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Running to Write           

The parallels between running and writing have been written much. Most likely this is because they are truly comparable – as most runners who are also writers and vice versa will concur. The journey can be hard. If you reach for higher stakes, it’s painful. It wears you out. You want to quit – lots of times along the way. You wonder why you are doing it. Other people (who love you) think you’re crazy.

Other parallels: You want to encourage those on the same path (especially beginners or those struggling). You want to cheer them on. On the other hand – let’s be real – you don’t want them to beat you – at least not in your category. You want them to win, but you don’t want them to win in your race. We’re a bit conflicted. It’s not that you want them to lose. It’s just that someone has to take last place. Let it not be me, we pray.female-running-by-rossella-apostoli

This spring, at my first writing conference, I met two women who had run marathons and another who had completed several half marathons. Being published has been at the top of my bucket list for what seems like forever, and running a marathon has followed a close second.

After visiting with these ladies I thought, what’s stopping me? Why can’t I do both? While driving home I developed a little self-contest. I would aim for the marathon and publication simultaneously. I figure that if I have a bad day or week with one (rejection, lack of inspiration, simply sucking) there was a good chance I’d be on a better roll with the other. I always will have something to be working on and aiming for.

I can also play the game “Which will happen first, publication or the marathon?” I thought “marathon”. Reasons? It’s essentially in my control. Barring injury, illness, or natural disaster I could run a marathon if I tried hard enough.

Publication is (I figure) about 66 percent in my control. What’s necessary: talent (skill), hard work (persistence, perseverance, butt in chair, etc.), and luck. I get to control how hard I work. I can influence skill – by practicing, learning, and seeking and using feedback/criticism. Luck is out of my hands. However, I do believe we make much of our own luck. But contacts, timing, the publishing industry itself can all be lucky or unlucky for a writer. We make the best with what we have. But sometimes we don’t have much…

I mentioned this plan to my daughter. Marathon versus publication – let’s see what happens first. Surprising me she said “publication”. I didn’t ask why, but I have some ideas. One is that she sees me working like crazy, spending hours in my room working on this thing called writing. Maybe, in spite of all her critiques of every story and idea I have she thinks that some of my writing is not terrible and I have a chance. Maybe she just thinks I’m a weak runner and I’m old so the marathon thing is going to take so long that some kind person will just publish one of my stories before I fall into the grave. I don’t know why she answered “publication”, that was one of those sweet surprises that I’ll tuck away and pull it out every once in a while to bask in its tiny white glow.

 How about you, fellow writer? Do you have simultaneous goals that help keep you balanced? And if so, how do you think they will play out?


Is it Worth It?

I am 50 years old.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of something. This is from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers . The theory is based on research performed by Anders Ericsson. Based on that, I figure that if I write for four hours per day five days a week, it will take me 5.2 years to become a master writer.

That theory is not widely agreed-upon, with some scientists saying that mastery takes even more than 10,000 hours. And even if the researcher and writer are off by 50 % (and that’s a lot), that means I have at least another 2.6 years of pecking on this keyboard before I’ll produce something good enough for publication. And I don’t spend that much time actually writing. I try to spend four hours a day on writing stuff. That means writing, editing, reading, researching, social media.

To be fair, being really good, even exceptional at anything, takes hard work. You don’t need me to list stats like how many free throws Michael Jordan has tossed in his spare time, or how many hours (and hours and hours) Simone Biles has spent working in the gym. Everyone must practice – musicians, doctors, artists – they all take years to become masters.

My question is this: Is it worth it for me? Five years plus (because I just started last fall) of serious work before I can reasonably hope to begin to see a payoff? And by payoff, I don’t mean actual recovery of the money and time invested. I mean publication. If I’m really good and really lucky maybe two years. It has happened.

But back to IS IT WORTH IT. Spending hours in my little room typing out things that are in my head. Spending hours in the library researching stuff that may never see the light of day. Watching webinars. Spending money on conferences, books, classes, courses. Learning practically a whole new language and a whole new world of business.

I’m no spring chicken. But, I expect I have a lot of years ahead of me.

There are good reasons why I should shoot for this thing. I read something a while back about “putting work boots on your dreams.” I love that.

Other reasons for going for it require looking backward. I had a pretty eventful childhood – not all sweetness and light – and I remember much of it. I remember what it felt like to be little, to be middle grade, to be a teenager. And (according to my kids) I’m still one of them. I haven’t felt like an adult ever. I’m just a kid in a grown-up body most of the time.

When I write I get to say the stuff that didn’t get said when I was four or 11 or 16. And maybe other kids can relate. Maybe it will help them in some way, even if it’s just to laugh or say, “I know that feeling.”

I look back. I look around. I look ahead. I write. There will always be kids growing and learning and reading and needing. I want to be one of the ones who lights the path along the way or offers respite, a little reading bench on the path of this winding road of life.

I will keep going. Keep working, keep learning, keep trying. I have decided it is worth it. Dreams are worth everything you have to give.

How about you reader? Are you pursuing your dream? What made you decide it’s worth it? What’s holding you back if you’re not going for it? How might you overcome that obstacle?

BOOK REVIEW – Even Robots Can Dream

The picture book Little Bot and Sparrow by Jake Parker is an endearing tale. Little Bot is a small robot discarded on the trash heap because he is no longer useful. He meets a sparrow who decides Little Bot needs some help navigating his new world of freedom. A sweet friendship grows. as Sparrow teaches Little Bot about the beauty, wonder, and risks in her natural world. As the year moves through the seasons, Sparrow tells Little Bot that she must fly away and leave him because winter’s coming. Little Bot misses her when she is gone. But, she leaves him with the gift of possibility as he continues to grow and experience the wonders in life.

I like this story because it is simple yet deep. It is about friendship, love, and growth. Parker’s illustrations are warm and gentle. The humanity he instills in Little Bot draws the reader in to experience the changes of the seasons, as well as personal changes of Little Bot. Parker takes us through a year in vibrant rich color. Readers and listeners can learn about the cyclical nature of the seasons and migration, as well as learning about hope. We see that even with loss there is often some gain. (Roaring Book Press/MacMillan, 2016) Four stars.

BOOK REVIEW – YOU ARE ONLY AS INVISIBLE AS YOU FEEL

Greetings, Readers! My first (ever) blog post is a review of a marvelous book I just finished reading. “Confessions of an Imaginary Friend” by Michelle Cuevas (Dial Books, 2015) offers us an entertaining and educational foray into the world of imaginary friends. Jacques Papier is a boy (or so he thinks) who is Fleur’s twin.

The story, told from Jacques’s perspective begins with, “THE WORLD HATES JACQUES PAPIER!” Demoralizing things happen to him, such as the teacher never calls on him, his parents sometimes forget to kiss him goodnight, the bus driver drives right past his stop when he’s standing there alone, and he NEVER is chosen for team games – even when he’s the last one standing. The only person who truly notices him and knows what he’s thinking and what he wants and needs is his twin sister Fleur.

Eventually, it becomes clear to Jacques that he is truly invisible to everyone except Fleur, other imaginaries, and his despicable nemesis the dog Francoise. After this shocking and depressing discovery he joins “Imaginaries Anonymous”, a support group. There he learns about the Reassignment Office, a sort of employment agency for imaginaries which is a hilarious example of your typical governmental bureaucracy. 

Jacques soon decides to leave his beloved Fleur and sets out on a quest to become “real”. Cuevas takes us into the secret world of imaginary friends – their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. In reading “Confessions”, we and Jacques learn valuable lessons about friendship, commitment, and love. We also get a glimpse of what makes us important. As Jacques’s friend, Roller-Skating Cowgirl tells him, “You are only invisible as you feel.” 

This story is filled with laugh-out-loud scenes and unexpected twists. Jacques learns what we all should hope to learn – to be the person he was meant to be while helping others along the way. This story has a sweet and satisfying ending. The only thing it lacked was just one more chapter with the unsinkable Jacques Papier.

The hardbound book has 268 pages, with occasional black and white illustrations (by Cuevas). This is a middle-grade novel (ages 9-12) (but this kidult loved it). Highly recommended. Five stars.

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