Saturday, July 24, 2010

8-mile Runs, Hills, and Sunburns: My Muse

Mi Papa y Yo

I'm a runner. Did you know? I guess I keep it pretty much to myself. I think I've mentioned it on the blog once or twice before.

It doesn't have anything to do with my writing. Well, except that it's my one source of inspiration that never quits until I do. I have a favorite loop that runs about eight and a half miles around and back home. When I was working on my query for Drats! that's where the hook came from. Later, when I had the chance to pitch to an agent in person, that's where I practiced my pitch.

Yep, out loud. I practiced for 6 or 7 miles, repeating it over and over until my pauses were more for effect than for the fact that I forgot the next line. I went through it by the rhythm of my gait, feet rolling, people staring. It was so worth it. My delivery wasn't perfect, but at least I didn't feel totally unprepared.

Now that I'm working on a new story, I'm using the 8-mile-loop to brainstorm details, plots and subplots, credible motives--all the stuff that evades me as I stare into the white screen of Word. And though it's hard to focus on story when my knees ache and the street swoops upward in a never-ending, gradual climb, this is prime time for my subconscious to seep into my consciousness.

The ideas don't enter in a straight line. It's more like chaos. But my brain stores the chaos in its own way and when I sit here in my computer chair with a word count goal, the story unfolds. It's amazing the details I remember, from crisp leaves chasing me to the color of the ghost in the woods haunting an entire town. The ideas are all there, and they wouldn't be if not for my muse: the noisy quiet of the sidewalk going puth, puth, puth--my own inner metronome manifest on concrete.

If only I could find a way to get these results minus the sunburn. No muse is perfect.


  1. I envy you. I live in the foothills and I walk each morning, but could never run it (Ouch). It's amazing how getting away for an hour from the computer gets the juices flowing and the ideas streaming in. You do need to put sunblock on, though, maybe 80 proof (LOL). Now if I could only remember my chaotic ideas when I get back home like you do. Great post!!

  2. I do the same thing!

    Well, kinda . . . I mostly walk, and my route is only 3.5 miles. 8 miles . . . dang, how long does it take you to run that?! Still, I've walked over 50 miles so far this month! And I purposely do it without my MP3 player specifically because that's how I get story ideas!

    (Do you say hi to the people you cross paths with? I give everyone a howyadoin and I'm trying to find the patterns in which exercisers return my greeting and which just run on by with barely an acknowledgment.)

  3. Brenda - Thanks! I live in a pretty hilly area, but I love it. Since pretty much all marathons have hills, it's great training. And YES, remembering the chaotic ideas is the hard part. I think my obsessive mind helps with that--they just circle and circle until they're deeply ingrained! (The truth about sunscreen: I just hate it.)

    Joe - So nice to see you again! I def do the walk-jog-run thing, especially on the steeper inclines. It takes me an hour and a half to do my slow 8 mile run. I'm lucky I have a super sweet hubz who watches the kids while I exercise. I think that's one reason I enjoy it so much. It's not silent (because there are cars and people), but it's quiet compared to home. And I do say hi to everyone I pass. Actually, I practiced my pitch on a friendly older man named Jim, and there are a few other people I see regularly on my route. Running is too solitary a sport not to make friends along the way!

    Running without an MP3 player = best idea ever for writers. *Take note, MP3 addicts*


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