Running—and writing— ‘naked’

Got your attention? Figured I would, with that title.

About a month ago, Jason Gay wrote an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about running ‘naked.’

No, not that kind of naked. But naked, as in running with no technology: no smartphone, no earbuds, no heart rate monitor, no nothing.

Jason is a techie kind of guy. But he writes, “A tranquil hobby was offering no tranquillity. I was taking everything I was running from, and dragging it right along with me.”

After that, I started running ‘naked,’ too.  This very morning, in fact, I got up early, before anyone else, and ran along the beach road to the next village up and then back again, all completely ‘naked.’ Nothing but the sound of the sea breeze, the cars passing by, and my own feet hitting the asphalt.

Oh, I confess I didn’t run entirely ‘naked.’ I still had MapMyRun going on my smartphone; I’m just obsessive enough to want to know how long and fast I ran. But the phone was muted, tucked into my flipbelt, so I couldn’t hear it at all. It was wonderful.

Jason’s article made me think—and think hard—about my writing and writing practices.

I was devoting a lot of time to writing, at one point averaging well over three hours a day—and that on top of a full-time job, too. Then there were the writing-related extras that I’d taken on. Such as several online writing courses that improved my skills but were extremely time-consuming while they were in session. Such as two crit groups that gave me great feedback on my work but reading so many drafts and making reasonably thoughtful comments for my crit partners—the kind of comments I like to get myself—sopped up even more time.

And in the end, I was tired, exhausted, not enjoying writing and the feeling of writing nearly as much as I had before. Not to mention that my to-do list for things that needed to be done around the house had grown to immense proportions. And my blog… well, all you have to do is look at the date of my last post and you’ll see how pathetic my track record had gotten there.

So I decided to adapt Jason’s principles and start writing ‘naked.’ By that I mean pruning back a lot of those extras to the bare minimum. No writing courses now, at least not for a good long while. And when one crit group suddenly began to fracture and go moribund last month, I decided to step back and let it happen, staying in touch only with one person on top of my monthly face-to-face crit partners. Much more manageable.

Most of all, I’ve intentionally cut my writing time in half and have turned to doing more around the house and with my family. My garden no longer looks like derelicts live there; my home still needs a bit more TLC but is looking much better; and my family is as delightful and rewarding to spend time with as it has always been.

Ironically, the quality of my writing has gotten better, even with the reduced hours, perhaps because I have more time to reflect, to think, to let my story and my characters and my plot float around in my imagination while I’m doing other things. And then, of course, I take those ideas and put them in my draft, honing and polishing and shaping later on during writing time. Much more rewarding, much more satisfying.

Writing ‘naked.’ It’s a great feeling. Why didn’t I try this sooner?

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