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.

7 Comments on “What a Half-Marathon Taught Me About Writing

  1. Great column! And yes, the idea of writing is always more appealing than actually writing. Thankfully, “having written” feels even better still, so that helps me to power thru and actually write.

    Congrats again on finishing both the half-marathon and the manuscript!

  2. Congratulations Jenn! I am SOOOO proud of you! You have accomplished so much in both your writing and your running and so much more! Way to go girl. You inspire me every day so keep it up! BIG Hug to you!

  3. Great post! Very true. A writing schedule is important to have. But you go to be flexible should things come up, and I would say don’t self-punish if you don’t keep up with schedule, it never helps.

    Btw, I have some good news for you! Your guest post has been in my top posts ever since you visited my blog and there is a link to it coming from one of the artist residencies that you mentioned, I think it was the one that you went to. Centrum.

    Here’s the incoming link:
    http://www.centrum.org/residencies/2010/09/part-of-the-mix-applying-to-artist-residencies.html

    I wonder if there is anyway to ask them to put a direct link to your blog as well in that post that they put up there.

    Congrats!

    • Ollin, thanks for your comment. Flexibility is a good point!

      Very cool about the link on Centrum! I had no idea that they were using it on their site. Thanks so much for directing me to it!

  4. Hi! What a great post and very relatable!

    I’m an aspiring writer and I ran my first marathon on October 16th in Baltimore. Very true points! I’m going to bookmark this and keep it as a reminder that writing is very much like running a marathon. I did that and now I can do this (writing). I just have to showup, lace up, look to my support team and take it slow!

    • Hi Veronica! Thanks for reading my post. Congrats on running your very first marathon! An amazing achievement. I recently cheered on a friend who ran the NYC marathon and I was amazed at the dedication of those runners. Just like writing, running is a constant mental battle. Every mile ran is a mile earned, I think. It’s so challenging and yet so rewarding.

      Definitely keep writing. And keep running. You can do it!

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