I read an email this morning from a member of my writers’ group that said, “Writing is more of a marathon than a sprint.”
In response to that, another member said, “Definitely a marathon! Sometimes feels like we run marathons back-to-back, day-after-day.”
From someone who is training to run a marathon let me tell you, I could not, would not, run a marathon back to back, even a half marathon. It’s something you’re proud of doing, but your body knows it’s physically incapable of doing it again without sufficiently recovering. I have yet to hit the wall while writing. Frustrated, yes. Tired, yes. But never have I been so exhausted that I couldn’t type another word, but I have been so exhausted I couldn’t take another step.
Running and writing, however, are so much alike.
Running marathons and writing books are only accomplished by a small minority. Hundreds of thousands of people talk about doing one or the other, but only a few actually do. It’s a matter of focus, commitment, passion. Who wants to get up in the morning and run 5, 10, 15, 20 miles on a cold January day or a hot summer one? Who wants to sit at the computer and pound out page after page of words and thoughts that have to be revised and critiqued not once, but a half dozen times, or more!
Crazy people? Maybe. We do spend a lot of time listening to internal voices.
But writers and marathon runners are committed to doing the work day in and day out even when the muse wants to take a holiday or a hamstring aches. Runners get up and lace their shoes. Writers pour a cup of coffee and put their butts in their chairs. They write because that’s what they do. Runners run because they can’t NOT run. Their feet itch to hit the pavement. Writers’ minds are racing up and down dark alleyways looking for fresh ideas to move their stories forward.
Good runners like good writers are humble. They listen to advice and change what isn’t working. They are committed to the process and seeing their hard work come to fruition. They know that only through training, or writing and rewriting, will they ever reach the level to which they aspire, and along the way, honor the gift they’ve been given.
Is writing like running a marathon? Ask me again on September 15 after I run the Air Force Marathon, but I can tell you, writing is like training to run a marathon. It’s not easy. Matter of fact, sometimes it’s downright painful. Then why do I do it? Because I can’t NOT do it.
I’ve read that running a marathon requires one part athletic ability, one part self-discipline, and four parts perseverance. A marathon is like running two races—the first 20 miles and the last 6.2. Getting that first draft of your novel written is like that first 20 miles. Editing until it shines is the last 6.2 and where the real race begins—the uncharted territory—a time when success or failure will depend not only on your physical abilities but on your mind, too.
Although I don’t yet know the feeling of crossing the finish line after running a full marathon, I do know the feeling of holding my book in my hands. I do remember the sweat, the long hours, the gnashing of teeth, the dozens of drafts. I know that although I wanted to, I didn’t quit. I had friends on the sidelines cheering me on, ringing cowbells, and screaming, “You can do this.”
Four parts perseverance? Hell yes!
Keep writing and keep running, and never give up on your dream, Kathy