There are many reasons that I love to run. I love to run because it allows me to be outside, taking in fresh air while I do something good for my body. I love to run to relieve stress and clear my mind. I love the camaraderie that exists between fellow runners who pass each other on the streets. More importantly, I appreciate the running partner “what happens on the run, stays on the run” relationships that fuel me almost as much as the run itself. Finally, I love running because it allows me to unplug from “everything else” that exists in the confines of my house or workplace, and the technology and distractions that surround me wherever I go. When I run, I run. I don’t try and squeeze in six thousand other things while I’m doing it.
Running for the sake of running, and only running. What a concept.
The thing is, in all other areas of my life, I rarely focus on and/or do, one thing at a time. When I’m driving, I’m drinking coffee and listening to the radio. At school, I’m simultaneously teaching, disciplining, planning my next move, and trying to keep my cool. While watching TV, I’m often folding laundry, picking up the house, or doing my nails. I return phone calls while grocery shopping. Yesterday my husband looked at my desk with its laptop and iPad side by side, and said, “Who needs two computers running right in front of them? What is that all about?” I retorted that he wasn’t a writer and didn’t understand. But maybe it was me that didn’t.
Yes, I am a writer, which means I spend a great deal of my time behind a computer or ipad (okay both) writing. This also means that I spend a lot of my time reading about ways I can be a better writer. But the real truth is that even though I am this “big writer,” I’ve realized lately that I’m not all that efficient when I sit down to write. Yes, I may be typing away on an article or chapter, but more often than not I’m typing away in between multiple email checks, website searches, texts, and water or food breaks.
In addition, like many other writers, my passion to become a better writer (and paid one) is contradicted by the fact that I have a life full of things I need to do and people I want to spend time with. So many things occupy my days, that by the time I get to my own writing, I don’t focus like I should.
All of these grand epiphanies came to me in one of my moments of researching how to become a better writer. I stumbled upon a podcast of a social media expert/writer who was talking becoming a more efficient writer. Here was a writer who was successful in carving out actual writing time in the midst of the “business side” of his business- the social media, housekeeping end. Bottom line- he made rules for himself. When he sat down to write, he wrote. He turned his phone off. He forbade himself to go online for any reason. He brought all of the necessities- food, water, Kleenex… anything he’d need for the designated amount of time he was there. Then, quite simply, he sat down and wrote. He didn’t get up until he accomplished what he needed to do.
At 9:00 one night, I decided to try his strategy, because I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with a number of writing projects with fast approaching deadlines. Unfortunately, I was also very tired. I heard my mom’s voice playing in my head, “You’re burning the candle at both ends… “ Even as a voice in my head, my mom was right. Yet the problem was, I needed to keep burning that candle, at least for that night, or I wouldn’t finish my projects. That’s when the idea hit me. The candle would be my symbol to focus on what’s right in front of me- my writing. Lighting it would signify the start of my session, blowing it out meant I was done. In between, I vowed to partake in no monkey business whatsoever.
For the record, that strategy worked that night, and I continue to use it to train myself to become a more focused writer. Because I light the candle, I take control of my commitment to be fully present and focused. It’s me choosing my action, and as a result, it’s becoming easier to do. The cool thing is… I’m beginning to recognize the other areas of my life where I’m not so focused and could use a candle that burns just at one end.
This task is also making it more clear as to why I love to run… because running is a time when I’m completely devoted to the task at hand. Even when the runs aren’t my best, and are ridden with aches and pains, or just plain boredom… they are all I’ve got at that moment.
Kind of a lot like life.
So, whether you are out on a long run or short walk, remember friends, that you can only take one path at a time. If you are always looking for alternate routes, you’ll never appreciate the beauty that appears right in front of your face.
Here’s to the beauty of the run for the sake of the run.