Monday, February 22, 2016

Getting By With A Little Help From Your Friends

I officially completed my entry for a half-marathon last week. As in, filled out the form, sent payment and told my training partners I'm in. Can you say, "Oh my God. What have I done?" No? Well, I can. :) Oh my God! What have I done? 
I've run full marathons before, but that was pre-kid. Considering the kid's going to turn 11 a few days after I cross the finish line, that's A LOT of years without running any real distance. In fact, I looked at my running app the other day after a 6-mile training run and the last time I ran that far was October 2014. Sad, but true. But, I'm running -- and training -- with 2 friends, which makes it So. Much. Better. I don't know if I would do it alone, but I don't have to. Which got me thinking about marathon training and writing -- and how, for health reasons (mental and otherwise), it's advisable not to go it alone.
People say all the time, "Writing a marathon, not a sprint." and it's true. Writing is a long game. Some people hit it out of the park with their debut, but most writers build an audience book by book and success comes from putting in the proverbial miles. There are aches and pains, occasional tears and breathlessness along the way. People also say writing is a solitary endeavor and this, too, is true. At the end of the day, no one but you can put those words to the page. But, that doesn't mean you don't need support along the way.
My running partners keep me committed to a running schedule. We celebrate the good runs and cheer each other on when one of us is flagging. We share random facts and stories about our kids/husbands/dogs. They keep me sane -- and get me out there on days when it's cold and rainy. My writing tribe -- a closed Facebook group of twenty other writers, most of whom I had the good fortune to meet in person at RWA last year -- isn't so different, even though we're spread across time zones. I'm one of those people who loves/hates Facebook (Or is that everybody?) but I look forward to notifications from this group more than almost anything else on social media. When I've had a bad writing day, need inspiration or even just see something online that makes me go hmmm, this Facebook group is my happy place. 

Another part of my tribe are critique partners (whom I also love to the moon and back). We send each other blurbs, snippets, pages and, yes, cheer each other on, share successes and rejections/bad reviews. My critique partners are gold and I don't know anyone who would make it through the ups and downs of finishing a book without them. 

This blog, which I came to because a writing friend suggested I get in touch with Brianna, who then asked if I'd like to participate regularly, is part of that all-important tribe, too. As are certain friends on Twitter, real-life friends who aren't writers, themselves, but who get it. My husband who puts up with my perpetual attachment to my laptop, and even my kid, who really really thinks I should write a book without kissing for a change, but thinks the fact I write books at all is kind of cool. In other words, this solitary marathon of book writing isn't so solitary after all and I'm better for it. 

I went for a run alone this morning -- my first solo run in ages. I had my music blasting and even though it's cold, it's sunny here in NW England today. I ran a loop I struggled with when I started running again after the Christmas holiday, and even though I wasn't fast by racing standards, I was fast by my own standards. My Nike app has cheers turned on at the end of every run and today, Rafael Nadal said, in his very sexy accent, "Your training is really paying off." and I couldn't help but think, I'd be nowhere in my training if I was running alone.

Then I came home and started trying to write the blurb for my current WIP. I got a draft done and after I fiddle with it a little more, I'm going to send it to a critique partner and another writer friend. By this time tomorrow, I'm pretty sure I'll have a completely different blurb and it will be so much better. And I can't help but think, I'm so glad I'm not doing this alone.


Jonathan Schramm said...

Great post, Brenda! This is so true, I'm slowly realizing. If you don't have a group of other writers to cheer you on and help hold you accountable, then it's really hard to stay productive or to feel like a true member of the writing community. It's so much easier when you don't feel so alone. And good luck on the marathon!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Writing and running can be such isolating activities - it's no wonder people give up on both. You have my utmost respect. A marathon?! That's amazing.

Brenda St John Brown said...

It's a half-marathon, so not quite as daunting! But, yes, it's easy to feel like you're not a "real" writer, just like it's easy to feel like you're not a "real" runner -- b/c you don't get in epic word counts, publish multiple books per year, run seven-minute miles eight times/week. But I've learned a lot this past year about finding my own pace and sticking with it.

Brenda St John Brown said...

It's a half-marathon, but it still feels awfully far from where I'm sitting (on the couch, drinking wine, specifically.). Ha. But, it's like writing a book -- happens one step at a time. Literally.

Mary Fan said...

Great analogy! Writing really is a marathon... right down to the training style haha. Can't be doing long runs every day... Can't be writing word-splosions every day either.

Carrie Beckort said...

Great post! Love the analogy. I did a sprint triathlon back in 2001 - and like you said, if I hadn't signed up with friends and then trained with them I never would have done it! My next goal is to try a half-marathon some day. It's interesting because I've always been kind of a 'go it alone' kind of gal. This past year has taught me that I can't do that if I want anything to be sustainable (both in my health and fitness journey and in my writing). Glad that we are part of each other's support system!

Brenda St John Brown said...

It's true! I run 3x/week and take the weekends off from writing completely to recharge. It helps massively on both fronts.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Before I moved to the northern part of England, I never really ran with anyone. But living in the countryside and working from home really changed that. Now exercise is also part of my social outlet, which is great. I've always thought about a sprint triathalon, but I'm such a bad swimmer, I don't think I could do it. Well done!

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