Run With the Passion of a Writer

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. – Tennessee Williams

This is the only running blog you would find a header that reads, “Run with the Passion of a Writer,” and there is no doubt 95% of runners who read it scratch their head. The only runners who would understand the header are runners who just happen to be writers.

Writing my memoir about the marathon, Twenty-four Years to Boston, required more endurance than running an actual marathon. I’m sure that statement blows your mind. It is as outlandish as this quote, “The best running advice I ever got was from a four-year-old.” I stand by my words.

I was a paperboy, car wash grunt, stock boy at a beer distributer, Teamster, shipyard welder, manager and industry analyst, and writing is the hardest job I’ve ever had. It is likely counterintuitive to a non-writer that writing on a piece of paper or tapping on a keyboard takes more endurance than pounding out 26.2 miles on foot, but it’s true. It is impossible to comprehend until you commit to being a writer, just like a runner committing to run a marathon.

As a young student, the nuns would often make me write “I must sit still in class” one hundred times. I believe this is how most people would describe writing, or at least punishment—likely the same thing to a non-writer. You sit down and jot, jot, jot on paper or tap, tap, tap on a keyboard, and then—PRESTO! you are a writer. If you are interrupted in the process, no big deal, just pick up from where you left off later on. It’s like running 10K (6.2 miles) four times per week and then thinking you can run a marathon. Not going to happen.

Consider writing a coherent story—a short one, say sixty-thousand words. Maintain a plot throughout, a plot that twists and turns, yet winds up at a satisfying destination. Keep a consistent voice, point of view and dialogue. Create realistic characters with whom readers can relate and feel empathy. Mix in an alternate theme or two, and intermingle back story, imagery, hyperbole, irony, some stream of conscious, juxtaposition, pathos and symbolism, and don’t get discouraged at forty-five thousand words. Get the picture?

Runners can train to run 26.2 miles. They know what to expect when they get to mile 23. A writer might get to chapter 23 of a book and realize there are disconnects with scenes in chapter 13 and 17 that blow the destination of the story right out of the water. It’s maddening, like “hitting the wall” with one mile to go. But if the writer is relentless, focused and has passion, he will push through to the end—the finish line.

This is a long way of saying “run with the passion of a writer,” makes perfect sense. Writing is hard work. It takes commitment, dedication and concentration—but is rewarding as hell. Just like running.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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7 Responses to Run With the Passion of a Writer

  1. I love it, what a wonderful post. There is something incredibly demanding and draining about writing for real, which I’m only just beginning to touch on – and indeed the rewards are equally extreme. Makes me feel better reading this post – I feel seen and understood and no longer a ‘wuss’ who just sits and plays with a pencil and pad. And no, that’s not all I do…l happen to love gardening and walks too…but running? Well, not yet…


    • Jim Brennan says:

      Harula, I may be a runner, but walking is just as liberating. I read your blog and noted that Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” I also just watched a video with prolific author Ian McEwan in which he talks about getting ideas and inspiration from hiking. Thanks!


  2. Like x Like says:

    Yes! Agree. Writing takes a lot of patience and frustration combined to churn out a good article. And writer’s block is sometimes always hit you at the wrong time. For me, to cultivate and maintain productivity, I like to listen to good music and a chilled glass of orange juice to get the ideas coming.


    • Jim Brennan says:

      I read recently that writing doesn’t happen with pen in hand or sitting at the keyboard, but when you are engaged in other activities like gardening or cleaning the house. Listening to music is stimulating, or gardening, cycling… or running. We are all individuals and are inspired by different stimuli.


  3. Reblogged this on runwritedig and commented:
    Jim is the real deal. A fellow runner and writer, he hits the nail on the head, with this blog post. This story on running with the passion of a writer was so good, I had to re-blog it to my own blog. I hope you enjoy it too.


    • Jim Brennan says:

      Thanks for the reblog. And how ironic, I spend my spare time my organic garden. Had some great hot peppers this past season, asparagus didn’t fare as well. One of my first published articles was about passing along the passion for gardening to future generations. Your RunWriteDig is a wonderful resource and entertaining.


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