Downhill and Up

Still putting in the miles to get ready for that half marathon in a little over two weeks. Still not having fun. Still telling myself it will be worth it–the sense of accomplishment and because it’s there and it might be good for you if it doesn’t kill you first and all that elusive stuff. Still using the time (98 minutes yesterday) to think about projects I’m working on (I like to call it writing on the run) or come up with new ideas.

I often think about the parallels between writing and running, but on my most recent run, because of the hills involved, I was especially tuned in to the commonalities. When I left my house I began a long and sometimes steep downhill. I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, of course, but for nearly a mile the running (actually jogging, in my case) was close to effortless. Which kind of mimics what it feels like to get started on a novel. I’m fresh. I’ve got a fresh idea. I’ve got my route planned out and I’m gonna follow it. I’m not gonna get blocked or sidetracked or stop to fix something that really doesn’t need fixing, at least not at this stage of the process. Life is good.

But the downhill isn’t gonna last forever. You hit the flat. Your Achilles starts nagging at you: slow down, stop, go back. What are you doing this for, anyway? The enthusiasm dwindles. And you know it’s not gonna get better. For every downhill there’s an uphill, at least if you ever want to get home or put the last period on the last sentence and type “The End.” So you keep slogging. And the uphill looms in front of you, discouraging. Every step is gonna be torture. Every breath is gonna be a struggle. Every word is gonna be trite, every character flat, every situation a cliche’. When you’re all done, is anyone going to like it? Offer you a pat on the sweaty back? Applause? A contract? But you keep going. You recall your original plan, and the goal. You don’t stop to retie your shoes if there’s nothing really wrong with the way they’re tied.

You reach the hill. It’s steeper than you thought and twice as long. Now your whole body questions you: Why? Your mind responds: the sense of accomplishment, blah, blah, blah. Your muscles/lungs/idea factory hit the quicksand phase, but you keep going. You reach the top of the last hill and there are only a couple miles, a couple scenes to go. The end is in sight, and although you know that everything behind you wasn’t pretty, you’ve almost arrived, and you can go back and do it better next time.

Then you’re there. Home. You’ve done something nobody can take away from you. You’re weary, but you’ve made yourself stronger and better prepared for whatever you take on in the future, whether it’s going over the same territory again, and again, or striking off in an entirely new direction.

Downhill. Up. Running. Writing. Life.

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