Anyone who has read one of my books knows my characters are into exercise. Both Catherine and Hayden are runners. Hayden scuba dives. Exercise, and those specific sports, is perhaps the one and only trait we share. Oh, I admit, I tried to make them more like me. Well, Catherine at least, she was the first series character I wrote. Hayden, let’s just say I knew better. Characters are organic. They grow and change at their own rate, and the person on the other end of the keyboard has very little to do with it. A lot like children, I’m told.
Both Hayden and Catherine use running as a means of clearing their heads, thinking things through, solving mysteries and crimes. They are active runners. They think and puzzle as they go. Me, not so much. Someone once asked me what I think about when I run. I had to think about the answer. In reality, until recently, I ran and emptied my mind. Kind of a physical meditation. Yet at the end of the run, I would find the answer to some thorny problem. The phenomena fascinated me. To become full, you must first be empty. Sounds like the Dalai Lama, who is a great man, but probably not a runner. I’ve used the technique to solve problems of plot, character, and closer to home, personal stuff. It never failed.
Every runner knows the hardest part of running is lacing up your sneakers. Once that is done, you are going. Until that is done, there are days when you dread the exercise. Since spring, I’ve noticed that my times have lagged. My usual three to five mile run was taking longer, and I was dreading it more. When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I quickly responded iPod® Shuffle. This little one-inch square will hold up to a gigabyte of tunes and it fits in the key pocket of my running shorts. Best of all, it is available in Hayden blue.
Husband, being the well-trained chap he is, immediately ordered one for me. On delivery day, I downloaded a running album (a combination of songs like Footloose done to a disco beat), the theme from Top Gun, and Wipeout (for those of you who remember Wipeout, tell me your toes aren’t tapping right now). My first run, my times were cut in half. Same for the second. It took me until the third run to figure this out. The songs were filling my head. I was becoming the songs, losing myself in the lyrics, moving in time to the beat, and free-associating from lyrics to stories. Completely different experience. What was filling my head was coming out in storylines. A snatch of a lyric would become a scene. But I was no longer getting answers to problems. My running time became fully creative.
I’ve been toying with the mix of music and silence for the past few weeks, and I’ve discovered how to best balance the exercise level I crave with the creative result I need. My big question now is do I introduce Catherine or Hayden to musical runs. What would the beat bring out in them? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll keep running for my life.
What about you? Do you crave silence in your workouts, or do you want the background filled. Does it make a difference to how you feel?