I have just enrolled on a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) ran by the University of Queensland called ‘Write 101x: English Grammar and Style‘. I hope the course will improve my grasp of grammar and polish my writings. One of assignments the course sets it to write a short post reflecting on something raised in the material thus far. The early sessions set up the importance of good writing and grammar as well as some of the difficulties in getting to a stage of proficiency. For this assignment I reflected upon the writing process and its synergies with the process of running. Given that topic, I deemed it suitable to post a version of it here also.
If the relationship between running and writing is something that interests you, check out the thoughts of some others who have written about it much more intelligently than what is below:
- Running and writing: why doing one helps with the other – Françoise Harvey
- Time to write, so lace up your running shoes – Bob McDonnell
- What Writing and Running Have in Common – Rachel Toor
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
“The process of writing is fascinating. It is something that everyone does differently, relates to differently and has different ideas about. The course material has already alluded to some of the ways in which the process of writing has been thought about and it is the relationship between running and writing that most piqued my interest. I take such an interest because I am both a runner and a writer, and a runner-writer. To be more specific, I am a geography PhD student who studies running, writes about running and often thinks about writing whilst running and vice-versa. My experiences of both have provided me with some insights about their similarities and differences. Over this brief blog post, I would like to present my process of running as an analogy for the process of my writing.
To begin – a confession. I run much less frequently than I should and whilst this is bad for my fitness, it is useful in establishing this analogy. My writing habits also lack any sense of routine or frequency, only writing when assignments and papers require. Lacking habituation, the most difficult thing I find about both running and writing is just starting. Putting that trainer-enclosed foot out of the door is as difficult a task as putting that digital pen to the digital paper. You never quite feel ready, there is always some reason to delay and some procrastination you could be getting on with. Relatedly, I find that both processes take a lot of planning. I never set out on a run without wearing the appropriate clothing, an idea of how quickly I am going to go and with a route mapped and memorised. Similarly, I find it difficult to start writing without a coherent plan of what I am going to write, how long it is going to be and when I want to get it done by. Such prerequisite planning only seems to add to the difficulty I experience in actually starting.
Once the proverbial foot is out of the door or proverbial pen on the paper however, I quickly find my rhythm with both. Just as the feet keep pounding, the words begin to flow. Both processes become easier with practice and habit, that flow is found more easily and the barriers to starting gradually diminish. Running and writing both tend to occur in isolation, an aspect that gifts me the time and space to actually think, clear the jumbled thoughts and end with more coherent and focussed ideas. Running and writing are both thinking-practices. They share other commonalities also, most notably in the skills they gift those doing it. Both are practices that teach discipline; bestowing endurance, perseverance, and resilience upon the runner or writer. The honing of these skills is mutually beneficial and the number of writers who extol the virtues of running to their practice is testament to this.
The analogy does breakdown as we near the end of the process however. Whilst the gaining of rhythm, thinking-space, and discipline can be infinitely advantageous to writing, when running my body will eventually tire, the rhythm become more uneasy, and thinking-space become filled with thoughts of stopping. I rarely finish a run wishing to do more. When a piece of writing is complete however, I still feel like I have more to give. My task now is to habituate writing so this desire to continue can be harnessed, forever improving my writing skills and reducing the difficulty in just starting. As for running, well, I’ve probably earned at least a little lie down before attempting that again.”