A few years ago I ran an ultra marathon. This race was held in the early autumn, a season I associate with two things: running and writing. The weather in Cleveland is perfect for running, chill enough that I don’t sweat but warm enough that I don’t need more than a light jacket. The weather is also perfect for long days spent inside at my writing desk, sipping coffee or hot chocolate, composing fiction.
I often write on long runs. I’ll run and run until my body and mind are relaxed, and then an epiphany will happen. I carry my phone with me when I run, to listen to music and to take notes. When inspiration strikes on a Metroparks bridle trail or on the streets of Ohio City I’ll simply open my notes app, and record some ideas that I’ll include in a story I’m working on.
The running helps tremendously with writer’s block. If I’m stuck in a story, unsure of where to go, I’ll stop worrying about it and simply go on a run. Listening to music, moving my body, I often find that the problem resolves itself. Then I just write down the solution in my notes app, and carry on down the trail.
I know that a lot of famous writers took long walks. Charles Dickens, Søren Kierkegaard, Virginia Woolf, and Henry David Thoreau were all known as avid walkers, while Haruki Murakami has written a book on his running habit. I read that Virginia Woolf used to set out and spend all day wandering wherever she liked, often climbing fences or passing through farmland in the English countryside. Walking has been scientifically proven to ease symptoms of depression and enhance cognitive function. It releases endorphins to move your body. I like running, but I also like walking. Both are good. Honestly, I just like wandering around outside.
A lot of my writing is inspired by this desire to be in motion in the open air. I’m at work on a novel now where the whole plot is a journey on a trail that the main character takes. Like The Lord of the Rings, there’s a lot of walking in it.
And in a way that brings me back to the season of the year. It has been autumn for two days now. Already it is colder, and I have to wear a jacket. I already have a plan for this autumn, and that plan is simple. I will rise each day, and write. And then I will go on a run, or perhaps a walk. That’s it. All the while the leaves will ignite and burn out. Ghosts will wander the suburbs. Pencils will be sharpened and rubber erasers broken in half. We enter into this new season, another autumn, and we find that life continues.
It’s been a messy last few years, and oftentimes reading the news depresses me. But when I’m writing, I can live in my fantasies. And when I’m running, I can live in my moment; the trail and my heartbeat become my whole world. I’m glad that it’s autumn. Here’s to another one. Happy spooky szn, writing szn, running szn, or whatever szn it is to you!