By the time I picked up running fifteen years ago, I already had a special relationship with words and language. In college, one of my majors was French and I’d also gotten a graduate degree in translation and interpretation. I journaled intermittently and was my extended family’s editor-in-chief.
But I only became a writer because I started running. At first, I noted that I could work out all kinds of personal problems while running. The arguments my mind cooked up were -or at least felt- brilliant and incontrovertible: Here’s why we must demand district outplacement for my autistic son and here’s why my husband needs to look for a new job.
Beyond my immediate concerns, insights on bigger issues would manifest too -things like The fight against climate change must begin in the classroom, or Where do socialism and capitalism intersect?
Glimpses of Truth
The insights sometimes feel like truths, or at least like glimpses of truths. Even small observations can spark reflection on big ideas. At some point, I felt compelled to write them down. At first, all the stuff I wrote had to do with parenting Diego, my developmentally disabled son. He was a teenager then and I was coming to grips with my huge denial and guilt.
My husband and my neurotypical son (Andres) began to encourage me to do something with all my notes. Their nudges helped but it was the accumulated mileage that gave me the confidence to click “publish”.
As I started to focus on readers, I discovered the essence of the craft: revising, editing, rewriting — which is what makes the writing have a shot at becoming good enough to be worth reading, regardless of the subject matter.
Running is central to my impulse to write stories. I don’t know exactly where my “glimpses of truth” will lead, but I try to capture them at the moment before they dissipate.
I’ll stop running for a few seconds to dictate my thoughts into my Braintoss app, which then sends them to my email inbox. Sometimes, what I dictate sits in my inbox for months or ends up deleted, but much of it makes it into a story or is the main topic of a story such as this one.
Almost any thought can be patterned in multiple ways. Take this Braintoss-worthy thought I had one recent morning as I ran past a house across the street from a cemetery: I’d like to live across from a cemetery because I’d be frequently reminded that I’ll soon be dead, no matter how long I live.
The topic of death could be framed in a dark, depressing way or in a funny, lighthearted way. Or the word patterns can be so well crafted as to make it both. That’s the genius of, for example, David Sedaris, one of those writers I’ll read even if it’s a 5,000-word essay on colanders.
At this point, I write about all kinds of topics, although Diego continues to figure in a lot of my content. I have developed my craft enough to have one paying client for whom I write posts on teaching and learning. She reached out to me after reading my posts on Medium, and I’ve thought about actively looking for more gigs.
In the meantime, while my body still allows it, I’ll continue to pound away on the ground and let running do its thing. What’s more, you know those people, usually older people, who run slower than you can walk? When my joints and muscles fail me, I’ll be one of them.
A version of this article was originally published in The Writing Cooperative.