Sunday, 21 August 2016

How Running Helps My Writing by TJ Lebbon

I often compare writing a novel to running a marathon.  I've written more novels than run marathons, but the more I do both, the more I come to understand and appreciate the similarities between the two. 

(Although I've never got chafing writing a novel, and have never run myself into a corner.)

You often start off too fast, full of yourself and confident of your talents, and with a very clear idea of where you're going.  If you've done things right, you don't start off unprepared.  But this doesn't guarantee smooth sailing.  And starting off too fast can sometimes results in you hitting The Wall later on (physical exhaustion and crying on a pavement/plot problems and crying in a corner), as a direct result of not pacing yourself and taking your time at the beginning.

About a third of the way in you've hopefully settled into a comfortable pace, keeping track of your performance (sports watch/word count) so that you're confident you can handle the rest of it (the last 17 miles/middle and end).  You're happy with how it's going.  You're feeling good, in control, and it seems that all that preparation and planning have paid off.  You're even allowing yourself to visualise the ending...

Which is just about the time you hit The Middle Bit.  This is when it starts to hurt.  You wonder why you're doing it, start doubting your talents, and an entirely different activity suddenly seems like the most desirable thing in the world (sitting outside a pub/sitting outside a pub).

Then comes the last bit towards the finish.  I hesitate to use the word sprint, but... sometimes it can be.  You're eager for the finish line to appear.  You want to know how it ends...

That's quite enough of that.  Comparing the acts of writing and running is a bit of fun, but for me there is a much more meaningful, solid, real relationship between the two.

Writing's generally quite a sedentary activity (unless you're my friend Paul Finch who dictates his novels while he's out walking... must try that one day!)  Most people sit at a desk typing or writing, but sometimes you need something different, not only physically but also mentally.  And here's a Surprise Revelation––mental exhaustion can be alleviated by physical exertion!

For me, exercise is that different thing.  I love swimming, biking, and running, and its running especially that seems to clear my head and prime me for another writing stint.  Many writers I know mull over plot points or formulate ideas while they're exercising.  It's a form of disassociation––submit yourself fully to the physical demands of pounding the roads or trails, and let your mind focus on a particular problem or idea.

That doesn't work for me.  For me, running helps my work by blasting away the cobwebs.  I go out and hit the trails (I much prefer trail running, unless I'm training for a specific road race), and let my head clear of the accumulated zombie apocalypses, car chases, confrontations, character assassinations, and convoluted plot points that might have been clogging it up.  My mind wanders as I cover the miles.  Sometimes I get home and can't remember much of what I was thinking about on the run.  And that's fine, because it's got the blood flowing and readied me for another shift at the keyboard.

In his fantastic book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami says, "Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional."  He's talking about both writing and running, and for me it's frequent exercise that helps take the suffering out of the creative process.

The Family Man by T J Lebbon is published by Avon and is out now priced £7.99

You take one risk. Now, those you love must pay …  Dom Turner is a dependable husband, a loving father. A man you can rely on. But it only takes one day to destroy a seemingly perfect life.  Emma thought she could trust her husband, Dom. She thought he would always look after her and their daughter Daisy.  Then one reckless act ends in two innocent deaths and Dom’s family becomes the target of a terrifying enemy.  There’s nowhere to hide. They’re on the run for their lives. And if Dom makes one more wrong move, he won’t have a family left to protect.  

You can find out more information about the author on his website.  You can also follow him on Twitter at @timlebbon

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