You may remember that I ran a huge relay race a few weeks ago. It was a total blast and if you're curious for more details and pictures you can peek at my other blog (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three). But for now I'm going to expound on the philosophy of running up a hill in the middle of the night and how that applies to writing (and life) -- a la Jaime.
Ever since I agreed to run the race--4 weeks before the day when I stepped in for someone that had to drop out--and saw what legs of the relay I had, I'd been dreading my middle leg. It was 8.1 miles mostly uphill, which is bad enough, but we predicted I'd be running it about 2:00 a.m. That's right, people! Miss Morning Person Extraordinaire who can barely stay awake past 10:00 p.m. would be doing the killer run in the middle of the night!
I trained my tush off for this leg - up hills, up mountains, up some more mountains. I did all I could reasonably do to prepare and I was *still* nervous. I'd be running in the dead night, away from houses, cities, streetlights, and people. All alone. In the cold night. What about dogs? What about psycho guys hiding in the bushes just waiting to pounce on lone women running by at 2:30 in the morning? What about deer? Oh my gosh, what about bears?!
So I turned on my trusty racing playlist on my iPod and followed my husband's advice to Just Do It. Don't worry about your pace, don't worry about the time, just keep going. No matter what, just keep going.
At first I just focused on one foot in front of the other and calming my nerves. Then, after a while, when nothing scary jumped out at me and I didn't collapse in exhaustion or fear, I noticed the bobbing lights of all the other runners going in a string up the mountain. I wasn't alone. I watched the cars from other teams stopping and cheering us on. I waved to my own team. And I looked up at the amazing, breathtaking night sky full of stars.
And you know what happened? I started to enjoy my run. I passed some people going slower than me, and I got passed by others going faster. Some of us greeted each other, and others were just putting one foot in front of the other.
I followed my husband's advice and just kept going. I didn't pay attention to how fast I was going, I just did it. Just gutted it out and kept moving. It wasn't an easy run, but I did it! After I finished I could barely move, and when I finally checked my pace and time I had done way better than I ever expected to.
This a great story in itself, but as I've thought about it I've found some parallels to writing (and many things in life). Stay with me here...
I want to write, not just for fun, but be published nationally. Maybe make some money at it. I can't wait to have total strangers read the stories and characters that live in my head and become just as involved and emotionally invested in them as I am. (Part of what drove me to finish my children's fantasy was imagining my two sons reading the book and getting so involved they tell their friends about it in a mad rush of words tripping over each other - just like I've heard them do before.) This is something I want really, really bad. Bad enough to do the writing equivalent of running up mountains and setting out in the middle of the night.
And at the same time the whole thing makes me nervous, too. I get nervous that my story won't live up to the wonderful nebulous ideas in my head. I get nervous that I'll never be able to pull out the words and string them together well enough to draw readers in. I get nervous that I won't finish the current project, or that I won't find an agent who likes my work enough, or that I will find an agent and then have deadlines to meet, etc. There are a whole bunch of things that can make someone nervous, and give you the wiggly-icky feeling in your stomach. Just like with my run.
Sometimes you have to Just Do It. Don't pay attention to all the side worries, or stress that your rough draft isn't great (yet), or that other friends and writers seem to be doing better than you. Just keep moving. Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep trying. And when you can, look around and notice the others on the same road as you. You'll pass some. Others will pass you. Take strength in the little conversations as you meet. There are cheerleaders on the side to cheer you on. (Like me. Go! Go! Go! *jumping up and down with pom poms*)
And make sure you look up and enjoy the beautiful, soul-satisfying moments of why you write. Those times when it clicks and you can't type fast enough, or when you're laughing or crying along with your characters.
When you finally cross the finish line you may be exhausted. It will have been hard, but you can feel the deep satisfaction of knowing that you did it. And after the pain wears off and you've had some time to recuperate, you'll want to do it again!
And that, my friends, is what running up a hill in the middle of the night has to do with writing.