When confronted with “structural problems” in her writing as the result of a “long, snarled, frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work,” Joyce Carol Oates would ease her writing blocks with afternoon runs. For Oates and many other writers, running is process and proves especially useful for the type of cloistered, intensive work they do. But in many ways running is a natural extension of writing. The steady accumulation of miles mirrors the accumulation of pages, and both forms of regimented exertion can yield a sense of completion and joy. Through running, writers deepen their ability to focus on a single, engrossing task and enter a new state of mind entirely—word after word, mile after mile.
While on sabbatical in London in 1972, a homesick Oates began running “compulsively; not as a respite for the intensity of writing but as a function of writing.” At the same time, she began keeping a journal that ultimately exceeded 4,000 single-spaced, typewritten pages. “Running seems to allow me, ideally, an expanded consciousness in which I can envision what I’m writing as a film or a dream,” she wrote. [link]