True, the most I've ever done is a 5K, and I've only been running off and on for three years. But I like to set my goals high.
Before this my motivation to run was non-committal. I'd take weeks off, then have a good first run back, but if I ran again within a few days, I'd struggle through it. So I'd take another week off or more. I mean, it's no secret that to improve or at least stay steady in running you have to be consistent. So now I have a training program that emails me the morning of, letting me know if it's a rest day, a run day (and what kind of run), or a cross-training day. Three days a week I'm up early, trying to get in a run before the sun makes it over the trees and houses to mock my attempts.
Big surprise last week when I ran for an hour straight for the first time — and felt great! I kept my pace really slow so I wouldn't die. But still. Each time I've run, I've been rewarded with the feeling of having improved, gotten stronger, been more disciplined. As opposed to the times when I ran sporadically: when at best I got some much needed exercise, but I'd be sore the next day, not to mention feeling headachy and queasy during the run. Being consistent makes a big difference.
Come November, I still might not be a great marathoner. But one day I will be able to say I ran a marathon. Maybe I'll run more than one, and each time I'll get better.
Can you smell the parallel to writing yet?
I remember thinking, on one of my runs, I might not be very fast, but one day I'll run a marathon if I keep with it. I might not be the best writer, or most naturally gifted (who can know these things?), but if I stick with it, one day I can say I wrote a novel. Now, that novel might never get published, but then I'd write another novel, which would probably be better than the first. Maybe it gets published, maybe not. But I keep writing. I keep writing short stories. I keep sending them to journals. Some of them are bound to get published. I keep working, and I put them together in a collection.
Lately, I've been in a writing funk. People ask me, "So how's the writing going?" And I make up some stuff about still getting back into the habit after a few weeks of travel & family visits & somesuch minor upheaval. But in reality, I'm not trying very hard because when I try, I feel like all I produce is crap. In the last few weeks, I started a handful of short stories that hit a snag and I moved on. I haven't even touched my novel since who knows when. (It's still rolling around in my mind, though.) I wrote a pitiful entry in my writing journal about whether I've missed my calling and I'm supposed to be an orchestral pianist, or a horse trainer, or an archaeologist.
My problem is I've been living my life unintentionally. Or at least my writing life. I know I need to write more, but there were excuses: I was tired, we got a new foster cat to play with, there are episodes of Mad Men and Lie to Me on Netflix. I was
Turns out I need the same kind of accountability for writing that I now have for running. Maybe not a daily email that says "you must write 500 words this morning" although that's a tempting idea. But a kind of rigor and routine that gets my butt in the chair every day for at least 20 minutes — sans blogs, articles, and emails. I've done it before, and the stinky writing gave way to a better flow after a few days of regular effort. Writing might be a struggle sometimes, but if I get discouraged and wait another week before trying to write, it's just going to happen all over again. The only way to improve or at least stay steady in writing is to be consistent.
P.S. I've been reading other writers talk about this, too. Over at The Practicing Writer, Erika Dreifus recently said she's put the same kind of rigor into her writing routine and is seeing results. She's also shared what she's gleaned from Midge Raymond's Everyday Writing: Tips and prompts to fit your regularly scheduled life. Check out her interview of Midge here.