*caution: this post contains running analogies.
I am not a “serious” runner by any means. More serious than some, I suppose, but not over-the-top crazy. 10-15 miles a week is typically my goal, give or take. When I accomplish this goal, I find that the next week it is a bit easier to accomplish the same goal. When I don’t, the next week takes a little more effort. As any good coach (or beloved wife, in my case) will tell you, running is not something that most people are just “good” at on their first try. It is a sport that takes a while to work up to…the first few weeks are painful, but if you want to be a runner (or lose weight, get in shape, etc.) you just have to work through them.
When I first began running I started with a run/walk program…run for X minutes, walk for X minutes. I did this on a two-mile loop for months. My goal was to be able to run the entire loop without taking any breaks. It took a while (I was pretty out of shape). After that, my goal was to run a 5K. After that, a half marathon. You get the point. Now, I typically run about a 5K distance or more each morning. And I typically don’t feel like I’m going to die when I finish. It’s become easy because my body is used to it…I did it often enough and for long enough that it’s now not that big of a deal.
When winter comes to Milwaukee, running is more difficult, either because there’s too much ice or because I simply don’t want to go outside and be cold. During the winter it is not uncommon for me to not run for several days, even a week at a time (or two, if I’m being honest). When this happens, runs hurt a bit more than normal: as my body becomes less accustomed to the task, it takes a little while to build back up to it.
But how does this relate to writing?
Well, I have recently returned to dissertation-writing after about two weeks of research, editing, and other related activities. In doing so, I am reminded of advice that I have come to cherish as empirical fact:
Writing gets easier when you do it often; it gets harder when you don’t.
My dissertation director tells incoming doctoral students to “write a page a day.” Doesn’t matter what it’s about…just write something: pick a newspaper article to comment on; complain about the weather; keep a journal; write a blog; or (obviously) work on your dissertation. It is advice that I have attempted to follow over the past year, and I think that it has paid off. Writing becomes easier (not easy, mind you) when it is part of a daily routine. What I discovered today after my two-week hiatus is that it’s going to take some effort to get going again.