Sprints and Marathons
During a recent run on an atypically hot March morning, I started thinking about sprints and marathons. I’ll never be a sprinter. Not only am I slow, but my concentration is atrocious—think Dug, the golden retriever, from the movie Up. Except that Dug only lost his focus for one thing: Squirrel! Everything distracts me. Sprints require absolute focus. You get one chance to perform. Marathons allow for adjustments. If you slowdown in one segment of the race, you can always pick up the pace in another. I’m undoubtedly a marathon kind of person.
Last week, I finished the major revisions and edits of my latest book. I started writing Acceleration in the fall of 2014. Do the math. That’s a long time. Writing a novel is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Now maybe a prolific writer like Stephen King could be considered a sprinter, but there aren’t a whole lot of those. Just like the start of a marathon, the beginning chapters of a book come pretty easy. Those first twenty thousand words usually shoot out onto the page like rats from a sinking ship. Often, the story has been rattling around in the writer’s mind for so long, the words can’t wait to come out. But all too quickly, the easy part is over.
And that’s where the psychological trauma begins, somewhere within the troublesome middle of the story. Even if the writer has a basic outline, knows the primary plot points, and understands the characters well, the middle is hard. It’s the part of the marathon where writers start to question themselves. Where am I going with this? Why isn’t this working? Do I even want to write this story? It is such a common occurrence, I’ve learned to prepare myself for it. If by chance, this interval of anguish doesn’t happen to you, consider yourself a blessed individual.
So here’s the answer: treat writing like a marathon. Recognize the difficulty of the dreaded middle—where you’re so tired and discouraged you want to quit—but hang in there until you finish the race. Yes, it’s difficult and not always fun. Yes, you’re going to question yourself and your story. And yes, you’ll probably wonder why the heck you started writing in the first place. Acknowledge these feelings, and keep moving forward. I promise you’ll be glad you did. There’s nothing like crossing the finish line!