What a Half-Marathon Taught Me About Writing
I recently finished my very first half-marathon, the San Jose Rock n Roll half marathon to be exact. I had a great time. They had bands playing at every mile, local high school cheerleading squads were there to cheer us on, and tons of bystanders held up signs and cheered as we passed. That’s not to say that at mile 9, I wasn’t thinking, why am I doing this? My legs hurt, my calf muscles were exhausted, and the sun was shining down, and a water station seemed so far away. Much like writing, running is a long process. It takes months to train and the increments are slow. And most days I wake up and think I don’t want to run today. Substitute the word “run” with the word “writing” and I think that’s how most writers feel.
This is what I learned through the course of training for 5 months for a half-marathon:
1) Take it slow. With running, the best way to make progress is slowly. The same with writing. You can’t run a marathon by running 10 miles every day. Your muscles would break down. You’d get sick of running after 2 days. You can’t finish a novel in a day. Okay, you could try, but if you really want to get it done, take it slow. So if I write a few pages or even a page, that’s progress.
2) Have a support team. My running friends always congratulated me every step of the way from the first time I ran 10 miles to the moment I crossed the finish line. Running and writing can be very isolating but with a good support team to keep you going, you can get through any hurdle.
3) Not every mile is going to be great just as not every page is going to be great. I had my bad running days just as I have my bad writing days. As long as I accept that, then I keep going.
4) Show up. Get up, lace on the shoes, drink some water, and run. If you don’t show up to run, you’re not going to get very far. Same with writing. The idea of writing is far more enticing than the actual writing process. Show up to the page and get it done.
5) Keep a schedule. I used a training schedule from MarathonRookie.com. I posted the schedule on my fridge and every run I did, I’d give myself a star sticker. Sound childish? I felt accomplished. If I didn’t have a schedule, I’d probably never run. It’s exactly what I do with my writing. Make a fake deadline and give myself set days to accomplish something. People often ask me, “How did you write a novel?” The only magic formula I have is a schedule/calendar. I’d write down the days I’d be writing — realistically — and kept up those dates with myself.
And most importantly, reward yourself for a job well done. Post-race, I’m rewarding myself with a massage. After completing my manuscript, I took myself out to lunch. And if you need, I have some extra star stickers for when you finish.