Friday, April 16, 2010

First Drafts and Running...

A while back, 7 years to be exact, I took up running. I had always wanted to be a runner, but never had the nerve to try. I was your typical non-sporty individual – the last picked for any team sports in school, bowling was my only claim to a sport. But I’ve always been a walker and figured how hard can it be to go from walking to running. OK, hard…but I digress.

So after that year where I focused all my energy on becoming a runner, I experienced the Runner’s High and ended the summer with a 10K run under an hour! I was very proud of myself and promptly sat on my butt for the winter and turned my attention to writing. Writing is not conducive to maintaining weight or physical stamina! But I did experience the Writer’s High – finishing a novel, working hard at revisions and sending it out for other people over and above myself to read. And they liked it, they really, really liked it.

Lately, with all this BICHOK I’ve been doing (both with writing, blogging every day and The Day Job), I’ve noticed a lethargy and weight gain. Of course, I could also blame the aging process or the food and wine, but I’m sticking with the BICHOK excuse! Time to get back on some kind of exercise program and why not running. I laced up my shoes about 3 weeks ago and have been working at getting back in shape.

Like. Not easy!

And for the first two weeks, I kept berating myself for getting out of shape and not being able to run for longer than a minute when I had ran for 10K seven years ago. Then, this week, as I was stumbling along, I connected my running with my writing. Especially writing a first draft.
  • My running is awkward. My stride isn’t long nor are my arms pumping back and forth in perfect unison. I put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. Just like a first draft. It’s not going to be pretty. And it certainly isn’t going to be perfect. No one expects it to, so stop beating yourself up.

  • Go for as long as you can. Don’t try to run the 10K the first time out. And don’t try to get that first draft done in 3 months. Baby steps. If you can only write 500 words at a time, then do it. Soon, like running, you’ll be adding to that word count because you have the drive and stamina to do so.

  • The more you write, the better you’ll get. Same with running. As mentioned above, my running is awkward and gainly. I stagger over the road, shuffle my feet, drop my arms, raise my shoulders, move so slowly sometimes I think I would get there faster if I walked. But over the last 3 weeks I’ve noticed improvement. Just like writing – you’ll improve the more you practice.

  • Your technique will not be the same as other writers. Or runners. A lady ran past me the other day, her head held high, a bounce in her step, arms pumping rhythmically. I never looked like that even when I was running constantly during that year. The same goes with writing. I can never write like Karyn or Jana or Hayley or any of the other chicks. And if I try to copy them, I’ll end up failing. Just like if I tried to mimic that lady runner. Number One I would be dead on the road after only 10 bouncy steps because I’d be out of breath. And Number Two I’d look like a goof – she didn’t look like a goof, but that’s her style. Running like her would only contribute to me failing. Writing like someone else would only result in me getting frustrated and quitting.

  • And just because you’ve run the distance you set for yourself, doesn’t mean you’re finished. A first draft requires revision, critiquing, more revision, and submission. And/or you start again. If you stop after that one manuscript, when you go back to writing, you’ll be starting from scratch. Don’t stop. Set new goals. Strive for longer distances. Keep moving the finishing line so that first draft becomes the first of many! And that first kilometer ran in one shot becomes 2, then 3, then 10!

So start. Go slow. Be OK with your technique, no ones watching. Set small doable goals. When you reach them, set new ones. Put one word in front of the other, one sentence after the other. And don’t stop and go back – why would I now, after working my way up to running a kilometer without stopping, go back to running between one set of telephone poles? And most importantly, be kind to yourself – you’re not going to keep at something if every time you try and work at it your inner critic ridicules your efforts.

Ooh, that hit home. Right there – smack up the side of my head. I’m my harshest critic when it comes to writing. When I run, I ‘coach’ along the way – "Great job! Just over the hill! You can do it! You’re almost there!" Why don’t I do that with my writing?

So, People of Blogland, any runners out there? Any other sports analogies – share them with us in the comment section. And, finally, do you ‘coach’ yourself while you’re writing or are you your harshest critic? I’ll be back to read comments after I go for my run!

Janet (who has many first drafts languising on a hard drive because she's being too hard on herself)


Paula R said...

Hey Janet, I love the analogy you have here. I have been meaning to get back into running, but I am scared I am gonna fail. Yeh, I know I did it before, but it has been so long, that I have let doubts cloud my mind. The same happened with writing. I think this is a perfect analogue, and while I was reading, I realized I have to resolve to continue without looking back. I never aspired to be like others in that regard, but I completely hear what you are saying. I remember the struggles I had trying to get back in shape after being injured. I had to coach myself, and I convinced myself that I needed someone to run with me; it would keep me in check, but it didn't matter. Once I committed to doing it, I was okay. The same goes for my writing now. I have committed to giving this a shot, and no matter how scary it gets I am going to continue on. Thanks for you post today. I hope you enjoyed your run. I need to put on my shoes and start doing the same again. What better time than the spring? See you later.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Janet said...

Hey, Paula! I hear you about failing - both in running and writing. As I was plodding along (running), I kept thinking how pathetic I was, how I couldn't go the distance, questioning why I was actually trying - but then the writing analogy came to me and I knew I just had to keep going. Like you said, no looking back. If you continue to question yourself, you'll never get anywhere (which would be like running on a treadmill, LOL).

I hope you get back into running - for you. And writing - first and foremost for you, because that's who counts. And you're right - spring is the best time to get out there and work up a sweat.

Thanks for stopping by today, Paula.

Helena said...

I've been back in the house for about half an hour -- from my walk. I have never tried running, but I'm encouraged when I hear fitness experts say that walking is just as good. I walk about 4 km six days a week, and it usually takes about 50 minutes. I walk with a friend so we motivate each other to actually get out of bed at 6 am. Only illness or extreme weather interferes with this year-round habit. We find it a terrific way to start the day: it is energizing, puts us in touch with nature, we get fresh air in our lungs, and we support each other in our goal of staying fit as we age.

Now, where is my writing buddy who would support my need to exercise my writing muscles, get fresh ideas on a regular basis, and to stick to it because if I don't I would be letting someone else down?

Excellent post, Janet. Keep up (all) your good work!!

Silver James said...

Not running. Nooooooooo! Don't make me run!!!! I can sprint for about a block and then I have to flop in the grass and force air into my lungs!

However, comparing writing to running, I like to think I'm a ....speed walker. I try to set a good pace, one where I can talk (write) and breath at the same time. My problem is that I get distracted *squirrel!* and wander off on tangents.

Great post and happy Friday!

Janet said...

4K six days a week is fantastic, Helena! Good for you - and yes, walking is perfect exercise to stay fit and healthy. And at 50 minutes for 4K, you're really motoring.

Hey, you have us! I know, not the same thing as having a check in buddy. That's what I loved about BIAW - and Hayley and I did an MSN thing a while back where we would sign in for a couple of hours and check in for 5 to 10 minutes at the top of the hour. Great way to make sure that Butt is In the Chair. Perhaps we need to do a May Blitz again (anyone doing that with SRW this year)?

Glad you liked the post, Helena :)

Janet said...

I won't make you run - and if you think I'm sprinting, think again. I'm pretty sure turtles would pass me if they were going in my direction. But, again, if I thought about that, let it bother me, I would never get out there. I go at my pace - as I should do with writing.

I hear you on the distractions. Muse is constantly coming up with new ideas and I have to tell her 'NO'! Sometimes the new ideas are much shinier and prettier than the stuff I'm slogging through at the time.

Karyn Good said...

You bowled, I curled. It was the perfect sport for me as I got to socialize while doing a sport!

Great funning analogy! My favorite is you improve the more you practice. It's true, really you do! It just doesn't seem like it some days. Especially on those days my inner critic is acting like a bootcamp sergeant.

Keep up the great work and don't run yourself ragged :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

LOL Janet, I never thought to make the comparison. But you're right, as usual.

I used to be a on the Track team in High School. It was good planning because it set me up for the 10 mile 'jaunts' we took in the military. I was never a jogger because I've had arthritis in my knees forever, but when I was feeling good, (usually in training for our yearly 1.5 ml run) I'd jog around the PMQ's. (Private Married Quarters) We had to run the 1.5 mile under 14 mins (for females depending on age) or a memo would go to our Captain and they'd make a note on our file. And we'd have to keep trying until we made it. It was easier to stay in shape.

But then I retired and the rest is history. :(

Excellent post, Janet.


Janet said...

Hey, Karyn! Bowling was great for socializing, too. And something I can pick up anywhere I go to meet new people and get out (just like curling).

Practice makes perfect. For running too - I'm always amazed on those days when I go just a little further (like today). So exhilerating. I need to transfer that over to my writing, too.

Run myself ragged - LOL!

Good luck with your inner critic :)

Janet said...

Anita - 10 miles! Yikes. 1.5 miles is what 2.4k? I might be able to do that in a month - I'll keep you posted. Certainly not going to be under 14 minutes, though - not until I've had some practice. One foot in front of the other...

I figure it's easy to stay in shape when you have a job like the military. Writing? Not so much. Although my fingers are very strong and could poke someone's eye out!

Glad you enjoyed the post and the analogy :)

connie said...

Hey Janet-
RUN? Me? but I walk until I see the bear.
Inner critic - used to be an impossibly mean guard in a POW camp.
Husband bribes me
Now have five wips on the go and two ideas....

connie said...

Janet - I am up for a May blitz


Paula R said...

"One foot in front of the other..."
I really like that. I am gonna have to steal that to help motivate me. I feel so ridiculous when I am running. I think I might start with the treadmill, though I hate running inside.

Anita, I remember those 10-20 mile jaunts we took in the military too. I think those were the best years of my life for physical fitness. Every now and then, I miss the drill sergeant pushing me to not give up. Nowadays, I hear a mile and I want to collapse before I start...LOL!!!

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Janet said...

Hey, Connie! BICHOK - butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Makes for word count but does nothing for physical strength!

Tons of ideas - just keep working on them, get them finished. And we'll have to discuss May Blitz!

Janet said...

Paula - you go ahead and use "one step at a time" all you want! And I, too, feel like a klutz running. I used to go out early, early in the morning so that no one would see me. Now, in my new place, there's no one living on the country road I take, so no one can see my ungainliness. But, then again, if they don't like what they see, then they shouldn't look. I have to remember I'm doing this for myself, no one else.

And why not be your own drill sergeant? I did that this morning, pushed myself to do an extra two telephone poles over and above my 1k distance. You can do it, Paula!!

Paula R said...

Thanks for the push Janet. I needed that! We will see what happens, then I will report back here.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Julie said...

As you know, my aim is to write 150 words every day for 2010. Who knows after that? But I think I will have an on-going plan come mid-October.

I don't run, but I do a lot of walking. Not power walking though. What I have done is buy myself a Wii and I try to get 40 mins for each of 6 days a week. Mostly aerobics but also a lot of exercises to help with my balance which is quite wonky.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I am definitely not a natural athlete. Far from it. But I find I need some sort of physical activity to make me feel better, not to mention to keep my butt from becoming enormous. I've developed some back problems the last few years and so I turned to yoga and pilates for strengthening and flexibility. Keeping active helps with back pain and also with mental well-being.

Congrats on getting back into running. Keep up the good work!


Janet said...

Nice to 'see' you here, Julie. I love our Wii - and we have the fitness/balance board thing, too. Haven't used it in a while (time, I have no time), but hope to get back into it come fall. It really is a lot of fun.

Walking is a great exercise - and great for your core strength, which helps with balance. I think there's something to be said about switching things up - a variety of different kinds of exercise - to keep all of our parts in shape and our body healthy.

Looking forward to seeing what you're planning - I hope you mention it on your blog :)

Janet said...

Hey, Jana. I know how dedicated you are to your workout. I think you were the only one of us at spring retreat that actually took time every day to go exercise. That is huge - being out of shape, or worse, in pain, does not help the writing at all.

I should get back into yoga - love it - but like I said to Julie, there's just no time.

I'll keep you all posted on my running adventures over on my blog!!