Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sort of Like Running

So I've been feeling sort of sorry for myself lately, frustrated with my attempts to publish which seem to go nowhere while wondering if all the time spent at the keyboard is worth it. I took a week off. I traveled. I watched TV. I visited with some old friends. I went for a run, or two or three.

And then I realized something.

It's sort of like running. Writing, that is.

When I was living in Cleveland during graduate school, in my early 20s, I turned on the TV one Sunday morning to catch the end of a marathon that's run every spring through the streets of downtown Cleveland. They run a 10K, too (that's 6.2 miles). I was fascinated. And so I decided that the following year, I'd run that race too. Something inside me wanted to be the one doing, not the one sitting at home watching.

You know where this is going, right?

I hadn't run farther than 2 miles in my life, but I changed. I ran 2. After a couple of months, I ran 3. Then 4 every so often, and eventually I worked my way up to 6. I ran that race, the following year, and though I finished in the middle of the pack, here's the thing: I finished. I did it. I ran through the streets of Cleveland alongside 5000 other runners and thought to myself how I glad I was that I wasn't sitting in my living room that morning.

Since that first race, I have run countless others. Mostly 5Ks (they're shorter), but a lot of 10Ks too. I even have one half-marathon and one marathon under my belt.

Why do I run? Well, I'm not particularly fast. I've never actually WON a race of any kind, though I've placed in my age group. I don't even actually enjoy running, when it's too hot or pouring rain or my legs don't want to move. I've taken time off. I've taken years between races.

But here's the thing: running has definitely become a part of who I am. I know I am stronger, physically and mentally, than I was before I began running. I am in shape. I am healthy. I have the blood pressure and the pulse of someone half my age. And some days, there is nothing better for escape and conquering frustration (or writer's block) than putting on my running shoes and heading out the door.

So yes, I guess I've figured out in the last week that writing has become sort of like running for me. I've only been writing seriously, on any kind of regular basis, for 5 years. 5 years! And I've finished 4 novels, all of which have made their way to agents' desks. So why should I be down on myself? I'm doing. I'm not sitting in front of the TV wishing. And if I don't ever publish, then it's not the end of the world. I won't ever run a 20-minute 5K either, and I've come to terms with that. I don't think I could go back to life without writing, though.

That's a good thing to realize.

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