Monday, August 18, 2008

Running the Writing Marathon

Watching the Olympics this week, I was mesmerized by the women's marathon. First, the idea of anyone running 26 miles impresses the heck out of me. When 38 year old Constantina Tomescu from Romania pulled away from the pack, I was spellbound. Every now and then, she checked her watch. She wasn't running against the other athletes. She had a plan. She knew exactly where she needed to be all along the route in order to finish like she intended. She was running her own race, running against her own time.

I thought it was a little like writing a novel. Ok, I know only a writer would make that sort of leap, but hear me out. Writing a novel is no sprint. It's a distance activity. When I start a new manuscript, I know I will live with this cast of characters in my head for months.

Like a marathon runner who can't let another runner dictate her race, I can't compare my progress to anyone else's. My story is my own. I'm writing against my own synopsis. Another writer may breeze by on the way to THE END, but if I keep at it, I'll arrive at my own finish line as well. Speed isn't the issue. Finishing is.

There's pain in a marathon. Watching those women run, I saw agony on two legs. Sometimes, there's pain in writing as well. Writing means you have examine parts of yourself you may not be comfortable with. All my characters, the good, the bad, the downright horrible come from some place inside me.

Sometimes, the writing itself is not going well. I may be experiencing 'word constipation'--I refuse to think of it as writer's block. I have to power through a rough patch, knowing I'll come back and redo it later.

At the beginning of a new story, 400 pages seems like a distant finish line. But if I keep plugging away at my plan, if I keep racking up my page count, I will complete the writing marathon and meet my goal, the big THE END.

Now if only writing 400 pages would burn as many calories as running 26 miles!

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