I’m just gonna come straight out and say it: writing is hard.
You know what else is hard? Running a marathon.
There are similarities to both pursuits. They both take time and energy and stamina. They both are mostly solo activities, at least during “training.” They both come with bragging rights. Both endeavors will bleed your body and wallet dry.
I ran a marathon once, the Boston Marathon in 2008. It was terrible and awesome and something I’ll never do again. I’ll save you the time from Googling how “fast” I ran it and just tell you it took 5 hours and 35 long minutes.
As of this week, I’ve finished six manuscripts (one romance, five YA). I’ve been working on “Secret Heart,” a coming-of-age/coming out/ rom-com centered around an Unprom (Think Dawson’s Creek meets a teenage version of Kissing Jessica Stein), off and on since November. It was my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel and after letting it sit on my hard drive for two months, I saved the beginning and end chapters and chucked the rest out the window. It felt good to do that. I had zero expectations for it, especially since it’s unlike anything I’ve done. But I had a hell of a time writing it.
You know what I didn’t have hell of a time doing? Running a marathon.
Let’s face it. I’m a slow runner and a fast writer. I’m okay with that. Besides, I’ve earned a hell of a lot more money writing then I ever earned by not winning a race.
Anyone can train and run a marathon (except Boston. You have to qualify for that or run for charity like I did). Not everyone can write a book. Yeah, there’s talk around the cheese table at parties where someone says, “I could write a novel. It’s not that hard.”
Newsflash: Writing a novel is F-ing hard. Getting it published is even harder. Getting people to actually buy and read your book is hardest.
But damn if it isn’t rewarding.
The high I get from finishing a draft of a novel lasts longer than a runner’s high ever did. Also, writing doesn’t give me blisters or make it hard to walk up a flight of stairs.
Training for a marathon takes a few months, maybe more if you’re out of shape. Writing takes YEARS. There is no “training program” for writers like there are for marathoners. It doesn’t take fancy shoes and jelly beans with electrolytes. It takes sitting your ass in the chair and writing draft after draft until it stops being shitty and starts getting real.
The sad truth is, you don’t get a medal when you finish a book. There’s no silver blanket, no bagel and no banana. You don’t even get to wear a t-shirt that says “I did it.”
But writers aren’t like runners. We’re not in it for the glory. We’re in it to maybe change people’s lives. I’m okay with that.
I will never win a marathon, but every time I finish a manuscript, I WIN.