Some of you know that in addition to being a writer, a writing coach, a business owner, a therapist, a dog lover, and a wine connoisseur… I am a runner. I started running half a lifetime ago, and I found that when I really decided to put my heart and soul into the practice of running… well, I still wasn’t any good at it! (LOL?) That is to say, for my whole running life I have been a back of the packer (often last).
That’s right, I’ve spent about 28 years absolutely committed to something I’ve never really gotten any better at—at least not if you judge me by the usual standard (speed). But I would argue that while I may not have gotten any faster, I HAVE gotten better… at A THOUSAND things in my LIFE because of being a runner all these years.
Running for me has been the great teacher and a grand metaphor for almost everything else I do.
Take the race I just completed in Iceland about 10 days ago. That race kicked my ass. Mountainous, volcanic rock and thick early morning fog nearly took me down. I’d trained six months for it—for 53 kilometers—and was about as ready as I could be, given that I’d trained in the Pacific Northwest where the worst thing I face is a little rain and mud. But the racecourse in Iceland—on unfamiliar, rugged terrain—STILL turned out to be more technical and difficult than I could have ever imagined (to read the whole story, go here).
But, of course, as has been true for every major race I’ve ever participated in, once I was done and had showered and had a cold beer and a huge meal, I got the chance to ask myself what the race had taught me about life, about relationships, about mindset, and to OUR purposes: about WRITING.
I’ll be mining the depths of the Iceland experience for many months, no doubt (because it was—hands down—the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done), but there are a few lessons connected to WRITING I can already feel taking shape in my psyche as a result of that run.
- Writing a book (as with training for and running a race) is a lifestyle, and there are many different landscapes on the journey—some smooth sailing through meadows and some climbing up jagged rocks. In our Get Your Book Done Program, we guide writers through the writing. In our Next Chapter program, we take writers through revisions. But we know there is more to the journey than writing and revising—there is also BUILDING an AUTHOR’S PLATFORM and PROMOTING a book, which you can never start on too early!!! All the parts of the journey are important, dear writer. Keep your commitment through ALL of them—even the parts you like less than others.
2. Paying attention to detail improves your technique. In running, inattention to detail on the course can mean taking a fall. In writing, attention to detail is ongoingly built as a writer learns to observe THE WORLD and translate what she sees into scenic depiction on the page. By the way, I know of NO BETTER way to learn how to attend to detail than to travel and to write as you go. Consider joining Lisa Dailey and me for an information session about our end-of-the-year trip to Oaxaca with agent Laura Mazer and NaNoWriMo’s Executive Director Grant Faulkner.
3. Doing something hard requires us to face our fears. In running AND writing, there can be many crises of confidence a person has to face down and overcome, but in writing there is a PARTICULAR fear I hear NEARLY EVERY WRITER grapple with. And here it is: There will be consequences when other people see what I’ve written. Because most of The Narrative Project writers are memoirists, this fear is often about the reaction of family or friends when people see what’s in the book. There is no question about it, writing—and publishing—a book (as with running a ridiculously long and arduous race) requires courage. That’s why I’ve put all of my family therapy skills to work for you in a new six-week deep-dive coming up in the fall. To find out more and grab your spot for this crucial courage work, go here.
Writers, I am ABSOLUTELY COMMITTED to getting you over the finish line with your project. And I know how because hard-to-reach finish lines are what I do.
Stick with us. We’ve got your back.