The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

For all my faults, let it never be said that I don’t have sticking power. Whether it’s a recipe where I don’t have all the ingredients, a degree from a university nobody’s heard of in a town that’s miles from anywhere or the wrong side of an argument with someone who is infuriatingly right, I see it through to the bitter end, and that’s just what I did one week ago when I booted another deed unceremoniously off my bucket list and ran my first half-marathon.

‘But Beccy, you’re a poet’, I hear you say, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be anaemic and basically allergic to fresh air?’

‘NO!’ I reply. In fact, I have a few reasons why I think running and writing are a match made in heaven.

  1. Inspiration comes to those who seek it (in expensive trainers and a technical t-shirt) Urgh. You know what I’m talking about. The Blank Page Fear is to the writer what shin splints are to the runner: A right royal pain that you need like you need a chocolate teapot. Luckily, there’s exercises you can do to prevent shin splints and there’s also exercises you can do to prevent Blank Page Fear; something else. Anything will work; cooking, painting, putting the contents of your floordrobe into your wardrobe, but a run has the added benefit that it drags you outside, into contact with nature, other people and all those muscles which have been neglected whilst you’ve been hunched over your laptop.
  2. The flâneurs did it. If it was good enough for Baudelaire it’s good enough for us, right? Okay so I’m asking you to put in a bit more effort than just a leisurely stroll around your environs, but the more you put in, the more you get out.  Bonus points here for anyone who has actually read anything by Baudelaire. 
  3. They’re actually pretty similar. Running embraces the paradox of being a solitary pursuit which gives you immediate access to a friendly, supportive community. Sound familiar? Just as your average open mic night will see all manner of poets, and storytellers applauded for work they may have spent hours working on alone, so every runner is congratulated on completing their race. Sure, there can only be one winner, but everyone gets a goody bag, and that’s because running, like writing, honours the fact that while each journey is different, all call for courage and grit.
  4. Writing snacks. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly rewarding myself with carrot sticks for each poem I finish.
  5. It’s free research. As I mentioned before, runners are a pretty diverse breed. As are poets, too, of course,  but I tend to find that only spending time with other creative types does not necessarily benefit my writing. Unless you only want to write for and about other writers, it helps to have one foot in everyday life and running forces you to do that; to notice the way that elderly person walks with their shopping bags, what the air smells of and that blackbird shredding berries from a bush.

If I haven’t convinced you by now, I probably won’t. That’s okay; running isn’t for everyone, but just like writing, those who enjoy it tend to get a little bit addicted…

Enjoy doing what you do 🙂 x

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It’s nice to be on the list

So I’ve had a bit of a grumpy day today, one of those days where it’s an effort to be nice and although you don’t know why, it feels like you’re sitting under your own personal raincloud. And then.

I got an e-mail telling me that I’d been longlisted for the Primers programme a couple of days ago but resisted the urge to brag about it because it was a blanket e-mail and I’d managed to convince myself it could have been sent to me by mistake. But now the list is there with my name on it (as well as fellow East Midlands poet Debris Stevenson’s, and some other familiar names which will doubtless get more familiar if we all stick at this writing thing).

Maybe you’re not supposed to show off about being on the longlist if you didn’t make the shortlist but I don’t care. It’s a small piece of evidence which I can add to the pile of ‘Times Something I Wrote Touched Another Human Being’ and that makes the days where I literally didn’t feel able to do anything except slump over my laptop in bed and write, totally worth it. And if anybody’s reading this thinking ‘Huh, lucky you, I think I may as well give up on this whole writing lark,’ PLEASE DON’T because I have felt like that many, many times. And feeling like that is okay as long as, when you can bear it, you grit your teeth and get on with the next poem, the next story or whatever it is that you create. Trust me, the graft is worth it.

I also feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how cool it is that The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press conceived this brilliant platform for emerging poets in the first place. You can keep an eye out on either website for news of the winners’s work next spring and hopefully this will become a yearly thing.

All the best to anyone suffering from writing/life-induced grumpiness & apologies for my moment of smugness.

xx