This past Saturday I ran a 5K, my first in over nine months. It went fairly well, better than I thought it would. I’ve been training for it for over a month, running four or five days a week, a few miles at a time. When race day came I was ready.
While I was training for this run I’ve also been working on my next book.
I’ve noticed a correlation between running a 5K and writing a book. Things start off with a bang. The starter gives the signal and all the runners jump into gear, a mass of legs and arms swinging and pounding the pavement. The same goes for writing. The first third of the book always comes easy, it flows like clear water down a mountain. Often, the story unfolds in my mind faster than my fingers can keep up with it on the keyboard. I’m in a groove, all the pistons firing in sync.
Then the second mile arrives. For me, when I run, after the first mile I hit a wall. That’s when the battle begins. I start second-guessing myself, questioning why I’m running, trying to convince myself to walk or quit altogether (can you tell I’m not a natural runner?) Writing is no different, the middle third is the toughest and slowest. I get bogged down in the plot and start wondering why I started this story in the first place. I lose my focus, get distracted, change my mind, and try to convince myself to throw in the towel.
Then the last mile arrives and I know I’m almost home. The proverbial second wind arrives, bright and smiley and, while my lungs still burn, my legs feel rejuvenated. The final push comes rather easily and the finish is in sight. I ride my high and finish strong. In the same way that last third of the book, the climax and resolution, is where my writing finds new life. I see the end ahead, the light poking through the darkness, and head straight for it without wavering or stopping for pause.
So where am I now? Right smack in the middle, the slump, the drought. I have no idea where the story is going or how I’m going to get there. I’m questioning myself and my abilities, wondering if I should have embarked on this journey, wrestling with whether to push on or send my work thus far to the scrap pile.
I’ll push on, though, and ignore the voice of pessimism, of discouragement and negativity. Writing is an exercise in perseverance, a challenge to determination. There will be light in this darkness and a story will emerge. I’m confident of that . . . or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
So how about you? If you’re a writer, do you experience a similar phenomena? What do you do to revive your writing?
If you’re not a writer, is there anything in life that puts you in a slump and challenges your perseverance? What do you do to climb out of that hole?