Author Susan Dennard on writing and running

Susan Dennard
Susan Dennard

“If your goals ain’t working for you, change them”

YA fantasy author Susan Dennard shared about her experience taking up running and hating I, only to take it up again as an adult and discovering that she loves it! She shares this experience in her popular email newsletter and applies her running journey to her writing career.

One of the things us runners love about running is that so many of the lessons can be applied to every other aspect of our lives.

The lesson Susan shares in her essay is: If your goals ain’t working for you, change them. Susan writes: “I was so trapped in this idea of what a runner was, I couldn’t see that there was another way.”

Below are a few highlights from her essay, but first I wanna urge you (especially if you’re a writer!) to visit Susan’s website and subscribe to her email. You’ll be glad you did. She has a ton of inspiration for writers of all types.

From her essay “Adjusting Goals, Adjusting Beliefs,” which you can read in its entirety right HERE.

I have, in fact, tried multiple times over my life to become a Real Runner. And I have “failed” multiple times too.

I always pushed myself to hit this “ideal speed.” I had to run a mile under ten minutes. Anything over that was too slow. Did it matter that I lacked the cardiac, respiratory, muscular, or even skeletal endurance? NOPE.
If Sooz was gonna run, Sooz had to run fast.
Inevitably, I hated every second of running because I was gasping and cramping and spending every second just wishing I’d never left my couch.

This time, things have been different though. I have no idea why. I didn’t wake up on June 19th and say, “Gosh, I’m going to measure myself by different standards. I’m going to let go of all those old beliefs and run simply to feel my body moving.”

Yet that is exactly what has happened.

And now, two months later, two amazing things have happened: 1) I love running. And 2) I recently managed to run the longest distance I have ever run in my LIFE last Saturday!

Oh, and a third thing has happened because I’m not pushing myself to meet speed or even distance requirements — because I’m listening to my body and just doing what I can. Why look at that! No debilitating knee pain!

And now we come to the MORAL of this whole story: if your goals aren’t working for you, change them.

Susan relates how this one idealized image of a Real Runner caused her to become instantly discouraged. It’s a relatable story because so many of us have done that. I’ve totally done that.

What’s weird about that particular comparison trap is that we often ain’t even comparing ourselves with anyone real. Often times the Real Runner is so perfect and god-like that he or she only exists in our head. To take a line from Tom Hulce in the film Amadeus, these idealized Real Runners are people “so lofty that you’d swear they shit marble.”

Ain’t that what we do for a lot of things in life? We have these over-the-top ideas what a Real Parent is. Or a Real Writer, Real Christian, Real Spouse, or Real Friend. And then of course we can’t live up to our own expectations.

The Real Runner doesn’t exist. If you run at all, you’re a real runner. That applies to writing. If you write, you’re a real writer. Period.

Susan adds:

We live in a world with a very specific idea of what productivity and success mean and what productivity and success look like for creative people. If you’re not meeting those ‘standards,’ then you’re probably lazy. Or you don’t take your writing seriously.

But the fact is that we don’t all create the same way. Some of us write in huge spurts then have long ‘dry spells’ (raises hand). Some of us jump from project to project (raises hand again). Some of us write one day a week, and that’s that. And then, of course, some of us do write everyday because that works best for us.

Read Susan’s essay, titled “Adjusting Goals, Adjusting Beliefs,” right HERE. I’ve re-read it several times over myself.

Also, visit her website and subscribe to her email… especially if you’re a writer. Any sort of writer. Susan’s inspiration and energy are contagious so you’ll be glad that you did.


Image credit:  By Rhododendrites – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


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