Friday, March 26, 2010

In My Mind, I Run Like a Kenyan

Rachel Brady

Lee Child made what I thought was an interesting remark at Left Coast Crime earlier this month. Paraphrasing, it was that the fun part of writing is the daydreaming, and that the hard part is getting the words onto the page.

Ain’t that the blazing truth.

I’ve been thinking about that remark for weeks. Somehow I’ve had the notion all this time that getting words onto the page is easier for everyone else than it is for me. Given a choice, I’d rather visualize scenes hundreds of different ways than actually sit down and write one down. Why? Because the version I choose might not work, and then I’d have to cut all those pages.

I know: “Get over it.”

But still.

It takes a long time to put down thousands of words. Cutting them is hard. Why not decide first how I want the book to go, by daydreaming through dozens of plot lines, and then writing down the version I decide is best? For me, daydreaming is oodles more fun than typing words. Many writers say they have to write, that they are addicted to writing. Not me. I’m addicted to daydreaming.

A few years ago, David Morrell shared an interesting story about daydreaming that I’ll never forget. Coupled with this new statement by Lee Child, I grow hopeful now that my Writer Imposter Complex might possibly be unfounded.

The keyboard does not call me. I don’t get a charge out of putting down the words. My charge is always in the imagining.

In this regard, I fervently hope that my future as a writer will parallel my history as a runner. There was a time I did not enjoy running. The only thing I liked about it was how I felt afterward, and fortunately that feeling was good enough to keep me lacing up and coming back. Writing, the actual act, is a little like that for me now. Making a synopsis, staring at a blinking cursor, struggling for a word, or figuring out the best way to express an emotion is often frustrating. As with my running years ago, writing is frequently painful while I’m doing it. But, like the running, I feel an indescribable sense of accomplishment when it’s over. Huge. It’s the buzz that keeps me coming back.

Twenty years later, I’m still running. Now I actually love the run while I’m doing it. I feel disappointed when I miss a run and I’m always looking forward to the next one.

Today I’m daydreaming about a time when writing will feel like that.


  1. Brilliant Rachel. Keep dreaming. Keep running. Keep writing.


  2. Let's get one thing straight: we are not exercising at Malice. Got that?

    Great post, Rachel, as always. I was recently at a party, and someone asked, "What do you do?" and I replied, "I'm a freelance textbook editor." A friend, who had overheard the exchange, remarked, "You know, I think you've done enough to actually identify yourself as a writer." I guess I have Writer Impostor Syndrome as well. :-) Maggie

  3. Good post and the dream will continue as long as you dream.

  4. Love the post, however, you are very much different than I am. I never run--anywhere, unless it's to catch an airplane. My sis gets up at 4:30 every a.m. and fast walks for 6 miles. She's five years younger than I am, which still makes her way older than the rest of the Stiletto Gang.

    I love writing. I don't make excuses not to write, but rush through the have-tos so I can get to whatever I'm working on.

    However, I do day-dream about what I'm going to write, see the scene in my mind before I write it down.


  5. Thank you for the nice comments, everyone. Marilyn, yours is the zeal for writing that I'm working toward.

  6. Rachel, I'm not happy unless I'm writing. I finish one book and start on the next. But we're all different and at my age, I don't do all the things you younger folks do--but I used to.


  7. I'm totally with you, Rachel. I wish I could just download it from my brain to the page. I'll happily edit from there -- I enjoy editing -- but the initial writing is a sweaty, gruesome and bloody thing.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Chris. I love the image of a download straight from the brain. That's exactly what I'm talking about. We'll get there. :)

  9. I've tried to leave comments several times and, for some reason, I was rejected. :-( But, Rachel, just wanted to say that the imagining is such a cool part of being a writer. I love when scenes from a book I'm immersed in writing play out in my head, at all hours of the day and night. Although I must confess, I enjoy the feel of my fingers on the keyboard, too! Even when it's a less than productive day. Amazing to think that in the end, we have an actual book to send in to our editors, isn't it? Sometimes when I start a new one, I wonder if that'll actually happen. But, as you noted, it's a lot like running! Gotta start in order to finish!

  10. Hi Susan, thanks for being persistent! When I know what I want to say, fingers on the keyboard is a true joy. Otherwise, it's a side stitch. :) You are so right when you say we have to start in order to finish. Words to live by.