I just finished the Run for the Zoo 5K! It was a cold, windy morning and I had one of my best runs ever. I ran the whole thing, I stayed positive, and I improved my time by over 2 minutes. Not bad—and against the wind. I feel great!
The thing that kept me going in the race was focusing on being in the present. I started out slow and didn’t think about what other people were doing around me: speeding by, stopping and starting, I just kept going at my pace. I did my mantras: “I can, I will, I am”; “I love the hill, I love the hill; and others that help me stay in the moment and keep the negative thoughts out. I focused on what my hips were doing, that seems to help me open up a bit and feel the road and not focus on the finish line, on lunch, the bathroom, the time, other runners.
While I was running I thought about my writing and how it mirrors running a race. I thought of all the people I was running with as writers: some are racing ahead, some are erratic, some are young, and some are seasoned. It doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with me and my writing/race. I just have to stick to my pace. It’s not that I never should slow down; I just need to pay attention to my body and being aware of when I need to alter my pace. The same goes for writing; there will be times when I need to slow down: to replenish my creativity, get ready to take a different tack, to let an idea simmer.
For example, we got hit by a few big gusts of wind out there and there was no point for me to exhaust myself pushing against the wind. So I took it easy for a bit, coasting along, still making progress but not wearing myself out. When we turned a corner and were out of the wind I picked up my pace. The last mile I pushed it, went a little faster, and then near the finish line, really opened up.
The race felt different today. I’m stronger than I thought I was. I have more stamina. I’ve had trouble motivating myself lately: feeling weak, tired, negative…not wanting to push. Consequently, I was surprised that I was able to motivate myself today, that I used strategy. I’m really pleased about my performance.
Back to writing. I’ve been thinking about the process I’m in right now; not writing as much as I’d like to but doing a lot of research on publishers and agents. I’m busy getting work ready for submission. I’m also thinking about joining a writing group (something I’ve avoided since graduate school). What I need now is stamina in my writing—to keep going, even when I get rejection letters or my queries just disappear into the void. Keep going. Motivate myself. Stay positive. Focus on small things, like writing this cover letter, editing that story, starting on a new idea for a novel. Just showing up at the computer and writing regularly takes stamina. There are small actions I can take that keep me moving forward: research for my new novel idea, read a blog by an agent before submitting, read a novel published by a press that I’m interested in—even when though it takes time and doesn’t feel as sexy as the creative stuff. It’s part of the process.
This is like preparing to run a race. I practice by running 4-5 times a week whether I feel like it or not. I go a little bit further even though I want to stop. I practice by stretching, eating right, reading runner’s magazines, looking at my running log to see what’s working (and what isn’t). When I run I practice self-talk, I focus on where I place my feet, what the ground in front of me looks like, the shadows falling on the path, my breath, by arms, my hips and my feet. By focusing on what is immediate, I get where I want to go.