For those who have read anything of mine (blog or otherwise), you know I like to use non-writing examples to get a point across, and today will be no different.
Besides writing, my other big hobby is running. I have no interest in doing physical harm to myself, so a marathon is out of the question. I’ve found half-marathons (13.1 miles) to be the perfect distance for me. I’ve done two of them, and I want a “13.1 + 13.1 = 26.2” bumper sticker.
I am fanatical, downright destructive when it comes to my competitiveness with myself when I run. My pace is off by 3 seconds? #Fail. I felt a little more winded today than yesterday despite putting up a great time? #Fail. Something is sore? #Fail.
So here is how a run goes for me, and how it relates to writing:
I’m running well, right on my pace and feeling great. My breathing pattern is locked in, my mind is clear, my legs are strong. My goal is a 5-mile run. As I approach the finish line that is my front porch, my brain’s chatter goes from hyper-drive to super-hyper-drive to … plaid. (SHE’S GONE PLAID! … I will not apologize for the Spaceballs reference. Will. Not.)
“Keep going. Do another mile. Pick up the pace. You have tons of energy left. This is the best run you’ve had in days.” So I do. I turn from my porch and go around again. And that decision leads to the exact same thing each time. When I finish my NEW distance, I’m tired, sore, out of breath, and angry.
Do I give myself credit for succeeding at my original goal of 5 miles? No. The run has become a failure.
This happens when writing, too. None of us have enough time to write, so it is damn-near irresistible to keep going when we’ve reached our word count/chapter goal a little bit ahead of time. “Hey, I have a half-hour left. I should keep going.” “I reached my word count but I know how the next chapter starts, so let’s get into it while I’m rolling.”
Yes, sometimes this will work out and you’ll make great progress and find wonderful words … keepers.
But too often, this can run you into the ground. And what happens when the words stop, or the extra half-hour of writing you pushed into produces bad words, or worse: you stumble upon a plot hole (real or imagined)? The brilliant writing you did earlier in the day gets lumped with the ickiness at the end, and it all feels like #fail.
In any endeavor, especially the isolated ones like writing and running, we need to pocket our successes. “I’m ahead of my running pace today.” Great, pat yourself on the back and get a drink. “I finished that chapter I thought would take me all day.” Good for you, now go tweet about it and bask in the number of favorites you get.
Pocket. Your. Successes. Let yourself win.