A lesson that has been coming up for me again and again in various aspects of my life is the importance of paying attention and adjusting my pace accordingly. I’ve had some runs of late where I start to feel low on gas mid-run. As soon as that happens my mind starts to tell the story about why I’m too tired to run the full route. Maybe I didn’t eat enough or I didn’t sleep enough or whatever explanation my imagination can find for why that original feeling of low-energy means the run is over, I may as well start walking now. Here’s what I’ve started doing in those moments. I keep running, but I slow the pace and listen. I let go of my sense of urgency and expectation. Just about every time I do this, I find my stride again.
I’m writing this to remind both of us that the same is true for writing. Lately I feel like I’m moving slow motion through molasses to even get a paragraph written. The longer this goes on, the longer my list of ideas and projects get. When this happens writing starts to feel like a chore that never gets done. Something responsibility that you have, but you have no time to do it in. I’m reminding both of us that writing is a choice and YOU get to set the pace. I heard a trainer say to someone at the gym the other day “you are not running a race” to get them to slow down the pace of each lift.
This is true for writing too. You are not running a race. Be happy with a paragraph is that is what you get. It will be your bridge to the next sixth paragraphs tomorrow.
If you’re like me, you drum up this sense of urgency. This desperate need to finish the book. For me, it’s about outrunning death, about meeting some imaginary timeline by which I should have accomplished such and such, but mostly about wanting to get through the difficult parts of writing as soon as possible.
Here’s what I’ve noticed, though. When I slow my pace and listen? The work opens up. The writing is better.
The picture I’m posting along with this blog entry is a photo of me at mile 26 of the first marathon I ever ran (2005). You might be thinking, but wait that doesn’t fit at all with your “you’re not running a race” analogy?! My only goal in that race was to finish with dignity. Endurance was the ultimate goal. Adjusting my pace is how I finished that race.
You are doing many other things while also trying to write and all of these things will impact your focus and energy. Adjust your pace accordingly. That will allow you to write through even the tough times, so that when your energy begins to flow again, you will be poised, warmed up, and ready.
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