The Parallel Realities of Writing and Running


Photo: Ali Yahya | Unsplash

“Professional writers quickly learn one reality of the job: you have more bad days than good. It’s the rare day that the writer finds that the words come out exactly the way they were in their head.”

Eliminate the word “professional,” substitute “writers” with “marathoners” and “words” with “miles” in the above quote from author (and runner!) Ryan Holiday, and he’s described marathon training to a T. Holiday’s post on the timeless link between running and writing, and the claim that writers have more bad days than good, parallels what it’s like to train for a marathon, even though he argues just the opposite.

“A run is almost always good, and if you don’t take your phone, hardly ever interrupted,” Holiday writes. “If you set out to run five miles and five miles is within your capabilities, you will accomplish that goal. It’s rare that one leaves their house for a run and somehow doesn’t make it back. In this way, running is predictable, dependable, satisfying and thus a counterbalance for the mercurial muses of the creative professional.”

In my own experience as a competitive marathoner—and a creative professional—this isn’t always the case. If anything, I think the training process more often than not mirrors the writing or creative process: some days—most days—aren’t that predictable and are often unsatisfying. Sure, it can feel great to get out the door and put in a few miles, but it can also feel like drudgery when you’re in the thick of a training block. Workouts will go bad for no good reason, feelings of self-doubt often emerge, and you end up question your motives more times than you care to count. But much like the writer puts his or her butt back in the chair the next day, the runner laces up his or her shoes and continues to put in the miles. And every so often, a workout goes well, spurring a small, if not fleeting, sense of satisfaction, along with it the thought that the race might not end up being so terrible after all.

+ Holiday’s piece pairs well with “Of Words and Miles,” a stream-of-consciousness post I wrote a little while back. Give it a read (or re-read).

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