Saturday, August 22, 2015

Run Your Own Race

 I’ll never forget watching the Women’s 2004 Olympic Marathon. It was the first Olympic marathon I’d ever seen, and it was even more special to me as I had run my first marathon not long before. I got up early that morning to watch it live. Two of my running idols, Deena Kastor and Paula Radcliffe, were in the race.

Watching that marathon was, and still is, such an emotional experience for me. I got chills watching Kastor strategically move from eighteenth place to third. As she moved from fourth to third, I jumped around my living room with joy. She ran her own race, not knowing how many women were in front of her. She didn’t even know she was in third place until she ran into the stadium. As she realized that she would be the bronze medalist, I cried.

This video is a bit long, but it’s worth watching. I still get chills, I still cry, every time I see it.

I often compare writing to running on this blog. It’s true in countless ways, and writers can take a lesson from Deena Kastor.

Like Kastor, we must run our own race. We have to focus on our pace, our course, not who is ahead of us. Kastor put in the work long before it paid off. Writers have to do the same. We must work hours, days, weeks, years, before we see the fruit. We have to do what is right for our story, our career, instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing. Stop worrying about how far behind you feel, how much faster other writers seems to be at drafting, revising, snagging book deals.

The great thing about writing is that it isn’t a competition. It doesn’t matter how many other writers have crossed their finish lines; there is room on the podium for anyone willing to put in the work.

Write a great story. Improve your craft. Learn. Create. Grow.

So many runners don't finish a race because they go out too fast. They get caught up in other runners' paces instead of their own, and eventually, their bodies can't keep up. They were running someone else's race, and it usually ends badly. I am quite certain that plenty of good writers have quit or become disillusioned because they spent too much time watching what others were doing instead of focusing on their own path. But Kastor's bronze medal just proves that great things come to those who put in the work and run their own race. You just may surprise yourself at how far you can go.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't Quit Your Day Job

I need routine. Crave it. Thrive under it. I’m a teacher, so one would think that I would get so much writing done in the summers. One would be wrong.

I do get plenty of writing done in the summers—some summers more than others. But I find that my writing is often so much better once I go back to work. I believe it’s a combination of having only a certain about of time to write (versus having all day and frittering half of it away) and being forced to think about something other than writing eight+ hours of the day.

So often, writers dream of the day when they can quit their jobs and sit at home writing their next novel while surrounded by leather-bound books, fire crackling, sleeping dog at their feet. (That’s not just me, right?) And often they feel that they won’t be a “real” writer until they do it full time.

To that, I say bullshit. Yes, lots of writers are able to write full time. That works for them. Even more have day jobs—some out of necessity, others out of creative need.

I can only speak for myself, but judging from my writing life the past few years, my writing is better during the school year, when I’m listening to the cadence of language and having interesting conversations and keeping my mind busy until it’s time to pour myself onto the page.

You are living your life right now. There is no when, no waiting room. Your life is what you make it in this moment. In this moment, I am a teacher and a writer, and because I am both, I am better at both.

I started school yesterday. I’m exhausted. My feet hurt. It’s only 6 PM here and I’ve been craving bed for over an hour. But I’m also fulfilled, and in the last couple of days, I’ve managed to find the spark my revisions were missing.  In that respect, I went back to work at both of my jobs.

And in this moment, I wouldn’t have it any other way.