When Writing And Running Collide

keep writingI woke up this morning, Modern Philosophers, from a very odd dream.  It was something silly, but it stuck with me and I kept thinking about it as I got out of bed.

I realized that it could be an idea for my next screenplay.  A title immediately popped into my head, and I liked it.  The dream itself had been only one scene, but my mind latched onto it and the creative juices were flowing.

I remembered recently telling a coworker that I wanted to write a screenplay about a certain genre, but give it a unique twist.  This dream idea fit exactly into that formula.  That had to be a sign.

As I put on my Running Toga and prepared for my morning run, that dream was growing more and more into a screenwriting reality.

This wouldn’t be the first time I turned a dream into a screenplay.  It’s a fun challenge, and I was definitely intrigued to see if lightning would strike again.

I’ve always said that the best way for me to get through a run is by distracting myself.  That’s why I listen to music and try to get lost in the songs.

Running is also the perfect time to mentally outline a script idea, work out dialogue in my head, or picture how the next few scenes in a screenplay should look.

running 3I recall being sore and having a cramp in my right calf when I left The House on the Hill for my run.  It was also raining, but the sun was shining.  Weird, but refreshing.

After that, I don’t remember much.  That was how lost I got in this screenplay idea.

I had names for all the main characters before I even hit the mile mark, and that’s a huge step for me.  Coming up with names can often delay a screenplay for days.  I not only like to come up with the perfect name, but I also like to think up little backstories for them in case I want to work it into dialogue later.

Yes, I can be very obsessive about the minutiae, but it’s the little things that make a character seem more three dimensional.

I do remember hitting the lap button on my stopwatch when I got to the halfway point of my run.  It had taken me longer than expected to go the 2.125 miles, but I didn’t care because my mind was sprinting through the mental outline.

I was so deep in my thoughts on the screenplay that I nearly jumped out of my skin when another runner came up behind me and passed me.  She said “Passing left” and I swear I almost jumped out of my skin because I was so startled.

running 4I said “Jeez!” really loudly, and felt like a total idiot.  That’s how lost I was in my own mind.  Luckily, my body was capable of keeping itself out of oncoming traffic without much input from me because I really wasn’t paying attention.

I was off in my own little world, and was surprised to see that I had less than 1.5 miles to go.  At that point, I picked up the pace because I just wanted to get home and put all these ideas down on paper while they were still fresh.

I am notoriously slow both when I run and when I start a new screenplay.  I will let a story idea simmer in my brain for months before I type FADE IN and get to work.

Today, however, I got so much mental outlining done on my run that I can happily report I’ve written 12 pages of the new script.

That’s like a miracle in terms of my writing process.

I don’t know what it was about this morning’s run, but it ended up being the most creative one I’ve taken in quite some time.  Now that I’m off for over a week, I have some time to go on more runs and get more work done on this screenplay.

just runI wish I could tell you a little bit about the story, Modern Philosophers, but I’m very superstitious and can’t share this early in the process.  All I can say is that it is a dark comedy with romantic undertones.

At least it is for now.  That could all change after my next run!

What about you, Modern Philosophers?  Do you ever work on your writing while you run?  Is there another activity that gets your creative juices flowing?

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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15 Responses to When Writing And Running Collide

  1. D. Parker says:

    My best ideas seem to pop into my head as I lay down at night, then I have to get up and write them down or by the next morning, poof, they’re gone. Congrats on the new screenplay!!! Keep running! 🙂

  2. I’m super suspicious about sharing details about what I am working on (writing wise) too, haha!

  3. OMG! We must have been separated at birth. I JUST finished drafting a post that I wrote in my head this morning (hoping to publish tomorrow). It’s not as exciting as your screenplay, but running certainly played into the creative flow. SO cool that you do this, too. I do hope you’ll eventually share the fruits of your labor??

  4. This is crazy but blog posts pop into my head when I drive. Probably not good for anybody

  5. I narrate in my head as I run, composing the blog post about the run (hence Running Commentary). I try to think about my novel at work (it’s that kind of a job). But running is perfect for creative thinking: it’s rhythmic, it’s physical, you don’t have to think much about it. Housework is good, too, but not nearly as fun. Rock on.

    • Austin says:

      Yes, I find it perfect for blocking out a scene in my head like a director. once I can visualize it like that, it’s a piece of cake to get it down on paper!

  6. When you said “collide,” I figured you meant the opposite of what you did. 😉 My son has been training for a marathon and also trying to finish a novel while working full time in a bookstore, and it has surprised him that this has left him little time and energy for writing. It’s training for the distance, though, not the running itself. I’ll have to ask him if he’s experienced the sort of synchronicity you did.

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