Friday, 1 April 2011

Poetry in Motion

As a writer who runs (or a runner who writes) I find a lot of my trotting time is spent pondering about this and that. It helps to pass the miles away, particularly on the long runs I've been doing of late. One of my regular musings has been the connection between writing forms and running distance. So, in honour of my twin passions, I thought I'd post this simultaneously on  my blogs:

Poetry is equivalent to 100-500m sprinting. Short, precise, fluid. Just as the sprint is a perfect mix of swift and simple motion, poems have to hit that perfect mix of words delivered with total economy.

Flash fiction equates to running a mile. Short enough to require that same level of paced precision, but long enough to satisfy a craving to go further. Flash fiction needs control, pacing and an elegant delivery.

Short stories range from 3km to 10km. Now, a runner needs stamina as well as pace, the ability to control the progress of their perfectly placed limbs. There a peaks and troughs, and a critical point to break for the finish line. In the same way, the author directs the flow of a short story ensuring each revelation builds on the last. There are ebbs and flows, and a pivotal moment that determines the fate of the characters for ever.

The novella is similar to a half-marathon. It takes guts and determination to run 13.1 miles, but it also takes a fine-tuned body, balancing energy intake and expenditure exactly. So it is with writing a novella, which requires dedication and commitment, a willingness to put the time in. But also, a control of the narrative, so the reader doesn't lose their way.

The novel, naturally, is the marathon. It requires months of preparation, during which the runner encounters set backs, injuries and false starts. A marathon runner has a clear goal to run 26.2 miles, an often complex journey of with loops, twists. When a marathon is completed, the participants are left emotionally exhausted and totally satisfied. Every aspiring novelist knows writing a novel follows a similar pattern, with dead ends, abandoned characters, and ripped up text. Completing a novel needs stamina and commitment, leaving the novelist, drained, exhausted and ultimately satisifed when it's done.

Stamina, stubborness, patience are all required for running marathons and writing novels. Luckily I'm blessed with both.


John Wiswell said...

The mile is just so much easier than a marathon. But imagine if you showed up on a street in New York City and had to write a novella amidst several thousand others. Darn those Kenyan authors who kick our butts on literary merit and cardiovascular conditioning every year.

sattler said...

I do love your blog. If you're a writer who runs then I'm a writer/blogger who walks. I don't know whether the pace really matters. The rhythm certainly does. I often walk and reflect, mulling over people, places or a phrase.