October 31, 2010

Challenging ourselves - in writing & running

Tomorrow marks the first day of National Novel Writing Month (you can still join). Referred to as NaNoWriMo, it described as "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

I am participating for the first time. It's not because I have trouble writing - I am working on two non-fiction manuscripts, making great progress. (If you suffer from writer's block or no longer enjoy your writing, check out my book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing.)

My participation is motivated by the lure of the novel. As a longtime journalist and author of three non-fiction books, I am intrigued but also somewhat mystified by fiction. In 2005 I began on a novel  about a super-female triathlete who beats everyone, including the guys, but stopped after 13,000 words.

Recently I have begun publishing instalments of this novel, working title Ironwoman, on this blog (click here to read them). I decided that NaNoWriMo would be a great motivator and reason to try my hand at another one but this time commit to finishing a full draft.

It will be fun, if challenging to produce an average of 1700 words a day each for 30 days.

As it happens, I also have five days left until I start my first 100-kilometre road race. I am an experienced marathon runner, so I have covered the 42.2km distance many times, but the furthest I have run so far is 50 miles (80km).

One reason I am looking forward to running for most of the day this Saturday is that it will give me a lot of time to think about the novel I am writing for NaNoWriMo. Another is that it will be a great break from the mental challenge of producing so many words of fiction, something I am not familiar with.

I started running in the same year that I began working as a professional journalist. Since then I have found that there is a great balance if I push myself physically as well as mentally. In fact, one of the books I am working on is about the similarities between the approach to writing and running (I'll write a post on that soon).

For me writing and running are part of my lifestyle and of who I am. Hence my NaNoWriMo screen name and for this website, The Running Author. I use my regular runs (and daily walks) as brainstorming sessions for my writing. It just happens. Thoughts flow different when you walk or run.

In a way I am holding a meeting with myself as I run or walk, and I consider it part of my writing time because I always, always come up with a new idea, a fresh take on an issue, an answer to my question. And sometimes an epiphany.

Many writers have talked about the benefit of walks and exercise for their creativity, among them Henry David Thoreau. Whether you're participating in NaNoWriMo too, or whether you simply need a boost of creativity, try a walk or a run.

Even a short 15-30-minute walk makes all the difference. It's amazing to see what you come home with, and you'll be refreshed and energized.

No comments: