Reading, Writing, Running

Two writers. Two runners. Two quotes.

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate – and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? I know that if I hadn’t become a long-distance runner when I became a novelist, my work would have been vastly different.

From an edited extract of Haruki Murakami’s forthcoming memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (via Chasing Ray).

Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be. In running the mind flies with the body; the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms. Ideally, the runner who’s a writer is running through the land- and cityscapes of her fiction, like a ghost in a real setting.

From “To Invigorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary Feet,” by Joyce Carol Oates.

I was never involved in anything athletic till around 1980 when a friend talked me into training for a 10K with her; the experience was so exhilarating that I have been running (with the occasional time off for injuries) ever since. For a few years I was pretty obsessed. I joined a track club and seriously trained for marathons, half marathons, track meets — I did them all and even have a few trophies for placing in my age group. After a few years and a few injuries I withdrew from competition, but kept running for myself. Daily if possible.

And running is glorious for me. It is when I brood. Imagine. Create. Contemplate. Dream. Even these days when I often listen to books while running. But not always. It depends. When I have something on my mind, a good run is the best place for me to work it out. Many are the memos and emails that I have written while running and not sent. Whole speeches have been developed as I jogged along the Hudson; tricky articles have suddenly become clear as I passed the dog run. My run is the best place for me to sort out difficult situations at school. It is where I get my ideas. (Note to self: when I’m a famous writer and doing school visits, tell them that!)

Does anyone else find running or something similar helping them this way?


Filed under Reading, Writing

4 responses to “Reading, Writing, Running

  1. Yes! I run every day, except with a team. We don’t talk much, though. I think about stories that I could write, but I never write them down.


  2. Absolutely. On my blog today ( there are a couple of links to articles in which I talk about the connection between writing and running.

    There is a mystical connection for me. I think it has something to do with how running moves the energy through my body and mind, energy that gets muddy and sluggish when i sit for too long.

    great post!


  3. I saw and loved the Murakami article… thanks for providing the chance to react to it.

    Absolutely yes to the idea of running and creative work. Especially this time of year, when I have to get up early to run before it gets too hot. It gets me properly into my body, which then lets me get properly back out of it when I get to my desk.

    Also, can’t underestimate the extent to which a little physical weariness helps suppress late-afternoon restlessness.


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