Running Makes Me a Better Writer; I Bet It Would Work For You, Too.

From Flickr user Robin McConnell
From Flickr user Robin McConnell

I used to feel outright hostile toward fitness/body progress shared on social media.*

So I asked myself why.

All I could come up with was dumb fear that:

a) I will be judged when I backslide,

b) I will be judged because I am still chubby, even though I exercise,

c)I will become one of those one-gong bangers and ONLY post about fitness.

Here is why I have decided to change.

a) Fuck people who judge.

b) see letter a.

c) Why would I ever worry about that? I am far too interesting with too many pursuits and obsessions to limit myself to posting about fitness.

In case you are also loathe to mention progress on social media, I encourage you to adopt a self-restricting policy: I allow myself one weekly post (on Facebook only) about fitness, typically after my first running workout of the week, and typically discussing my amazement that I continue to make progress and it ain’t even that ouchy.

This one had twenty-five likes + a half dozen comments
This one had twenty-five likes + a half dozen comments

NOW.

All the exercise bloggers and google searches you can imagine will tell you that exercise helps you sleep better.

That is truth.

I get good rest, and I require fewer hours of it, then I wake up with beautiful, fully-formed thoughts happening in my head, which often, eventually, make it to the page.

Running between 1.5 and 2 hours each week with increasing intensity has, in the first five weeks alone, given me back more energy and a more whole sense of wellness than two years of more Zumba than that (even though I still love Zumba and go when I am not feeling too shin-splinty/muscle achy).

More energy means I do things–even dumb small things like bending over and picking up a sock, or putting shoes in the closet or doing the dishes instead of sitting round thinking about how I’m too bushed to do those things. My body feels better, so I am more efficient which means, you guessed it, more time for writing.

And also more food. I love food.

Running is trusting your body.

Writing is trusting your mind.

This is a symbiotic relationship, and weekly practice helps me extend that self-trust to other areas which is a thing I struggle with.

Getting sweaty reduces stress.

Reducing stress reduces anxiety.

Lower anxiety means fewer excuses about why I am not writing, fewer minutes wasted fighting with my inner critic.

And sharing about it on Facebook means I get support and kudos from friends. I hear their stories about running which helps keep me going. I remember that my friend who runs the NY Marathon told me she didn’t lose a bit of weight for six months after she started running, that another friend started with Couch to 5K three years ago and now runs triathlons. And then, people share with me things like this, to which I shall submit before summer’s end. And this, which gave me laughs and warmed me from my bellybutton to my nose, twice.

Also, the most helpful thing I’ve ever found on reddit is the running subreddit. LOADS of good info and experiences.

What about you? Do you run? Do you post about fitness on Facebook? What do you think of all this?

*I’m still not sure about the weight loss progress bathroom mirror selfies, ugh.

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Holding the Disk At Bay: The Power of Clear(er) Self-Perception

From Flickr user Dani P.L.
From Flickr user Dani P.L.

The current working title of my memoir is I Am Coming In From the Other Side: This is Me Finding My Way.

While drafting, which took place over a couple of years, starting in mid 2011, I had to get into sticky, uncomfortable places with myself. I had to think hard and look hard about choices I’ve made and why I’ve made them and whether or not I’m proud of those choices. I had to take a hard, honest look at interactions I’ve had with other people and figure out what was really going on.

I had to think about my parents, a lot.

There were moments of triumph and pride and breakthrough, yes.

But there were also dark moments of crippling self-scrutiny, self-pity, and clear, sharp anger with myself, with situations I put myself in, frustration with myself at all the things I couldn’t possibly have known.

There were moments during the drafting that I felt clearer than I’ve ever felt.

But then, after, about a third of the way through the fifth or sixth round of substantive revisions, and at a fortuitous break in my generally high levels of productivity, I felt like the clarity shattered around me. Like I was standing inside a light bulb that someone BBed.

I understood, beyond intellectually, the titular metaphor in Plath’s The Bell Jar.

I understood the impulse to end it all.

Those two things scared the shit out of me.

I spent too much time on TV and not enough on writing or being a connected mother and partner. I wept what felt like constantly. I couldn’t even think about myself, but I worried about myself unrelentingly. It was like being numb but in deep, un-feelable pain at the same time.

So I started going to therapy, which was a thing I’d been thinking about doing for a years.

I now feel  like I’d been fingering the edges of this great disk of anxiety that was just kind of hanging out inside me, barely holding it at bay while it influenced me in ways I didn’t recognize and couldn’t understand.

I have only just begun to untangle this with my counselor.

But I have reinhabited myself; my self-comfort, self-confidence has started to return. My focus on the important day-to-day stuff sharpens with startling ease and quickness. I found my way into my MFA paper. I have begun to learn how to recognize and stop specious feelings of guilt. I have started to practice, at my counselor’s urging, really looking at what’s happening when I have a stress response or when I get a big feeling, so I understand triggers and can use them for good instead of evil.

Nothing in my life is different except for my understanding of what’s going on in my body. I needed help to figure it out.

I also needed the honest desire to do so.

I feel powerful and alive and hopeful in ways I have not for some time. Getting these back are like re-encountering old, dear friends with whom everything is easy and good.

So you’ll be able to imagine the empathy I felt when watching this documentary trailer: The Brainwashing of my Dad. I wish I could give money to the Kickstarter Campaign, but I missed it.

My dad experienced a similar thing ten years after Jen Senko’s dad. I cannot WAIT to watch that movie, to look at the locus of my dad’s strident, wrong-headed politics, to have affirmation that the religious right (or whatever its most current name is–T-baggers?) are intellectually irresponsible.

The ideological, philosophical, and religious differences between me and my parents, and my personal, persistent inability to shove myself into a box that would please them, are really the root of my desire to write  a memoir at all.

And even though it has been hard and intense, I’m really glad I had the freedom to do it, I’m really glad for the lessons about myself I’ve learned in the process, and I am wildly grateful that I live in a time where even poor people can get health insurance and afford to go to counseling.

More Things For Writey Folk: Resources

Hi!

These last two Wednesdays have been gobbled up by life. Yesterday, I was going to tell you the story of Child’s sleepover + the strange overheard conversations + the way in which my child’s personality and her friend The Anarchist’s personality are well-suited for sustained play. I was going to post pictures of egg dyeing and everything.

Alas, egg dyeing happened precisely 3 hours later than it was supposed to, so I set them up with three dozen eggs, 9 colors, some “magic crayons,” and made dinner in the adjacent room without remembering to take pictures, which would surprise nobody who knows me.

In productive news, I made a new logo, see?

new logo!
new logo!

And now I’m going to share more writey folk stuff.

  • There are a lot of writing workshops available at community arts centers. Check your local one. If you live near me (North Central PA), you should keep checking here + subscribe to my blog so you get an email every time I post, I will post details and perhaps even my next newsletter, if I can figure out how to get the dang subscribe widget to work. A number of folks have contacted me about the workshops I offer at a local college and why they never run (not my rules), so I’m going rogue (again), and I’ll be offering Wednesday night workshops starting at the end of June at The Pajama Factory. Details to come, but in the meantime, you can make suggestions or requests here.
  •  The Review Review. SIGN UP FOR THEIR NEWSLETTER. It is special. This is tidily organized information you need to break into the lit mag scene, or stay sane in it, including job opportunities, even paid ones (a rarity for us writey types), and tons of useful, enlightening articles, posts, and interviews, like this one by my good writey friend Beth Bates. (tech note: at the time of this writing, Beth’s website proper was not loading, I suspect server maint, and I didn’t want to send ya’ll on a wild goose chase. But please do check her website, http://www.bethbateswritingediting.com, it is bea-you-tiful).
  • Lit Reactor. I found out about these energetic, passionate humans at AWP. They gave me a free T-shirt. Aside from a really cool logo and turbo-professional website, this is a place full of what seem to be excellent, targeted writing workshops available online. Online learning ain’t for everybody, I reckon, but if you live in like BF North Dakota or something, maybe it’s your only option, or maybe you’re too busy to get to a class, or maybe you just love, love, love to interact with people in modern-day forums (online learning is fun and flexible). PLUS, their “magazine” tab is chock full of humorous blog posts, earnest commentary, and essays about craft. It’s important to read essays about craft if you want to be a writer. It’s important to read all the time if you want to be a writer.

Thanks for your patience!

See you next week!

Three Neato Inspiring Things for Writey Folk

From Flickr user Cali4Beach
From Flickr user Cali4Beach
  • First, Button Poetry. I’m sending you to their foundation page, but there are loads of wonderful, educational, inspiring, well-performed, energetic pieces on their YouTube channel.
  • Next, American Life in Poetry, a free column edited by former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. It’s lovingly posted each week, and is a great place to find new poets to read/love/internet stalk.
  • 750 Words is a semi-social online writing experience. It is not for blogging or for writing for public consumption. A lot of people who want to write have told me they’re paranoid about sharing their work, but that they’re at a loss for maintaining accountability. This is a site to help build the discipline to write every day, based on the concept of Morning Pages. You can make friends, get rewards, and have “friends” or writers you follow. Try it free for 30 days, after that it’s $5/month–cheaper than 3 pages a day worth of pens and paper for sure.