Ride what you know

the author after a Bridge Pedal ride

the author after a Bridge Pedal ride

I’ve talked before about how running informs my writing practice, but I haven’t really talked about cycling.

I was a cyclist before I was a runner.

I rode around a lot when I was a kid, having some kind of bike from about the age of seven until my early teens – I was sad when the old Raleigh Commando was finally too small for me, but it really was far too small when I stopped riding it.

I didn’t start riding again until I started work after university, when I didn’t want to spend money on a car (I would have had to pass my driving test too) and found the busses to be inconvenient for reaching all the places I wanted to get to. I cycled a lot then, for those four years or so before I finally got a car – riding in all weathers and all distances, on the flat and (my favourite) up hills.

I’m doing both cycling and running at the moment, and the two feed each other – the cycling is low impact exercise that allows me to heal some of the joint damage while also reminding me what it’s really like to push the cardio limit, while running is much more self-regulating exercise which gives me more aerobic workout in a shorter period of time.

Despite having been a regular runner for more than ten years, I still think of myself very much as a cyclist who runs.

This is relevant to my writing practice because of the interplay between different types of writing. I’ve made observations about how writing and running roleplaying games takes time away from writing fiction, but my roleplaying activities inform my fiction writing. I get to try out narrative ideas with a much shorter feedback loop than I get for my fiction (large chunks of which have never had an audience beyond the first reader, my wonderful and patient wife).

At the same time, my fiction writing informs my roleplaying because I approach roleplaying as another storytelling vehicle rather than as a strategy game – one of the reasons I am impatient with excessively technical or detailed systems, not to mention lengthy combats.

Behind both of these is all of the programming I have done – I’ve been programming consistently since my mid-teens (coincidentally, about the same time the old bike stopped being usable for me) and the process of taking a problem, describing its desired end point, and then breaking down the steps needed to reach it from the start conditions is basically how I approach the construction of narrative of all types. And building stories has strengthened my skills at building complex software systems, also – not the specific technical aspects of course, but the understanding of interaction between components and conditions.

You may have a strength in one area of your writing, but doing more than one thing will probably enhance your skills in all of them.

With that in mind, I am thinking I might have to have a go at some short stories – a form I’ve never had an affinity for – or some other types of writing, just to see how to construct those.

How do different aspects of your writing interact? What new thing will you try next?

Leave a Reply