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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.

I’ve realized, looking at my running log, that I only ran two days last week and only one day so far this week (and it’s Thursday). What’s up with that? It’s hard running without my running partner, who has an injury; she definitely motivated me.  I’m feeling lazy and I think I’ve gained a few pounds. I’ve definitely been eating too many sweets lately. Making a lot of exceptions (the cupcake as reward system).

I’m feeling a little down about my novel. It’s a complicated feeling: disappointed, angry, frustrated, annoyed, discouraged. It’s not about another rejection, it’s about realizing that I’m not finished. I thought I was finished a year ago. I went through an edit and thought—that’s it—I’m done! And now, after a friend read it, and told me that a couple of chapters were slow (“boring,” was her actual word), I know it needs more work. I’ve known all along that it needed that work. I just didn’t want to do it (the ignore it and it will go away school of thought). Plus, now I’m realizing that there are a few other issues in the novel that I need to deal with; issues of continuity. I wanted so to be done. This has been such a long process. Years and years (three at least). I did so much work last year, I really thought I was there, and now I see, if I’m honest with myself, that it needs revision in a few chapters and then there’s this really important thread throughout that just kind of disappears near the end without any resolution. I need to deal with that. Last week, I finally became willing to do more work on the novel and I’ve actually enjoyed it, most of it, getting back into the characters and the story; however, this week, I’m losing faith. Will this ever end? This process is so long and tedious it really has me wondering if I want to write another one.

It makes me think of my last race—the four miles—and how I thought the finish line was closer than it actually was. They moved it. The finish line wasn’t at the point where we started, but around the corner—an extra block to run—and then I thought it was where the guys in yellow jackets were standing but NO, they waved me on, “keep going, you’re almost there.” Sure, I thought, I’ve heard that one before.

When I logged in my run this morning, I noticed this quote at the bottom of the page: “Not all runners can go faster, but everyone can run longer. It’s pacing, patience, and persistence, more than talent, that allows you to cover longer distances.” —Joe Henderson, a Runner’s World columnist

Writing is about choices.

 I’m in this novel-writing thing for the long haul. Pacing, patience, and persistence are what it takes. I think I have talent, some anyway, but perhaps not at the level of some more prolific writers. I need to take it easy on myself. I’m not in a race to finish my novel. I want it to be good; I don’t want to publish something mediocre, just because I want to be done with it. This is hard now: the final push when I had already used what I thought was the last of my reserves. Now, I need to summon resources from the depths of my being, vigor I feel I no longer have. Persistence. Doggedness. I’m not fast, mind you, but I can persevere. I ran the last “race” in 12 minute miles—no, not fast—plodding and determined, am I.

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