Blog your Heart
September 2012 in Review

Impossible Feats

"One person's 'just do it' is another person's Everest." I read that in a novel this weekend (The Dive from Clausen's Pier, if you were curious) and the idea has been sitting with me ever since. Partly this is because of a writer's conference I went to last week (more on that in another post) and how it made me think not so much about my writing as it did about my writing habits. My processes, and how I need to radically change them if I am ever to find any success, and it does sort of feel like an Everest. Except, look at all those successful writers who presented at the conference. How did they do it? They just did it. 

I think we all probably have our "just do it" things that look enormous to other people. I get that a lot with running. "I wish I were a runner, too" or "I don't know how you run for so long" or "how do you fit it in?" sort of comments come up quite often. I don't really know how to respond with a short answer. The only way you become a runner is by running, by starting slow and short and building up. I've been running consistently (aside from the dismally chubby days during my teaching career, when I could only find running energy during the summer) since 2000, but I still remember vividly my first race, a 5k I ran with Becky, back when my running clothes were biking shorts because running shorts were too short and made me chafe. (I still can't wear real running shorts. Because they make me chafe.) I had never run three miles, and I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to finish, or that I would come in last, or that I would make some spectacularly obvious newbie mistake and embarrass myself. That first 5k was an Everest of sorts.

But if you keep pushing, different things become new Everests. I tried the summit (a marathon) once in 2001, which is like...well, it's exactly like a new runner trying to run a marathon. Maybe other new runners would be successful, but I wasn't. I didn't run a marathon until 2011. But I did run a whole bunch of half marathons, and challenge myself in other ways, and even now that the marathon is behind me I still have running Everests. How do I do it? (Or any other runner, for that matter, as I'm hardly an extreme or noteworthy example.) Just by running. By doing it one day at a time, by preparing for and reading about and experimenting upon running. Just like a person who is (literally) hiking Mt. Everest. She gets to the top by taking each step.

Sometimes my own "just do it"s are simultaneously my own Everests. Like this morning, when I decidedly did not want to go running. Not at all. I was completely uninspired at the thought. I wanted to stay home, eat a big bowl of oatmeal in my pajamas, and then maybe take a bath. Getting dressed, putting on my shoes & headband & sunscreen, propelling myself down the street: had I ever even done those things before? But if I didn't run this morning, I wouldn't be able to run again until Wednesday, and as I didn't run last Friday that would be an entire week without any running. And that's another way Everest turns into "just do it." You sometimes slip back a little bit, but you don't want to slide all the way back down to base camp. Even when you're uninspired you put in the miles.

And you know: I'm not even writing about running there. I'm writing about writing. I'm trying to teach myself that the only way to fulfill this dream is by writing. By getting my butt out of base camp. By figuring out a way to make it work. To change my entrenched habits so that writing, too, becomes the thing I just do. Even though right now it feels like 29,029 feet of impossibility.



Oh, do Nanowrimo with me this year! That is what started me down the road of actually forcing myself to write more regularly. And when you let go of that inner editor and just strive for word count, you will be amazed at what you accomplish. I always have to go back to edit and make changes, but by then I have a solid piece to work on. Some years I don't even know what I'm going to write about until a day or two before November begins (like last year). Then again, I know you tend to write essays more than novels, but if you have a novel in you, give Nanowrimo a shot. The least that can happen is that you don't make the word count and thus, don't get the paper certificate (Bryce always laughs at that motivator).

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