Forward Progress -or- Third Time’s the Charm

This is the first full week of marathon training and this year, I’m hoping to offer inspiration and tips to the team of folks who are also running in support of the Alzheimer’s Association of Delaware Valley. When I set out this morning, my marathon plan told me I’d be running 5 miles easy. Well, I do that all the time, so I thought that maybe I’d try stepping it up and holding a faster pace for the middle three miles. But the hot and sticky August weather made me feel a bit sluggish. And I’d chosen a hilly course — the 78-acre cemetery that I’ve posted about previously.

My fave statue in the cemetery.

My fave statue in the cemetery.

On my way home from the run, I thought about what I might say to the team about training. I considered how the marathon plan is constructed and how, in these early weeks, the goal is to build endurance, not speed. The goal is to stay upright and continue moving forward, even if it means slowing down. Forward progress builds endurance and endurance builds confidence.

As I ran the last few block to my house, I realized that starting a new novel at the same time that I’m starting a new marathon program makes a lot of sense. The feelings I have about both are similar:  I’m excited, but nervous. I wonder if I can do it this time. (I’ve run two marathons and I’ve written two novels.) I’m worried about whether I’ll have the time to devote to both. But it’s this idea of forward progress that is most important — showing up each day and laying down words, or miles, as the case may be.

My friend and fellow blogger, L. Marie, referred me to this interview with Joss Whedon on the creative process. In it he talked about the importance of specificity: “Don’t just say, ‘Oh, I need to work on that.’ Say, ‘I need to work on this element of that.’ Absolutely eat dessert first. The thing that you want to do the most, do that.””

The marathon plan gives the runner that specificity. Today: easy run. Tomorrow: long run. Sunday: Hills workout. Each workout has a function and all of them together help the runner to run a strong marathon and recover quickly. When I approach a new novel, I like to think about specificity, too. And I employ the idea of dessert first by writing scenes that excite me even if they are out of order. As long as I have a general goal when I show up at the page, I’m more likely to get new words down than to stare aimlessly into the sky (though there is a fair amount of that, too.)

Now, I know I’m not going to finish a draft of a novel in the 15 weeks that I’ll be training for the marathon. But I think it might be cool to give this novel a good start alongside my training. I’ll keep you updated.

6 responses to “Forward Progress -or- Third Time’s the Charm

  1. Another great post. What an apt analogy. The great thing about a team is that you’re in the race together. And that’s what the Gardeners are. We’re a team. We’re in this thing with you, sheering you on as you run both races—writing the novel and now training to run in the marathon!!!

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  2. What a great post, Laura. I’ve often thought about how writing is a lot like running, but I hadn’t made the connection about the usefulness of specificity in goals. I definitely appreciated the way a running schedule laid out precisely what I should be doing back when I used to train for long races, and coming up with specific daily writing goals sounds like an effective approach! Happy training, and happy writing!

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  3. I look forward to keeping up with your marathon and novel progress. I am revising a ms and was having a lot of trouble with the beginning, so I decided to “eat dessert first” and start revisions in the middle.

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    • Good for you! Dessert first!! In other news, guess what, B-more?! My completed ms, for which I’m currently seeking an agent is set in Roland Park 😉 I grew up in Reisterstown. My dad’s in Guilford and my grandmother lived on Roland Ave. Smaltimore rocks! (I live outside Philly now and have for many, many years.)

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