Sometimes a different perspective does wonders.

I run everyday, in part because I love to run. But I also run because that is when the stories start flowing in my mind. Great dialogues and interesting plot twists, characters that jump off the page and into my heart. I forget most by the time I get a pen in my hand; that seems to be the nature of my creative process. Sometimes though, I hit upon something that will not leave me alone. And that is why I run. For moments like those. In a moments like those I feel like a writer. My doubts have been pounded out on the pavement and the blank pages are blank no more. At least in my head.

I try to maintain that feeling and that confidence as I sit down in front of the computer later in the day. Writing should be as easy as running. One step at a time, one word at a time. Five miles and five pages later, I am exhausted, but exhilarated.

That got me to thinking about how I can change my thinking so that writing is as easy as running. And that made me examine my running. Here is what I came up with.

Keep your ears open. In some cases it saves your life. I just heard on the radio about a woman who was killed at an intersection when she failed to hear the car honking because her ipod was too loud. Keeping your ears open can save your writing too. An overheard conversation could spark a story idea. And an open ear will help your characters’ dialogue sound real at the same that it reveals character. Nothing is worse than poor dialogue.

Persistence. This is the one thing no runner or writer can do without. Days will come when you do not feel like running. Your legs hurt. Your favorite TV show is on. You just ran ten miles yesterday. But you do not give in to that. You get up at six in the morning and pull on your running shoes even when you do not feel like it. When you hit a wall at three miles, you push through it because you still have two more miles to get back to your house. This is persistence. You body tells you one thing. Your mind is willing to give in, but something else inside you will not. And that is how you start running, how you run every day, and how you finish every run.

Writing is something that many people quit. They start, and never finish. They have all the good intentions in the world, but somewhere along the way they decide that trying was enough. They tried, they failed, and that is good enough. But a novel never gets done that way. You have to push through the tough chapter that you cannot seem to finish. Just because you do not know what Jack says to Jill to get her to climb the hill, does not mean you will not know tomorrow that Jack says he loves her and that the fattest diamond ring is sitting up there in red velvet box. Keep searching, keep writing, keep persisting.

Running is a solitary endeavor. As is writing. Most miles pass alone, and even if you start with someone, they pull ahead or fall behind and you are alone once more. You are the one that has to bear the weight and the dead legs and the unfinished miles. You cannot pass the baton off to someone else. Writing is no different. For a good story to come to life, the writer has to get away into their own mind where the story, the character, the whole world lives. That is not easily done when the kids are knocking on the door wondering why this bug is blue and if daddy knows where the football is. That is not easily done with your wife holding your hand. Even in Starbucks, you retreat into yourself until the world around you disappears and the one in your head comes alive.

Runners see what can be. They can see slimmer waistlines that are still fat. They can see finish lines that are miles off yet. They can see good health on the first step or even when they are still in bed. Writing has to be the same. Writers can see worlds that others cannot see. They can create characters that others do not know, but want to. They can see stories when they stare at blank pages. They hold in their hands a finished book even before it has been written or published. Then they go make what they see a reality.

© Seth Crossman