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The Joy of Writing and Running

Writing, I took to when very young. But I am sure, it was more as a solace, a way out, than a reason for joy. I need to commit myself to something to really belong to it. That is the way it is with me. I believe, it is the same was with most me. I cannot proceed with things half-measure. If I do undertake any venture in half-measures, I am sure it will die its own death very soon, and certainly not with a bang, possibly not even with a whimper.

When I took to running, I did try to slowly step on the peddle, but could never step beyond the frivolous slow peddling pace. Then one day, much to widespread condemnation, domestic furor, I went out and bought a pair of quite expensive running shoes. I still blush when I remember the embarrassment with which I obtained that for myself. Then went about buying clothes for running, shorts, for the first time anything above the knees. But then, having committed myself to running, I did run. Having reached eleven miles and working towards the goal of Half Marathon in the next two months, I can say, the plan has worked.

The same is with writing. I knew I had to take it beyond the doodles. I also knew I need to fit in the writing within my day job. That didn't leave much room for making stories. I worked with what I had- Ideas. So came out my first collection of essays. And then, I was committed. I wrote and even read with new set of eyes. I would swim deeper into the stories I read, analyzing them for style. I read memoirs (Anthony Trollop's, Stephen King's On Writing, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway), Letters (Kurt Vonnegut, Scott Fitzgerald) not for the voyeuristic pleasure of peeping into their lives, rather to learn their literary habit, how they approached the art. I read books analytically. I read what I wrote also analytically. I looked at the world from a writer's vantage point. 

The steps for writing to me have been similar to that for running.

1. Commit yourself: Get the necessary stuff, get the props to create the pretense. Notebook, books, pens, place to write, soon it will become reality. A notebook is a great thing, advances in the technology notwithstanding. You can open it and scribble whenever you want, even when the Air-hostess tells you to switch off all the electronic items. You will slide into it. 

2. Write a lot: Write regularly or as regularly as life would permit you. Don't be captive to the class or style. Write. On my bad days, sometime I run not more than three miles. But I need to run those three miles. It is better than not running. In writing, as well keep writing. Start a blog. While visitors on the blog is fun, don't hang by it. Write what comes to your mind (just as I am writing this post, or A sketch I wrote couple of weeks back). A sketch is a good way to stay on track, to quote David Ogilvy (in entirely different context) "to make sure that my fingers have not lost their cunning". 

3. Writing needs Discipline: Both Writing and running needs discipline. It is like running your own enterprise, where there is no one watching you except your own self. As in running, I need to plan the coming day, however vaguely to ensure the run in the morning or in the evening. Writing will need similar planning and scheduling, even more important if you have another day job (like me). I have in fact taken to commuting by public transport as much as possible, so as to be able to read on the way to the office, and if the time and crowd would permit, take some notes on the way. 

4. Read A lot: Read as much as you can. For running, I keep reading blogs and articles on running. It keep one motivated. For writers, it is even more necessary. It makes what Stephen Kings calls the tool box for the writer, the words, the rules, the grammar, the  perspective.

5. Announce to the World: Nothing keeps you motivated as much as a sense of personal vanity. By making public announcement (regarding finishing your book or running a marathon) you are committing yourself to your plan and thereby opening yourself for public ridicule. Should you fail to keep the commitment, you at least do not want to be a reason for it. Rest assured, you will not be able to find refuge in self-denials. Writers are brutal judges of themselves. If you have it in you for being a writer, you will be scathing in your self-judgment. Take pride in your writing.

Just as in running, it will seem like work in the beginning. Slowly and slowly, you will look forward for your daily writing and reading as much as look forward for your daily run. Write, by all means write, as Sean Connery, playing the writer William Forrester says in the movie, Finding Forrester - Punch the damn key.

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