We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. (Emile Zatopek)
5.30 a. m. My alarm clock goes off. It’s dark and cold outside and my bed has never felt so warm and cosy. I stretch my arm outside the duvet —gosh, it’s really cold—and reach for the alarm clock. 5.40 already. Now, I’ve got this marathon to run so I really should be up by now.
I finally manage to get myself out of the comforting embrace of my bed. Sitting on it, I look for my gear: a pair of sweatpants, a warm sweatshirt —not matching, of course. I am still fashion conscious—. Now, where have I put those darned…fluffy slippers? Yeah! Have you second-guessed that I am a runner? No way! The only time I ever run is to catch the bus!
I am taking part in a marathon, though. Only mine isn’t about kilometres, hamstring cramps and sore feet. It’s about thousands of words, hand cramps and, once in a while, a faltering self-confidence. I am not a runner. I am a writer.
For me, as for most writers, writing can feel like running the longest, most demanding run ever. As if we were athletes, we have to be committed to our intention to write, visualize our finished stories, show up every day, train hard, cheer up ourselves (and, sometimes, other fellow writers who really need some rah-rah to keep going), fall, get up again, and give everything we have for the sake of getting our stories out of our heads and onto the paper.
Writing, as running, has its ups and downs. Sometimes, discipline wavers, and we don’t feel like working. Some days our writing sucks, our mental muscles ache, we’re not in the zone, and we have to battle with words and ideas. We’re tempted to call it a day, and go watching some gossip TV programme.
But, just as it is for runners, there’s a huge reward waiting for the writer who perseveres. When you outline your book, keep your writing schedule, sit at your desk every day and honour the gift you’ve been given, that of being able to use words to bring ideas, people and entire worlds to life you feel like a super hero, you rise above those who don’t write. It’s this simple, this magically empowering.
In his book Born to Run, Christopher McDougall writes about human beings being natural runners, and while I’m not sure I’ve been born to run, I’m sure there are people who’ve been born to write: those who feel the itching of a story wanting to be told, those who get lost in their worlds of words, losing track of time, those who keep on writing when it’s bliss and when it’s hell.
To such people, I can only say, keep on writing. Not all your writing days will be perfect, but all of them will be worthy. Running this marathon of words is worthy.