Thursday, January 13, 2011


I've never been much of a gym-goer. The first time I worked up the nerve to visit the campus fitness center at college, I spotted the guy I was dating engaged in floor exercises with some sweatless tramp in sleek Spandex hotpants and tumbling blond curls. By tragic coincidence, I had the second act of Madama Butterfly on my Walkman, and as I cycled back through the eucalyptus-scented evening to my dorm, eyes blurred with tears, I longed only for a ceremonial sword on which to impale myself.

After that, I stuck to running.

Sure, it's hard work. The weather rarely cooperates, and I've learned to take gritty joy in pushing myself through heat, drizzle, bitter cold or blowing snow. My schedule is often tight, and I've had to discipline my body to a drumbeat pace, through woods and over hills, to return home in time for preschool dropoffs and birthday cupcake bakeathons.

But when fellow writers ask me how I manage to raise four kids and write novels and keep up my running, I answer that I couldn't do the first two without the third. That time on the pavement is my battery recharger, my idea factory, the forty-five minutes in which my creative blocks fall away and every plot conundrum finds its perfect resolution. I run alone, without a companion or an iPod: it's just me and my brain, getting to know each other again. By the time I've showered and dressed, I've made a crucial new insight into a character's motivation, or mapped out a story arc, or written the next scene in my head.

Which, all things considered, is much more productive than impaling myself on a ceremonial sword.

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