and when you come back to it months later you’ll still get your breath back fairly easily. Still, I really want to improve. I want to be able to run 5k without stopping, and at the moment, I rarely get to 5k at all. Happily, my fibromyalgia has been playing along lately, and I haven’t felt the utter exhaustion that means you’re pretty much fucked for the next couple of weeks. I hope that if I can maintain an OK schedule without pushing myself, it’ll help keep bad fatigue spells at bay.

You know when you were a kid and you would just fuckin’ sprint all over the place and feel like maybe you’d take off and fly? But then you were made to do cross country in PE which ruined running for years. It was boring and difficult and really unpleasant. But when you stop sucking at it, it’s great. It’s freeing. The best part of running is when a good song comes on your playlist, and you change your stride so you’re running to the beat, and all there is is you and the music and speed, and you can hardly even feel your feet, you’re just running. All your tiredness and all the twinges fall away, and for a moment you think “I could keep this pace up forever!”. Of course you’re lucky if it lasts until the end of the song… or I am, anyway. Dragging that moment out a bit longer is one of the reasons I want to get better.

One day last year I was walking my dog, in my running shoes (thankfully!) and a long black skirt, and a rain storm hit. We ran all the way back, and it’s some of the best fun I’ve ever had. I’m sure the people in the cars going past thought I was mad, except for perhaps one person who honked their horn at me. I chose to think of it as a gesture of support.

Writing is like running, sometimes. It’s easier when you’re keeping it up on the regular. Occasionally you hit a stride where everything falls into place and the world falls away; a state of flow. You don’t need flow to create, just like you don’t need it to run. Still, it’s a part of the experience you strive for. In running it’s its own reward. In writing, you get great work out of it too. But you have to put in the miles. You have to get up every morning (or, let’s face it, every afternoon) and vomit blood onto the page. It might feel like you’re pulling teeth, or slogging up a steep hill, but it’s all in the aid of chasing that flow.

The Oatmeal has one of my favourite pieces on running. Go check it out if you haven’t already.

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