Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Advice to Writers

A Lot Happens in Two Hours

Published March 20, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

For all you budding writers who wonder how I manage to produce a weekly column, the current count is 152, let me share one of my writing secrets. It takes me two hours, give or take ten minutes, of at-the-keyboard writing time to produce one column. I usually write one per week, although during a good week, with inspiration, I can produce two or three columns.

Two hours. You might not think that is a long time, but it is a significant amount of time in my mind. It is two hours that I could be running, showering, relaxing, and cross training, but that is the topic of another column.

What do normal people do in two hours? Some people watch made-for-television movies in two hours. That includes bathroom breaks and commercials. I sometimes take breaks while I write my column.

In two hours, my daughter can mix a batch of cookies, bake them, and do the dishes. Of course, two hours later, the cookies are gone. I like to eat cookies while I write my column.

I know people who take two hours to mow their lawn. This includes the time it takes them to scrape the dried grass from the mower blades, fill the tank with gas, scoop the dog packages, mow the lawn, dump the clippings bag, and take a few moments to admire their work before they store the mower behind the bikes and grill. I like the smell of fresh cut grass when I write my column.

Farmers and young children take naps in the middle of the day, sometimes for two hours at a time. Napping allows them to catch up on the lost sleep from the ends of the day. I sometimes nap on Sunday afternoons, but not while I write my column.

During a two-hour period, a construction crew can raise a roof, build a wall, or set an entire floor on a new home. On a clear day, with my windows open, I can hear hammers from outside my office as I write my column.

Within a span of two hours, FloJo, Java, and Saucony -- subordinates of my pack -- ask to go out, and be let back in, six or seven times. If I am too busy writing and miss FloJo's body language, I end up with two mistakes (mine, of course.)

In two hours, a basketball team can go from being ranked number one in the country to number seven. I suspect that can take a lot of spunk out of fans and coaches, but nobody ever said those other sports were all fun and games. I never check on basketball scores while I write my column.

I have attended weddings that lasted two hours. Recently, millions of television viewers watched a game show that lasted two hours and culminated in a five-minute wedding ceremony. I think the marriage was annulled a week later. I have courted many ideas while writing my column, but none that I will share with you now.

Many people commute for two hours each day. They drive their cars or ride on trains for an hour to get to work and another hour to return home. I walk down a flight of stairs to write my column. Sure, I have to get past the dogs, but at least I can get to my computer to write my column in less than five minutes. Perhaps I should add the commute time to the two hours it takes me to write my column.

Last fall, Khalid Khannouchi ran the Chicago Marathon in just over 2 hours. I would have watched him run, except that television does not carry our exotic pastime. So, I settled at my laptop and wrote another column.

Kamal Jabbour has a 'real job' on which he works more than two hours on most days. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at

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