Running down your darlings and killing ’em dead

Usually, running feeds my writing, or so I tell myself. On long run days, I’ll frequently assign myself a “thinking” task; say, involving a particularly problematic chapter, reasoning that by the time the run is done, I’ll have it all worked out. Sometimes that works. Sometimes what happens is that I spend my time thinking about how much I want a cold beer.

TGovernor's Cup Marathon Starthis last week though, the tables were turned, with the writing feeding the running. Or, in this case, the lack thereof. On a whim – which should have been my first clue that things would go badly – I signed up for the Governor’s Cup Marathon, in Helena, Montana. It’s a beautiful course, with a long downhill start from Marysville, a lonely spot on the road about 22 miles outside town. Maybe the downhill was more than my knees could handle. All I know is that I was in trouble by Mile 8. I hobbled along to Mile 13.1, for the psychological satisfaction of at least salvaging a half-marathon distance, and called it quits. My sweetie worried that I’d feel like a failure. “I feel great!” I responded. And I did.

 

If I’d kept going, I’d have ended up with an injury. The whole thing reminded me of the way that leaving something in a book that doesn’t work, no matter how much you cherish that particular passage, hurts the end product. Cutting those parts is called “killing your darlings,” and some of my best writing is most bloodthirsty, wielding my delete key with the same relish with which Jack Nicholson swung his ax in “The Shining.”  (That said, I generally save them in a file in case they might work better in some future piece.) 

When I got back from Helena, I switched my registration for the Missoula Marathon over to the Half-Marathon. Lesson learned. Now, if I could just get more focused on my writing during those training runs.

 

            


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