Thursday, February 27, 2014

26.2 Ways Writing a Novel is Like Running a Marathon (and 1 statement on how it really isn't)

Lots of things are compared to running a marathon.   It’s a marathon not a sprint, you will often hear. 

I have an unproven theory. It says that if you compare something to running a marathon, there is a 84.72% greater likelihood that you have not run a marathon.  And this goes for those who explain that writing a novel is like running a marathon. 

This sounds a bit running elitist, but part of the reason the analogy doesn’t fit is, running a marathon can actually be easy, depending on training. While I have ran marathons that pained me as if my bones were eating their way through my skin, I have had other marathons where the actual 26.2 was of the easiest of the whole training process. Cathartic as writing can be, I've never broke down in tears at the end as I do in a marathon. The tears come out slowly, over months at the keyboard.

Writing a novel is like training for a marathon. I can buy that.

Put a gun to my head and make me choose a more fitting analogy, I will say that writing a novel is like painting an irregularly shaped house.  You look at the walls with your imagination on fire, pick out all sorts of exciting colors, and start slapping up the colors with your creative juices flowing like mad. But the real work is the tiny details and preparation, taping the walls, covering the furniture, edging the corners, putting on a second and third coat.  The whole house can be painted perfectly with a rug that really brings the room together, but if you have splashed some paint where it shouldn’t be, missed a few spots, then the tiny details will wreck the big picture. At some point, you will wish you could wallpaper.

And then, when you finish painting, you invite others to see your work, but you realize there are 50 million other houses much more popular than yours who have invited others over as well. And they got cookies.  You may just sit there by yourself, with a 99 cent sale sign in your hand and watching the paint dry.

Never mind all of that, I did come up with a list. Certainly it will not fit for everyone. It’s just a first draft. Later on, I will get to the tiny details and edge around the corners. 

Ways Writing A Novel Is Like TRAINING for A Marathon

1. You will start with excitement. You will fear not finishing.

2. You have to be obsessed at times.  It will enter your dreams and take over your thoughts. You’ll pretend to be listening to others talk, but really you’re just thinking about your goals. Enjoy.

3. You have to be okay with others not ‘getting it’ along your way.

4. Careful how much you talk about your goals and who with, especially if it is your first.

5. But you do need support. Choose wisely, connect with others. Writers and Runners love to talk about what they do. Just ask, and they will. Goodreads, dailymile, running clubs and writer groups. It’s amazing how much others can inspire you.

6. Even with group support, these are solitary projects. We live, we run, and we write, as we dream – ALONE. (that’s a Joseph Conrad rip-off)

7. Be confident. Be brave. You have to be. You are doing something that will squeeze you like a tube of toothpaste so that whatever is inside will ooze out for all to see. Do it anyway.

8. There is more to know than you’ll ever know about what you are trying to do.  Don’t let that stop you. Let experience be the great teacher that it is. You learn more by failing than by fear of failing.

9. What works for others doesn’t work for everyone. It’s all an experiment of one. (that’s a George Sheehan rip-off)

10. You will have things you have to tackle in the rest of your life that seem unfair.  Everything will tug at you away from your goal. But know that, there are people who work more hours than you do, have more children, have had more house fires, and have had just as many challenges, and they get it done.

11. If you don’t really want to do this, you simply won’t. If you want to do this, you may. If you simply do do this, you certainly will.

(I said doo-doo. )

12. Take risks, dance on the edge, think big, bold, and push. In other words, “run fast and take chances” and write what you know at the start, and then write what you fear to say.

13. When you think you are almost done, you are really not even half way there. Lie to yourself about how long there is to go, and believe your own lies.

14. Do not fear going slowly, fear having stopped. 

15. Run and write with emotion and energy. Pour the day into your work. Torture your protagonist with conflict, torture your legs with miles, and then let them both recover to fight another day. 

16. The finish is just a new beginning. In some ways, it is both triumphant and incredibly sad. 

17. When you look back at your accomplishment, you will remember the process as much as the end.

18. As much as others can celebrate with you the finished product, know that they will never fully understand. 

19. Your legs and your creative juice will be dead of energy at times, but push through. A day of 3 miles or 3 sentences is sometimes just enough.

20. You will outline a plan, but crumble it up and throw it away, and then re-outline again and again.

21. Run your own race, write your own book. Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t compare your dirty bathroom with everyone else’s highlight reel. (that’s a rip-off too, but I’m not sure who from)

22. Sometimes it will feel so effortless and like a fantastic and glorious high. You will be grinning on the outside and the inside.  Tap into those moments and suck out their lifeblood. Ride the wave as far as it will take you. These are the moments to live for.

23. Your first novel and your first marathon will probably not be your best. That is a good thing.

24. Good music that has personal meaning to you will help. Write and run to music. Something that matches the tone of your running or writing.

25. Talking about it, reading blogs about it, tweeting about it, writing cute lists; all these things are no substitute for actually doing it. 

26. You can’t wait for the ideal running or writing conditions. You go to war with the army you have

26.2. You should be a bit scared. Terrified. Everything worth doing is. There is fear at the start of every marathon, and fear in putting yourself out there on paper. You are trying, pushing yourself, not accepting limits, and expressing your power with action and with words. Each day you do something towards your goal is a valiant one.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short time and time again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself a worthy cause; who if he wins knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

1 comment:

SupermomE13 said...

Good luck with the writing and happy birthday a little late. :) Love the Teddy quote - it is one of my very favs.

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