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Small thoughts about writing and running

May 22, 2012

It feels good to be writing again, even though one thing I’ve learned over the years is that writing is hard work. So hard for me that sometimes – actually often – I tend to not do it at all. That may sound strange for someone who thinks that being a writer would be the greatest way in the world to earn a living. But I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to say that I don’t really like to write – I like to have written.

In this way, writing is like running. Running, while you’re doing it, is not all that fun. It’s tiring, and can be painful. Your muscles burn, and your lungs ache. Sometimes in the middle of it you think, what am I doing here? But you have to keep going, if you’re serious about it. And you don’t stop until you get to the end. That’s literally the only way to succeed as a runner. You don’t finish until you’re finished.

And that, as it turns out, is the way it has to be with writing as well. A story, or an essay, or even a blog post isn’t finished until you’ve finished it. It’s not complete until you’ve said what you have to say the way you meant to say it. And doing that is hard. Not physically hard, but instead mentally challenging.

In the end, writing is actually more difficult that running. As I begin a run, I know what my destination is. I have generally seen the finish line, and know how far away it is and about how long it will take me to get there. When I begin to write something, I have only a vague sense of what I want it to look like. I may have points I want to make or examples I’m ready to use, but there isn’t a specific end point that when I cross it I’ll know that I’m finished.

Writing is like running in a direction you’ve never been before without any knowledge about how long it will take to get where you’re going – or even where the place you’re trying to get to actually is. But that’s all part of the joy when you finally get there. When you finish a run, you feel great about your accomplishment, but relieved that it’s over. When you finish a story you feel great about your accomplishment, but instead can’t wait to go back and experience it again. And that’s why I’m glad that I’m writing, even if I have no idea where I’m going to end up.

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