Why do writers so often love to run?

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March 15, 2017 – MCAT CARS Passage

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

Freedom, consciousness, and wildness: Running offers writers escape with purpose. When confronted with “structural problems” in her writing as the result of a “long, snarled, frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work,” Joyce Carol Oates would ease her writing blocks with afternoon runs. For Oates and many other writers, running is process and proves especially useful for the type of cloistered, intensive work they do. But in many ways running is a natural extension of writing. The steady accumulation of miles mirrors the accumulation of pages, and both forms of regimented exertion can yield a sense of completion and joy. Through running, writers deepen their ability to focus on a single, engrossing task and enter a new state of mind entirely—word after word, mile after mile.

While on sabbatical in London in 1972, a homesick Oates began running “compulsively; not as a respite for the intensity of writing but as a function of writing.” At the same time, she began keeping a journal that ultimately exceeded 4,000 single-spaced, typewritten pages. “Running seems to allow me, ideally, an expanded consciousness in which I can envision what I’m writing as a film or a dream,” she wrote. Oates still runs along “a country road that goes up a hill” where she feels “there will be ideas waiting for me … If I just sat in a room it wouldn’t be the same thing.” Don DeLillo also relished the transporting effects of running after his morning writing sessions: “This helps me shake off one world and enter another. Trees, birds, drizzle—it’s a nice kind of interlude.”

Whether their reasoning is practical or spiritual, many writers run with ritualistic devotion. The short-story writer Andre Dubus “ran for the joy and catharsis of it,” but like Oates and DeLillo, his running was also deliberately timed. Dubus kept a log book that detailed his daily exercise output and writing word count. His method came from an interpretation of Ernest Hemingway’s dictum to stop a story mid-sentence, perform physical exercise, and then return to the work the next day.

Why do writers so often love to run? Running affords the freedom of distance, coupled with the literary appeal of solitude. There’s a meditative cadence to the union of measured breaths and metered strides. Writers and runners both operate on linear planes, and the running writer soon realizes the relationship between art and sport is a mutually beneficial one. The novelist Haruki Murakami, a former Tokyo jazz-bar manager who would smoke 60 cigarettes a day, started running to get healthy and lose weight. His third novel had just been published, but he felt his “real existence as a serious writer [began] on the day that I first went jogging.” Continual running gave him the certainty that he could “make it to the finishing line.”

Murakami’s sentiment reminds me of the LSD—long, slow distance—of my college track days. My coach sent us on long afternoon runs without prescribed routes, simply giving us the directive of time. Once I built a tolerance for distance my runs became incubators for writing ideas. The steady, repetitive movement of distance running triggers one’s intellectual autopilot, freeing room for creative thought. Neuroscientists describe this experience as a feeling of timelessness, where attention drifts and imagination thrives.

Oates enjoyed this mental freedom and “special solitude” while running during her youth. She went through orchards, “through fields of wind-rustling corn towering over my head, along farmers’ lanes and on bluffs … These activities are intimately bound up with storytelling, for always there’s a ghost-self, a ‘fictitious’ self, in such settings. For this reason I believe that any form of art is a species of exploration and transgression.” Exertion frees this fictitious, creative other, enabling the mind of writers who run to wander without inhibition. Writers tap into this ghost-self whenever they construct narratives and characters; writers who run have the benefit of a first draft on foot.

“One of the luckiest things that can happen to a writer,” Reynolds Price notes, “is the gradual acquisition of the sense that one is doing it just for the sake of doing it, that it’s become a kind of lonely long-distance running which nonetheless has its own huge rewards.” Price is correct that this acquisition is gradual. The former United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan captures the complicated feelings of both writers and runners: “I like to run. Actually, I don’t really like to run but I’ve done it for a million years.”

Writers, like runners, often like the idea of their pursuit more so than the difficult work. The appeal of a running regimen is how the miles not only condition the body, but free up a space for the creative mind. Which is perhaps why some writers, like Malcolm Gladwell, find themselves returning to running after a long absence. Gladwell, who recently completed the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City in 5:03 minutes, sees the utilitarian impact running has on his projects: “I very explicitly use this time to work out writing problems.”

Writers and runners use the same phrase—“hit my stride”—to describe the moment when exertion and work become joy. Writers stuck on a sentence should lace their sneakers and go for a jog, knowing that when they return, they will be a bit sweatier, more tired, but often more charged to run with their words.

Adapted from theatlantic.

Review

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This was an article on Literature.

Have a great day.
Jack Westin
MCAT CARS Instructor.
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36 Comments


  1. MIP: Running for writers=expand the mind+creativity+imagination

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  2. Running is a function of writing: gives writers time to imagine and create new ideas.

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  3. Running for writers = escape + nature extension of writing + beneficial for writing + incubators for ideas + freedom & solitude

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  4. MIP: Running = ease writers + expand consciousness

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  5. running = writing, running increases imagination

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  6. Running=writing benefit + expands consciousness to promote creativity

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  7. There is a mutual beneficial relationship between running and writing ; writers are like runners

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  8. Running reenergizes the creative thought of the writer since it is, in many ways, synonymous to the art of writing

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  9. Writing and running go hand in hand. They’re both solitary pursuits that at first are done with a specific goal in mind. Yet as the individuals evolve in the process they grow to appreciate it for its own sake, almost as a necessary evil and joy tied together. It’s relatable to most any artistic pursuit that doesn’t require a specific end goal in mind. They all can exist as therapy that release a higher quality of work.

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  10. MIP: running = escape + beneficial for writing; writing = running
    Tone: neutral

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  11. Writing and running are interconnected; running = escape for writers and it opens writing ideas + creativity + imagination

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  12. running = evokes imagination + sense of completion

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  13. MI: Running + Writing = Creativity Increase, go hand in hand

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  14. Running parallels, is an extension of and inspires writing

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  15. running —> new/unrestricted ideas + extension of writing

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  16. (1) Running = good for writers
    (2) Writing + running = similar

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  17. Running = good for writers = more creative, inspiration and freedom. Runners and writers have similar mindsets. Author seems to describe concept of running as it positive impact on writers

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  18. MI: Running = purposeful for a writer (RTA: Oates)

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  19. Running = extension of writing + incubator for ideas. Many writers run. Writing = running and writers = like runners.

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  20. running= helps with writing
    author= + experience w/running

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  21. Running=beneficial for writer’s creativity

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  22. running = helps writer + imagination thrives and can recharge a writers block

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  23. Running for writers = freedom + creativity; author = neutral

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  24. Running mirrors writing in several ways and helps writers in their work / Running allows writers to enter a different world /Running is a ritual for writers / It helps to spur creativity and imagination that is necessary for their work/ Running is not only a physical but a mental exertion as well / Author advocates running for writers (last para)

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  25. MIP: Running = purpose (RTA: Oates)+ writing (CW) = increases imagination

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  26. MIP: run is like writ and run greatly help with writ
    tone: +

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  27. Running=ext of writing
    Running renders mental freedom
    Running=> writing imagination

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  28. Running -> free space for creative mind + solitude -> beneficial for writing

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  29. MIP: writing extension running; writing + sport = positive relationship

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  30. running is function of writing, which allows for creativity.

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  31. The author pushes writers that are stuck to run in order to help their writing by freeing their minds and being alone.

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  32. MIP: running is an extension of writing; tone = neutral

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  33. jogging=more creative+mental freedom+sense of gradual achievement.

    Reply

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