Tag Archives: Race

Rush Hour

The holidays are a prime example of ‘not enough hours in the day,’ typically if you have a lot to do. Family to visit and helping with dinner usually means that you don’t get much time to yourself, if any, outside of turkey naps or food comas. If you’re the one cooking and setting up, even less time is given.

The clock becomes a race instead of a stationary figure, and you’re making sure throughout the day that everything gets done and prepared on time. Did you start the casserole early enough? Should you have pre-baked the pies last night? Crap, I can’t find the pickles and olives, oh… thank god, there they are. Now I can start wondering when to take the ham out of the oven…

In the midst of it all, the day becomes, rightfully so, about your holiday and how well it’s going to go instead of any obligations you may have held up. So, instead of worrying about having enough time to get that bodyweight exercise out of the way, you can devote all of your time to worrying about getting grandma from the nursing home on time.

At the end of the day, you might have a few hours to yourself. Holidays are synonymous with ruining streaks of anything, but what about writing? Where does ‘just a little’ become ‘too little to be acceptable’?

I’ve purposely allowed myself to revise a few old stories simply to keep up the streak. I go through and end up finding a few things I didn’t like anyway, but I have also only edited a few words before and let that be it because of whatever reason. Busy or my head wasn’t in it or something to that effect.

It becomes a struggle between semantics and meaningful effort, at that point. There can be a 200 wordcount daily to-do on your mental list, but how much do you put into it, and how much is simply getting it out of the way because it’s in the way in the first place?

I could go into a whole other post about meaningful words and fluff during Nano, but I’m not going to. Instead, I will say that it can be difficult to see the purpose and keep up with actual effort that makes a difference when you have bigger things to worry about, or limited time. Especially, in the case of this post, holiday arrangements and obligations.

Finding something that captures your interest, whether it’s new or old, can sometimes be the key. Go searching. Think about where your head is at. Write something about the holiday’s impact on a character. Do something reflective. If you can only get out the few hundred words and need to rush off, there’s still the chance to come back to it later, but don’t let yourself forget about it. Or, keep it for all of the other holidays. Come back to it when you have limited time.

Whatever you can do to make it go quickly, or if you need to focus because it’s been a long, eventful day and you finally have some time to yourself before it ends. Even swift can still make a difference, if you want it to.

On that note, I hope everyone enjoys their holiday, or has enjoyed it (I’m in NA, so I’m late for everyone on the other side of the world)! I hope it is (has been) plentiful, and that you get everything done just like you wanted to! Don’t stretch yourself too thin!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Pushing It

Something that gets faced a lot in physical sports and activities is that line of “can I keep going on this pain/annoyance, or should I slow down to recover?” It is something I’ve struggled with in running when I up the ante, and it seems to translate to writing in different ways.

You know the days, slow, sluggish, your head is cloudy and you can’t get the picture right. There’s too much fuzz on your mental television and you can’t tune it in just right to see correctly. Maybe it’s just a bad day, or you’re out of sorts, but you still need to get your writing done for the day, and you do still want to make progress on something.

Except, you can’t. You’re stalled out mentally. So when do you keep pushing, to try and make something happen, and when do you call it a mental health day and walk away from it until you can see better?

When it becomes an all-out struggle, I stop, to breathe and try to calm down. It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like you can’t get any details right. Likewise, it’s hard to get anything right when you’re flustered. I’ve had a BIG problem with this recently, and it’s the cause of a few month-long pause on a project I’ve been wanting to work on very badly.

Funks and grooves are easy to get into sometimes, when things have been thrown off, but the best thing to do sometimes is to wait until it feels okay. Do what you can to alleviate some frustration, whether it be outlining or getting fresh ideas for the scene, or rethinking what you’ve done so far. Don’t count yourself out completely.

Then there are times where you force yourself to finish it, no matter what, you have to get to the finish line. The point here is that you can go back and revise what you did. You can even re-write it, if you really feel like you have to, but if there’s a need for you to finish now, don’t worry about revision. Write. Come back to it later, look it over, you may yet like what you wrote when your head’s a bit more clear.

In some situations, forcing it to happen may make it worse. It can get you to put characters in situations you don’t like, or say things that aren’t true to their personalities, and the list goes on. Complications feed complications, and sometimes it’s easier to see what’s going wrong, and others can be harder to tell.

If it’s mild, try to do what you can, but you know your limits best. Don’t make something happen if it doesn’t feel right. It’s okay to take breaks. Up against a deadline? Pause, breathe, and go forward as you can.

If it’s severe, it’s better to reset your head. Wait for it. Take it slow.

What I hear a lot of is that taking rest days from an injury often deters training for a race. It’s the same in that, if you have a deadline with your publisher or a personal deadline to reach, having to stop creates a lot of stale chaos for you. Bury yourself in “homework:” if you can’t write, read, or watch a movie related to what you’re writing, or a television show. Something will come up. Something will spark.

Everything takes time, though. Pace yourself. Relax. Look at what’s going on and see what the best course of action is. Don’t panic, there’s a way. There always is.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Running and Writing

I’ve made analogies to this before, they’re all spread through my posts, and the obvious reason for it is that I’m both a runner and a writer. I can see too many similarities to the two to ignore.

Both are free activities, but getting more gear and finding things to help your stride both in wordcount and in miles or minutes ran can get expensive. You can do both on your own, or with a group. Most importantly, both are done at your own pace.

In the writing community, our Boston Marathon can be equated to NaNoWriMo. I’ve heard my friend tell me about a woman who beats out everyone in his region to 50k, and she does triple that in the month, but she’s always the first to get it. Though, National Novel Writing Month isn’t so much about how fast you win, but that you won at all, and how many words you got out of the month.

Going at your own pace is a huge point to me, I remember looking at a favorite author of mine writing about how she got out so many pages in a day (which I knew how to translate to how many thousands of words she did, and it immediately blew my mind); she was doing, on a bad day, triple what I was doing on a good day. Then again, I had only just become more prolific, but it was still boggling. How could someone get out that much in so little time?

Practice. Dedication. Hard work. She knew what she was doing, she was a professional author of 20 years, and I was, and am, just a beginner, but I’m getting there.

Sometimes you find people with bad form and posturing, and they may get past the finish line, but what does their progress look like? Let’s take some highly ridiculed books, for example, Fifty Shades of Grey, or Twilight. They get the most praise for crossing the finish line, but they struggled through the race, and none of what they did to get there is recommended.

On that note: rough drafts are like training for a marathon or a 5k for the first time. You go back out again and again to improve as much as possible until you finally finish with a product you love, and that becomes your race day. When you’ve  made it out with a winner’s medal and a grin on your face and the final copy in your hand.

On the more professional side, and in obvious news, you can make a career of both, or you could do either just for enjoyment. It is what you make of it. If running gives you clarity, keep going. If writing fills your head with impossible ideas that you’ve fallen in love with, don’t stop now.

Running in the rain is just as thrilling to me as a capturing story writing itself. Writing without much of a muse or inspiration is like running in thick humidity: so impossible that I’ll hate myself for even trying.

And it’s just as well; there are those who don’t care for running as a way to get active and fit, and those who don’t care or try to get the grasp of writing. To them, there’s no enjoyment in it, which is to be expected.

I’ve written more at length about writing for enjoyment, here, but it’s hard not to brush up on it again. Though there is a lot of focus on writing to get published and getting your works out across the world for people to see and devour and adapt into movies and what have you, there’s also a desire to simply write because you want to. Running has a pressure on races and qualifications, but if it’s not something you want to do, you shouldn’t. Hell, I still haven’t done a 5k and I’ve been running for almost three years.

Races can get pricey, though. Themed races especially, but most marathons and 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, usually require an entry fee. The gear you should have to help you achieve more for running can also get expensive. As a writer, I haven’t run into much expense, other than what I donate to nano, or the shirts I was thinking of buying, or the copy of Scrivener that I got this month… If you wanted to attend the Night of Writing Dangerously, though, it could make your wallet weep. That was the only qualifier I could think of for writing, too, while there are countless races you need to qualify for in running.

Then there are the more obvious splits: running is physical, writing is mental. Running can create or perpetuate health problems, or even alleviate, but writing does not help in any direction physically. Writing instead helps your vocabulary, your imagination and creativity, your brain growth and personal development.

It’s an insight I couldn’t keep to myself for much longer, and one I do enjoy thinking about. Both writing and running have helped shape me as a person, but I’m sure they aren’t the only two activities that hold so many similarities. Whatever you enjoy, however you spend your days, it’s likely not very hard to find likenesses in them. After all, you do like them for a reason, right?

-The Novice Wordsmith

What are you Writing For?

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked if I’m published, or if I intend to publish my work, but I know it’s a lot. It’s the same as not remembering how many times about the races I’ve run, or when I plan to do a 5k, or a 10k, half marathon or marathon.

The answer is, to both answers, “I haven’t yet,” and I used to be very self conscious about it, until recently.

There was an article on Runner’s World that brought it up. Though the magazine and website is very heavy on racing and how to train for them, what the proper technique is, wisdom from runners all over the world, and how to recover post-marathon, they had an article that was dedicated to running just to run, and it resonated with me.

For so long, I’d felt pressured to race. I felt like I needed that to be able to call myself a runner. It was the same with writing; it was the pressure (nods to yesterday’s post) about publishing something, to become a real writer, to get my name established and out there. But, one point of this blog is to say that just because I haven’t been published does not mean that I am not a writer. Just because I haven’t run a 5k or a marathon, does not mean that I am not a runner, either.

That’s not to say it’s wrong, of course. Like you’re likely to hear constantly after you lose someone close, “Everyone grieves differently,” but all throughout life, people neglect to tell you that everyone does and reacts and lives differently too.

One day, I want to get published, but that is not that day. I want to write because it’s what makes my heart sing, it’s what puts a smile on my face, that I can sit down and bang out a prompt and a piece about a character I feel close to is my bread and butter. I am not going to make myself publish and try to make a living off of writing books, because it would be too hard of a goal to stretch for.

People have said to me, “Oh, you could be the next JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman!” and while it makes me give them a sheepish grin in return, it also doesn’t mean they’re wrong. I don’t know if they are or not, but for me, not having any expectations is the best way to go. I don’t know what’s going to wait for me on the other end of the line when I do look to publish. I know people have turned down my favorite authors countless times before someone worked with them, and I’m not expecting an easy ride. My biggest and baddest novel so far is something that is not for everyone, so I won’t hold out hope, but it’s there. I can go somewhere with it.

I guess that’s another thing, too. When people say, “You could be the next <insert name here>,” my first reaction is to tell them I won’t, not because I doubt their faith in me, but because I’m a different writer. I know it’s not what they mean, but that’s what sticks out in my mind, and it was one of the first lessons I remember from when I was a child: don’t try to be someone you’re not.

I desperately wanted to be like the smarter girls in my class who overachieved, because I was never good at traditional schooling.

When it comes down to it, you have your own style. You are your own person and you go at your pace with your own groove, and forcing yourself to do things like someone else is like killing off the creative genius and wild, wonderful imagination you have.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Imitation is suicide.”

When you run, if you go at someone else’s pace, with someone else’s distance, you’re going to hurt yourself. Even worse, you’re never going to be happy with what you’re doing because you’re not doing as well as they do. It’s not you, it’s not tailored to you and your limits and what you can accomplish on your own.

So write how you write, and publish at your pace, when you feel comfortable. Do not let anyone else tell you that you’re not a writer if you haven’t published. You are a writer when you write, period, just that everyone is a different kind.

-The Novice Wordsmith