Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Runner's high vs. writer's high



On Saturday, I ran my first 5K (3.1 miles) race ever--in the rain! I don't love to run; I do it strictly for exercise and the race was really just a way to trick myself into pushing my middle-aged body a bit harder. My goal was simple: to run the whole way, hills included (no walking allowed, no matter how much my muscles and lungs complained). And I wanted, just once, to feel the famous "runner's high".

So how'd I do? Well, I did indeed run the whole way and I finished four minutes faster than my best training time. I crossed the finish line to the loud cheers of my husband and friends, who I think were amazed that I really did it. Then I went home, took a hot shower, and fell asleep on the couch. No adrenalin or endorphin or whatever it's supposed to be rush. No high of any kind. Just a strong sense of relief that I could take a vacation from the tyranny of the treadmill for a week, the reward I'd promised myself.

I couldn't help contrasting that with writing. Yes, there are times I long to escape the equally tyrannical word processor, days when I feel I'm dragging every word out of my brain with a blunt pair of pliers. Then there are other miraculous days when I sit down at my keyboard and look up fifteen frenzied pages later to discover it's time to pick up the children from school. I'm smiling for the rest of the day.

Even greater is the high when I type those two wonderful little words: The End. Of course I delete them before I send the manuscript to my agent or editor but I wouldn't miss keying in those six letters for all the ink in New York City. Last week, I finished the first draft of my romantic suspense novel and the sense of accomplishment was beyond description. I completely embarassed my sixteen-year-old daughter (always fun to do) by dancing down the sidewalk on our way to the orthodontist's office. My joy was just too great to contain in my body; I had to express it outwardly.

Now I'm revising the manscript and that too gives me a rush. There are plenty of things that need fixing but there is also the thrill of reading a line of dialogue or a descriptive phrase so good that I can't believe I wrote it.

I guess some of us are born to run, and some of us are born to write.

What gives you your greatest "high"?

5 comments:

Ann Roth said...

Nancy-
Congratulations on running a 5k race. Wow!
I used to run 6 miles every morning. Now I work out at a gym. Easier on the knees.

I like to balance exercise with writing. It's the only way to keep my behind from spreading to fill the chair. Seriously, I work better when I start the day with exercise. Working out clears my brain and gets my body purring far better than caffeine.

As for the greatest high, like you, I'd have to say writing. Despite the pain and agony of penning some stories (my current wip, for example), I would't trade this job for anything.

Nancy Herkness said...

Wow, Ann--6 miles every day! I'm impressed.

I'm with you: exercise is extremely important to my mental well-being. About three years ago, I felt as though my body was just going to pieces. So I decided to make a real committment to exercising regularly. Mostly, I've stuck to it and my energy level has increased by several orders of magnitude. I feel like a different person physically.

Mind you, I'm not planning to run any marathons--not even any 10Ks!

Allison Brennan said...

Nancy, you took the words right out of my mouth! LOL.

I get an incredible high when I'm in the zone, the pages coming fast and furious, and I know that the story is heading in the right direction. In fact, I can rarely sleep for at least 30 minutes after forcing myself to end a binge . . . I think it's adrendlin, or that my mind is still going. I might not be able to keep my eyes open, but the brain doesn't stop.

And nothing is better than THE END. Even if I have a bunch of editing and clean up to do, I'm giddy when I get to the end. I think because that had always been the hardest part of writing for me . . . finishing what I start.

Allison Brennan said...

Nancy, you took the words right out of my mouth! LOL.

I get an incredible high when I'm in the zone, the pages coming fast and furious, and I know that the story is heading in the right direction. In fact, I can rarely sleep for at least 30 minutes after forcing myself to end a binge . . . I think it's adrendlin, or that my mind is still going. I might not be able to keep my eyes open, but the brain doesn't stop.

And nothing is better than THE END. Even if I have a bunch of editing and clean up to do, I'm giddy when I get to the end. I think because that had always been the hardest part of writing for me . . . finishing what I start.

Nancy Herkness said...

THE END is definitely the best, even though I often miss the characters that I've spent all those months with.

I've been calling the manuscript I just finished "the book that wouldn't end". I kept telling my agent and family and friends that I was "almost done" and then I'd write another fifty pages and STILL not be finished. It was like a mirage, hovering on the horizon, beckoning to me but never getting any closer. When at last the mirage became a solid reality, it felt almost miraculous.