The Magic of Running

Before my legs decided they hate me, I ran a lot. I ran out on the street and I ran on the track. I even ran on the treadmill at the gym (though that was my least favorite type of running). And somewhere in there I had what I consider a teeny revelation about, well, life.

Specifically, that there's a kind of magic to anything we do in life.  Pick a goal and move toward it.  Does it seem terribly far away?  That's okay: keep at it.

Running was like that.  I'd go out and run ten miles (oh, my aching legs) and while that was tough, the trick was simply not stopping until I'd run ten miles.  Oh, not at first -- when I was just starting out I'd feel like I was going to puke my lungs out after a couple laps -- but that was the magic of it.

I ran on Monday and then I ran on Tuesday.  This was the summer between my Junior and Senior years of college, mind you.  I went to the gym, which was a five or six minute bike ride from my apartment, every day before and after classes (I'd put on some pounds Junior year and I was working on getting rid of them).

I ran and I ran.  And after a while I could do two miles without wanting to die.  Then three miles.  It wasn't always easy, but the simple realization that so long as I didn't give up, I'd eventually get to where I was going -- even if "where I was going" was nothing more than X number of times around the track -- sort of fascinated me.

There is a magic to it.  Not hocus pocus, but the kind of magic where you create something out of nothing more than desire and a will to create.

Here's where I tie this all together with writing, which really is the point of this blog, after all.

Writing works like that too.  It took me a long time to realize that, but it is.  Nobody sits in front of a computer for 100 hours without taking a break, pounding out a full-length novel in a single sitting.  I'm sorry.  Nobody does that.  I'm not saying it's impossible, just that . . . well, why would you do that?

You sit down at your computer or your notepad or your whatever and you write.  An hour here.  Two hours there. You ask yourself what the short term goal is for the next couple hours and then see if you can't meet it.  Sometimes you do.  And like with running, the more you do it, the more able to do it you become.

But still, there's a magic to sighting that far away goal and telling yourself that's where I'm going.  I can't speak for other writers -- or for painters or actors or musicians or whatevers -- but for me, that's a big part of the appeal of telling a long-form story.  The magic of the long journey.  The sense, when you wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea you'd never have had if you spent that 100 hours pounding away non-stop at the keyboard.

Tonight, you may guess, was a good night for writing.  My characters are surprising me as they reveal themselves. That's another kind of magic, when you begin understanding these people you're writing about, where you don't have to ask what would I like him to do now? because you're already thinking, this is what he wants to do now.

Or not even thinking, because the connection between author and character is so tight there's no daylight between the two of you.  You write and you write and then, when you stop, you stand back and marvel, where did this come from?

And then, the nest night, you try and do it again.