I run several mornings a week, but there is a point in the running process when I just don’t want to do it. Those moments of resistance taught me something important about another activity that is important to me—the discipline of writing.
By the time I have been out on my morning run for about 15 minutes, I start to feel pretty good. By then I’m warmed up, physically and mentally. My breathing is settled, my body feels that smooth running rhythm, and my mind is lost in the solitude that running allows. At that point I don’t care if it rains or whether it’s cold or hot outside. I am committed to the run by then, and I will finish it no matter what.
In all my years of running, I don’t remember ever regretting coming out for my run once I am past those first 15 minutes or so. By that point I am always glad that I’m out there and that I didn’t let any excuses hold me back.
When I say that I never regret the run, that is not to say that I “enjoy” it. While I do enjoy being outdoors by the foothills near our home and the feeling that I’m doing something that’s good for me, for the most part running is difficult and painful, and I’m always glad when I reach the end of my course. It’s physically draining and takes time out of my day. But once I finish, I also feel a small sense of triumph that I have gotten the day off to a good start.
For me, the hardest part of the running process takes place about an hour before the run. I wake up early, have breakfast, sit on my recliner and drink coffee and read the newspaper. In those groggy but comfortable moments, I sometimes think, I just can’t do that run today. My mind seeks excuses not to do it. Is it raining? Do I have an early meeting at work that would prevent me? Should I sit here and drink a second cup of coffee and forget the run?
I have learned that this is not the time to make my running decision. Intellectually, I know I’ll be fine once I’m out there, but emotionally I’m still fighting it. I have learned to ignore those urges to skip the run. I turn off those thoughts as I get off the recliner, get dressed for the run, and head out. It takes awhile to convince myself I’ve made the right choice, but if I can just resist the excuses long enough to get outside, then I’ll be glad I did it.
Running Lessons Applied to Writing
Something similar happens in the writing process. Once I have been writing for awhile, say half an hour or so, my brain gets fully engaged in the project, and I don’t want to stop. Writing is “enjoyable” only in ways similar to how running is enjoyable. I’m glad I’m doing it, but it’s also difficult and painful at the same time. I never regret writing once I am fully absorbed in it.
The most dangerous part of the writing process is the half hour or so before I start writing, and the first twenty minutes or so of sitting at the computer, before my brain has fully engaged. As with running, it’s the transition from the comfortable world to the world of the writing project that the lazy part of my mind wants to avoid. If I can resist the urge to give in to excuses not to write (and there are thousands of them, from emails that “need” to be written to household chores that “need” to be done first), then I am likely to have a productive writing period.
With writing as with running, feelings are my enemy during those transition times. I have to anticipate that I will not want to do it, and I have to prepare myself to do it anyway. I can’t claim that I always win this battle, but I have gotten better at it once I learned to identify and fight the thinking processes that prevent me from pushing forward.