By: Lisa J. Rogers
Few analogies are perfect, but after my fourth marathon, I couldn’t help noticing some parallels to one of my other passions, writing.
Commitment: Your Number 1 Must-Do
You’ve got to put in the miles. The midweek runs. The weekend long run. The Monday recovery run. Lots of times, especially in more brutal Boston winters than this one, I did not want to get out there. But I went. There’s no way to go the distance otherwise.
Putting in writing time can be tough, too. It’s easier to do other work—important work--like going to conferences, meeting my critique group, reading blogposts and connecting with writers on social media. I have a problem with sitting still—one reason why I do a lot of writing on a train. So when I can, I take the train rather than driving—and the spottier the WiFi, the better!
We all have other responsibilities or activities that compete with writing. Committing to your goal is the first step in achieving it.
Preparation: It all Counts
Every step I take makes me a better runner. Even when I have a lousy day, I’m
training my brain and well as my body. It increases my emotional and physical stamina.
Same for writing. Every class, every critique --however painful-- brings you closer to your goal. It’s all prep for becoming a better writer. Many writers cringe (and I’m one of them!) when they look at their early attempts, but those stories lay the foundation for success.
What counts is that you do the work.
Knowing When to Change it Up
Whether it’s changing your running route or justifying an indoor run on a cold day, varying a routine can be beneficial. In my training, I used my treadmill time to ramp up my speed even if my schedule didn’t call for that. It made me feel good, and I became faster.
Writing your story from a different perspective or changing its format can yield results, too. I agonized over a complicated nonfiction piece, tweaking it this way and that, then wrote the first half of it as graphic nonfiction. What had been struggle became fun. While I’m still not sure what form this manuscript will take, the process freed me to think differently and helped me move on to another revision.
Don’t Go It Alone: Asking for Help
I don’t usually run with a partner, though when I do, it makes the time fly —and my feet, too, if I’m running with someone faster! In one 10K, when the timer called out the first mile’s pace, my friend and I looked at each other in disbelief. It’s still the fastest mile I’ve ever run, that I know of!
In writing, I can struggle with a manuscript and not know why. I also can think I’ve got the best thing going. Then I take it to my critique group, and their suggestions are amazing. They don’t tell me what to do, but they tell me where my manuscript falls short.
Working on your own leaves room for self-doubt and might it take longer to reach your goal.
Persevering: Hitting Bumps in the Road
No matter how diligent your training, the road to success never does run smooth, (almost) said Shakespeare.
I was psyched because this year was the first year that I was going into a marathon uninjured. Even after I sprained my ankle at mile 2, I was still on track for my best time yet. But a couple of trips to the medical tent added up, and once again, I was hobbling toward the finish line, an hour later than planned.
While my ankle was being wrapped, I called my husband. Before I could spin my tale of woe, he broke in: “You are so gutsy!” I was? Ok, if he thought so! What was 11+ more miles? I dug deep the whole rest of the way, shutting out almost everything besides my laser focus on the finish.
I almost gave up on my dream of having a book with my name on it in a library. I decided to give it one more chance.
Two months later, my agent signed me, and very soon after that, I had my first offers of publication. In September, my dream will come true. But I’m not stopping there. I haven’t reached the finish line yet.
Lisa Rogers is the author of the forthcoming picture book 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW.” (Schwartz & Wade, 9/24/19). She credits the 12 x 12 online challenge for keeping her dream alive and leading her to signing with her agent, Erzsi Deak of Hen&ink Literary Studio. She lives outside Boston near the halfway point of the Boston Marathon, which she’s run four times, and wrote this blogpost on a train.