In March of 2011 I started jogging. Despite the occasional illness, injury, and ‘I don’t wanna,’ I’m still getting out regularly. On one long and rather tedious solo run, I started making connections between jogging and writing and life. I'm sharing them in honor of National Women's Health and Fitness Week (the last week in September each year). See more links on how to “Stay
Well, Stay Safe” from WIC.
Get Some Running Buddies
It helps to have inspiration. I started jogging with a Couch to 5K group that met twice a week. Having the regular schedule kept us on track. The program helped us pace ourselves, starting with short runs and frequent walks, and working up to a 45 minute run. We also had an experienced leader to offer advice.
Several of us continued running together after the program ended. I wouldn’t get out there as often if people weren’t waiting for me. I’d be tempted to stop early, if I didn’t have the encouragement of the group. Hey, peer pressure is powerful! You might as well make it work for you. Plus, it’s more fun to run with other people. (Granted, the pandemic makes this more challenging. Some people are apparently doing virtual social jogs where they chat on a group phone call or Zoom.)
For writers, it’s important to find the right peer group for your needs. For many, this is a critique group. They may be large or small, meet in person or online, have open or closed membership, get together weekly or monthly or as needed. Finding a group that suits your needs is invaluable.
Other writers share goals and deadlines, checking in with a friend daily or weekly to report progress. There’s that peer pressure again! Even a non-writing friend can help hold you accountable. (But choose carefully. You don't need someone pressuring you to finish your novel in six months or run a seven-minute mile.)
Finally, social groups can provide camaraderie and networking. I live in a small town with a science and engineering college; I know far more computer geeks than writers. But by making monthly trips to Albuquerque to attend a writing meeting, I’ve made many friends who understand what I do. I’ve also made connections by teaching workshops and guest speaking for groups like Sisters in Crime.
For those who can’t attend in person (or all of us during the pandemic), online discussion boards, listserves, and online classes offer information and a sense of connection. The New Mexico SCBWI group of children's book writers and illustrators has a weekly online "coffee chat" which has been fantastic for keeping in touch. Another writing friend started inviting people to occasional evening chats – "the folks I would grab at a conference to go out for drinks."
Jog - and Write - for Distance, Not Speed
It really is about the journey, not how fast you get there. Pace yourself, and enjoy the journey, or you might burn out along the way. If you can see the end, or at least imagine the cheering crowds and free food, it might give you the extra boost you need to keep going. But take time to enjoy the sights, and the experience will be a lot more fun.
As a writer, don’t focus so much on the response to your query letters. Sure, celebrate successes, and try to learn from disappointments, but put most of your energy into enjoying the journey. (That works for the rest of life, too.)
But Keep Moving Your Feet (or Fingers)
A slow pace may get you there, but if you have a long way to go, you might as well do it running. A marathon will take a lot longer at a stroll than at a jog, even a slow jog. Run when you can, walk when you need a rest, but keep moving. That’s the only way to reach the end.
Take the time you need to learn and practice your writing craft. Do as many drafts as you need to polish your novel. Don’t rush, but do keep working. Write a page a day, and you’ll have a complete draft in a year. It may not be perfect, but it will be more than what you started with.
Practice Makes Perfect, or At Least Lessens the Pain
If you’re training, you need to get out regularly. Running once a month will just leave you sore and frustrated each time, and you won’t see any progress in your fitness.
It’s the same with writing. Establishing habits and sticking to them will keep your mind fit. Writing several times a week will hone your skills and make it easier to get started next time.
Beware of Shortcuts
If I map out a 5K run, but take every shortcut, that could cut the distance down to 3 ½K. Easier, sure, but that won’t prepare me for running a 10K. It’s the same with life. Whether you’re trying to switch careers, meet the right partner, or finish a novel, some shortcuts may help, but others may do more harm than good.
I work with a lot of writing students. The beginners want to know if they’ll get published after taking one course. Nobody wants to spend 10 years learning how to write, but you need to do the work in order to earn the reward at the end. If you beg your friend to send your rough draft to her editor, you’ll blow your chance to make the best use of that connection. If you self publish your work before it’s ready, you’ll waste time that could be better spent working on your craft.
Sometimes the long, hard path is the only one that gets you where you want to go.
Whether Running or Writing, Push Yourself Sometimes
With enough practice, you should get better. When I started jogging, it was a struggle to go for 10 minutes without a break. Six months later, I could make it through 45 minutes without stopping.
And then I plateaued. Jogging had become comfortable, if not easy. Why cause more pain by trying to go farther or faster?
Because that’s the only way to get better. And most likely, it’s the only way to stay interested. Fortunately, one of my jogging partners was great about coming up with new workouts. We added in some sprints one day, did hills another day. We chose different routes on different terrains. Variety keeps it interesting, which makes it easier to work hard.
With my writing, I find that I get bored if I become too comfortable with something. After publishing a dozen children’s books as Chris Eboch, I wanted a change. I started writing romantic suspense for adults, using the name Kris Bock. This brought new challenges – writing books two or three times as long as what I was used to, exploring romantic subplots, delving deeper into character. I didn’t always get things right the first time, but I became a better writer – and I renewed my interest in writing.
Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page.