This week, nearly 45,000 runners from all over the world crossed the finish line at the 2011 ING NYC Marathon. Running a marathon reminds me a lot of writing a book. I’ve done both—the Chicago Marathon in 2010, and recently, I started attacking the revisions to my 300-page memoir. By suffering through both, I have come to the conclusion that both running and writing are not only masochistic but extremely rewarding acts that make great analogies for one another.
So there you are: facing the start line/the blank page. Perhaps you say to yourself, “this is going to be easy.” If that’s the case, go away. Either you’re on steroids or you’re kidding yourself. But if a giant cloud of gloom and doubt suddenly loom over your head and you think, “there is no way in hell I am ever going to finish this thing. What was I thinking?!” just know that you’re not alone. This is quite common.
You begin. After several minutes, you feel something, something that can only be described as unpleasant. A sidecramp? Writer’s block? Unless your feet or fingers actually fall off, it’s pretty likely that what you’re feeling is awkwardness, not impending death. You feel uncomfortable. This isn’t something you’re used to. You’re not sure how to embrace it. So you stop. You decide to walk—either up that hill or away from the computer—until the “pain” goes away. SPRAYBOTTLE IN YOUR FACE. No! STOP! You can’t just walk. You have to push through. In order for your muscles to grow, you must push through. Examine the pain. Explore it. Listen to your body. Why does it “hurt”? Perhaps it’s from something you wrote. Maybe your last paragraph doesn’t feel right, physically feel right. Maybe it’s a word choice or conclusion, maybe the funny feeling in your stomach means what you wrote probably isn’t what you want. So stick with it until you untangle that knot. Then move on. Push through. Don’t quit. By looking at the entire task as a whole, you’ll become paralyzed. Take it in strides. Baby steps. The thought of running 26.2 miles or composing 262 pages is daunting, but just focus on one step at a time. The unknown won’t kill you. It might be a little scary and lonesome, but embrace it. One step at a time.
This week at Freerange, we bring you a Freshly Hatched essay by Alex Behr:
It’s May 14, the day after Friday the Thirteenth. Not that I am superstitious, but I’m wary of the woman walking toward me. I’m outside our house, a two-story 1913 bungalow in southeast Portland. Our house is weather-beaten, with metal siding and chipped paint on the porch. Our feeble gray cat, Percy, sits by the door waiting to go in. He likes to hide under the front steps or climb over the hood of our car, which is dotted with his paw prints. Even when he was our next-door neighbor’s cat, he sought refuge at our house. I never felt like a cat person, but we took him into our lives six months ago. I feared he would die of exposure. Now someone else in need is headed my way. I pause, trapped. To read the rest of PET SOUNDS, click HERE
And speaking of animals, don’t forget to mark your calendar for our next show (Wednesday, December 7th), in which we’ll be putting on an animal-themed night (and remember, this is Freerange’s interpretation of animal themes) featuring Hannah Tinti, Alison Espach, and more!
Freerange Founder & Executive Director