Tag Archives: Running

Coming in Fighting

happy_new_year_2016

My mom told me once, years ago, that the way your New Year’s Day went would indicate what your year was going to be like.

Even after knowing it was an old wive’s tale, I tried to see if it was true. Of course it wasn’t, but it never stops me from trying, from seeing what comprises of my first day into the new year. If nothing else, it helps me try to start the year off right.

It’s hard for the year to be measured in a day. You can’t expect to be jobless by the end of one after having one coming into it. Loss can’t be seen from a single day, from the bottom of the hill before you climb up it to see the actual view. All that you can really tell is if that day feels good to you.

But last year, I started it off with writing, after having so much difficulty over the summer and fall. I conquered what blocks and sluggishness held me back, and that was reflected well in my writing that year, doing better than what I had done the one before.

So this year I wanted to start it fighting, and writing, and hopeful, and impossibly optimistic.

And while I know that an old wive’s tale isn’t true, I believe in setting the pace for the year, like it’s a race or a run of some kind. Figuring out how fast you want to go is the key to whatever you do have in your control.

Though, on the other hand, I do encourage taking advantage of nap time. There’s nothing sweeter.

If there is something I have learned from this past year, though, it is the importance of being kind to yourself. If you feel like something is wrong, or you can’t handle something, or you aren’t getting enough chance to fill your lungs with air, examine what’s going on, and what can change. What should change.

Life is already going to put you through hell, you don’t need to help it make you feel worse. You have limits. Listen to them.

Thank you, for those who’ve been watching me this past year. I know my posts have been sparse and erratic at times, but I appreciate you putting up with me and my wisdom whenever it surfaces.

Here’s to another, and hopefully better, year.

Cheers,

The Novice Wordsmith

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Boston versus Camp

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, or even for a little bit, you already know that I have a relationship between running and writing. I’m in love with both, and I see parallels in both quite frequently.

So it should come as no surprise that I’m drawing another parallel, one between the biggest US marathon and a smaller, less stressful month of writing. Both, this year and last, have happened within the same time, with one Camp month of two falling on April. Boston has annually been in April.

This parallel is brought to you by my camp cabin. It had come to me while I was reading about the winners of the marathon, and the times of each. Men are obviously up ahead of women by at least 15 minutes because of natural physiology. Depending on ethnicity, physiology also plays a huge role in how fast a runner is and how much endurance they have. There are a lot of factors that go into what makes that person win, including what they eat, their previous injuries and recovery, and their style of running. Genetics can also have a massive effect on things like endurance, recovery time, and and speed.

Though pace is less important in writing, depending, there is still an instinctual stakeout that I do of the top writers, those who have gotten the furthest in the month. I may not have been able to write as early as others in the cabin, but consistently, I was ahead of the pack.

If you don’t know, Camp NaNoWriMo has a feature that allows you to “bunk” was 11 other writers in a cabin, to help push you through the month and influence and inspire you. That is the charm of camp, it’s not just you, there’s more with you trying to achieve goals unique to themselves and their writing. Both Friend and I are a bit competitive and definitely ambitious, and seeing others up where our wordcounts were made us want to surge forward.

Being toe to toe with others in a race not only helps you push yourself, but it helps you understand what you’re capable of. Sometimes, you’re going to push too hard and fall out of the pack. The pace is going to get more than what you can handle with everyone else, too much for you to sustain.

Other times, you’re going to be the one setting the pace, and it’ll pull you ahead of everyone else by a longshot or a short one.

I have had very little competition this month so far in terms of wordcount. The closest behind me is 13k short of catching me. I am going to probably break 50k by the end of the month when my goal was 35k and I hit that on Thursday.

This morning, while reading the live tweets of the Boston Marathon, after the women’s winner was announced, I found out that her last time in the race was 2012, and she didn’t finish. This time, she surged ahead in a sprint to win it.

I know it’s ridiculous to compare, but it made me think of struggling through November, how difficult it was for me to finish that novel and do it well or do it any justice. How worried I was about my work and progress. I limped out of November 4k above the goal, and had even stopped writing two to three days before it ended.

Camp is different. Six months later, I’m above my goal and searching more to finish the small novel instead of stopping just because I got where I need to.

Writing, unlike running races, doesn’t stop when you break the tape at the end. It stops when you say it does, when you’re satisfied. In the case of NaNoWriMo and the Camp series that they have, the end of the event may serve as simply a checkpoint for some of us, depending on just how big the story is. Writers have a race to run that takes much longer than two hours and nine or twenty-four minutes, but ours can be taken as slowly as we need to, and with as many people as we want to involve.

In the mean time, I think I’ll grin at my early victory and hope this November goes a whole hell of a lot better than the last one. My training for it should be fairly simple. 😉

– The Novice Wordsmith

Push and Shove

Reminder to self and followers: There is such a thing as pushing too hard. Stop doing it. You’re going to effing hurt yourself.

Sometimes, all it really takes is time off. Though you may not want to let your fingers rest on the keys or put the pen or pencil away, or even tuck the sneakers and exercise bag away, it is, at some point, going to be best that you do.

Relax.

As my own experience has taught me, shaped by perfectionism, completionism, and competitive spirits, as well as a fresh and lively fear of failure, you can go too far. You get sick or your head doesn’t work as well, creativity is down, but when you have a streak staring you down that you haven’t broken, and a chance to keep it going, you can become a slave to regulation and forget that you’re human. That you need time off sometimes to recoup and get better.

The story can wait. The words will come. Do not force it. The road is always going to be there, the gym, the laptop, the journal. The only person you are disappointing by not doing it that day because you know you can’t, is yourself.

When I was younger, on a swim team and at conferences, a popular phrase I’d hear is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” I used to be kind of gray on how I felt about it, but recently, a friend has shown me that it’s the devil. It’s a clever way to force you past your limits and get you injured. The same can hold true for your writing, absolutely, but in different ways.

Stick with me…

On paper somewhere, post it notes or a notepad on your computer, an idea is sitting there waiting to be had, and you love it, you fell in love, which is why you had to write it down. Except, right now, you can’t get motivated, but you told yourself you’d do it, so you start…

Stop. It’s going to feel strained, your writing, your language is going to look like it’s not all there, like your heart isn’t totally in it, and it’s not, is it? When you throw yourself into a pit that you don’t have the strength to climb out of, you trap yourself.

And the hardest thing I’ve had to teach myself is that it’s okay to fail. That it’s okay to stop for the day and let it slide. Don’t let it become habit, but let yourself move on to something else, and come back when your heart reaches for it. Like I’ve said in The Fires of Passion Part 1, and Part 2, if your heart is in it, it’ll be easier, you’ll know what turns and hooks you want to put in, you’ll dig in deeper and put your all in it.

I had a huge lesson smack me in the face about the time that I started this blog. That failure is a part of life and I need to stop running myself through when something doesn’t live up to my expectations. Or it doesn’t exceed expectations, or something disappoints me, or I don’t do well at all. To step back and say, okay, I’m okay with this.

I have gotten better, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and I have a long way to go. When you can see what you have or haven’t done in hard numbers, it becomes more difficult to give yourself a pass. You hold yourself accountable, you hold more against yourself, and you simply don’t let yourself off easy. It’s harder to relax.

Completion is most difficult because you see that you haven’t done something and you force yourself to do it all. I once did exercise on a day I knew was not good for it because I had taken rest days through the week already, and made myself sick for the majority of the day. April Camp Nano was struggled through and I forced myself to finish a chapter and put it in the book when I absolutely hated what I came up with.

Then you have the inspirational crap you see all day, on Facebook, on Tumblr. I personally see a lot of, “Suck it up and keep going,” not verbatim, but to that effect, and I’ve gotten to a point where it pushes me to get off my ass.

It is okay to stop. It is okay, natural, human nature, to feel frustrated and stuck, because it happens, but you know, at least you should, that it will not always be like that. Sometimes, you’re just not going to be able to write every single day, your head won’t be in it, you’ll have decreased motivation. It will happen, and it is okay.

I guess in a lot of ways this is a reminder to myself. Another step forward in seeing what I’ve been doing to myself and forcing myself, in better ways, to relax. To breathe, and to see that I’m human and sometimes, I can’t always do everything.

Progress is gradual, and slow. If running and writing have taught me anything, that would be it. You’re going to hate some things you put out, but someone else might love it. So write on, or feel free to stop. Pause. Recuperate. Breathe. Pushing yourself isn’t always going to be best or wisest. You know yourself and your body and your limits and your brain best, you make the rules, but don’t cut yourself short when you know you can do more, when you’re capable.

My favorite piece of advice I’ve had to myself is that, hard work looks ugly. It’s not all smiling models, it’s gritted teeth and tongues sticking out in thought, it’s hunched over the keyboard and hair a mess. It’s natural and normal and life. Don’t let the pictures fool you. Sweat. Pour your soul in. Let it out, unleash, and without hesitation.

Just be careful of overdoing it. It’s possible.

The Novice Wordsmith

Compression Calf Guards and Performance

I know the title is a little odd, but stick with me on this one.

I’ve been considering this post since I got my compression calf guards early this month. The reason being for that is mostly because I try constantly to make links between running and writing. They’re so similar to me, one because they’re both such great passions of mine and two because they seem so obvious (probably because I work through them both so often).

Out on a run (unsurprising) today, I thought about it again. I ditched the guards because it was short and I had very little desire for big effort. Today it was running to run and help boost how I’d been feeling all day, and putting on the guards is like shoving my legs in tight clothing that I desperately want to wear.

After three years, I’m finally making bigger improvements in my endurance, and that’s in thanks to the guards, because they help block out the pain and make it much easier for me to push without worrying about splints or aches. I’m able to focus on speed and distance instead of my condition and forget everything but my feet on the pavement and my swift movement down the road or up the hill.

Every thing is different. Every skill and talent, every hobby you pick up or class you look into, it’s all got fundamental difference, but in essence, some of it can come to be very similar. What’s similar is the broader parts, like getting ‘gear’ to help you improve.

Which does work. Some things will help your performance in a lot of ways, but another thing I realized in the past few weeks of thinking about this topic was that, really, there is no “compression sleeve” equivalent to writing.

A lot of the time, the only things that help you improve in writing are location, what you surround yourself with visually and audibly, and the kind of inspiration you seek out. It’s about the journals you fill and the programs you use and the music you do or don’t listen to. The other writers you read, the books you immerse yourself in, the worlds you dive into day after day, hour after hour, because you cannot get enough and you don’t want to.

It’s organization or lack thereof. It’s in your head and your hands and less about bells and whistles than it is about expanding on the basics.

All of them will always have one very central thing in common, though, and that is the love, dedication and effort you put in to that work, to get better, to see yourself achieve what you know you’re capable of, to reach your dreams and to be more and more each time.

Some hobbies can take more money to help you get better, others only need you to see things differently. There are no limits, only what you put in front of yourself.

Mental blocks are the worst, and some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to overcome. There’s still one street I run down that I can do easily one way fully, but coming back up it is the worst task in the world because of how I visualized it when I was still a beginner.

Today had been a big eye-opener in this case because, without the sleeves, I nearly ran the entire length of my route without stopping, which I haven’t ever done before, though I’ve been getting closer lately.

We remember where we’ve had a tough time before and it sticks with us. The best way to break through is to go a different route completely. Freshen, liven, and see what you can achieve when your head doesn’t think that you’re doing the same thing. Do something new, and throw in something positive about it, and see how far it takes you.

This goes for everything. If you’re having a hard time with a chapter or story or trying to get something out specifically, you will remember how hard it was before. Changing tone or perspective can make a world of difference.

I’m still trying to tackle that street every chance I get, to make it through as far and as fast as possible, because maybe then, I can overwrite the negativity I wrote in so early.

What I see a lot of when it comes to mentality and running and writing is that it’s all in what you say to yourself. Can you see that you can do it, or are you telling yourself that it’s impossible? Do you know that you have it in yourself, or are you making sure you don’t? It’s easy to short yourself, but look for the more optimistic side of things, even if you don’t believe it at first.

For so long, I wasn’t sure that I could even do much of anything with my writing. After getting a hard conversation out of Friend about my writing and the habits I had with it, I was resigned either to shrug off the idea of writing as a career choice or taking it head on and trying everything I could to make it.

A year later, I sat back with Friend at my side in a resort and was on my way to a journey to 100k words in a month, after writing almost daily for four months, and making so many stories I was immensely proud of at that point.

Getting a little more off topic, I had another friend who told me she thought that achieving her dreams was a stupid ideology and that it’s impossible. Maybe it’s my own personal experience that leads me to believe that you can with hard work and dedication. Maybe I’m naive and haven’t had enough negativity thrown into the mix to keep me down and out. I was convinced at one point, too, that I’d never find a job, and felt completely trapped, but that changed, too.

Perspective is everything, sometimes. Whether you need help from gear or programs, or just a fresh scenery, you won’t always be stuck.

– The Novice Wordsmith

NaNoWriMo 2014: Week 1 Update

Holy crap, this year is so much different than last and it’s only been four days.

As soon as midnight hit, I expected to feel the same exuberance, wanting to get out every possible word I could before I had to get to sleep early for work in the morning, and just outright indulge in it. Instead, I found myself nervous, stalling, and uncertain.

My wordcount at least is keeping up with where I was last time, somewhat, but I’m going fully chronological this time and not straying from the time line. This feels more like the first year I did this event because there was a lot of uncertainty, but that year I waited until midday to start my novel, and I didn’t have a 90k win under my belt giving me a standard to work toward.

The way I’m going now at least, I may have 50k by the middle of the month. It’s not so unheard of to have people winning in the first week, but that just boggles me like crazy.

I’ve had a slew of problems, including wanting to switch novels and work on something else, not feeling confident in what I’m currently working on,  and feeling like I haven’t put any kind of thought or accuracy into language, barriers for it, and most of all, the personalities of each character.

This year is a hell of a lot tougher than last, which, honestly, makes me think of the comparison of NaNoWriMo versus marathons. The New York City Marathon in fact, was on November 2, if you didn’t hear, and I had a thought about it after hearing that some people didn’t finish it.

“Why wouldn’t you finish a marathon?” Same reason you couldn’t finish 50k words. It’s hard. There was no way of getting to it, but the thing is that you did it,  you put in a hell of a lot of effort, but in the end, you saw that you just couldn’t finish.

It is not unlike feeling like you stretched yourself too thin or that you didn’t pace yourself well enough, but it can be done. It will be, if you will it. If you find yourself needing to duck out to the side lines, don’t beat yourself up. It happens. You are not any less of a writer for it. Sometimes, we don’t have the time to commit, or the ability.

I intend to win this, though, and I know I can. Even if the wordcount updater refuses to work for me. Which, to my knowledge, they are still working on, I think, for anyone who’s curious.

Ugh. Okay. Back to writing. Happy wordcount to all who are doing this! And good luck!

– 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