I completed my first really long run today, the Great Aloha Run, which is 8.15 miles. And I got to thinking when I came home that writing a book is like running a marathon. Everyone starts out all excited and energetic. You’ve got a brand new idea and you can’t wait to see it done! Right around the third or so mile, just over a quarter of the way through the book, you start to realize how much work this might actually be and doubting your ability to make it for the whole 8 miles. You reach the halfway mark and get re-energized, sprinting things out for a little while. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all. Hey, you’ve made it this far, you can make it a little bit longer, right? I mean, there’s that huge crowd cheering for you as you run by and get dumped on by tons of spectators with icy water that feels so wonderful on that really hot day.
You keep running, thinking at any corner, you’ll pass the fifth mile marker and it’s all downhill after that! Heck, you could even see the stadium from there, right?
Wrong. By the time you get to the fifth mile marker, you’re thinking it must be at least the sixth marker because you had to have traveled farther than this. Why aren’t the words flowing as well now that you’ve passed the halfway mark? You already did the hard part, this should be easy, right? Only it’s not. Just like you have to force yourself to put one foot in front of the other and just keep running, you have to force yourself to sit at the keyboard and actually type out every. single. word. And it drags at you and you start to think that this marathon and this book will never be finished. Can’t you just be done now?
Somehow, you keep pushing yourself and finally find the sixth mile marker. You saw the map before you started and keep thinking that you should be able to see the stadium by now, but you can’t. It’s still out of sight. There are few spectators now, fewer people cheering you on, and by mile seven, it’s just you and thousands of other people, struggling to make it to the finish line. You feel crowded, like you’re surrounded by different levels of runners and writers. You get jealous of those who pass you like it’s nothing, only to feel embarrassingly smug as you pass them throwing up on the side of the road or stuck so far behind their plot that they can’t seem to get things going again.
Because, see, you paced yourself correctly and now you really can see the stadium and it’s huge and it’s right there. The end is in sight! All you have to do is get that one last spurt of adrenaline and finish it! Only it’s not. You take one more turn and realize that the finish line is actually on the other side of the stadium. You see people all around you coming to this same conclusion – that you still have half a mile to go and the end is not nearly as close as you thought. Some of them quit and start walking or take a break from their typing, but not you. You’ve come this far and you absolutely, positively MUST make it to the end. It’s RIGHT THERE.
You give it everything you’ve got, running at a dead sprint, passing everyone, typing as fast as you can. Smile big for the camera! You just did something not everyone can do, and you did it well. Not the best mind you, but not the worst by any stretch. And you realize something profound about yourself and what an accomplishment you’ve done!
But you still have to get home. You’re not done yet, even though you passed The End. Now, you have to revise and rewrite. You have to walk your bloody feet home and bloody fingers back to that keyboard. You have to submit your work to agents, editors, and publishers. But it’s worth it. Eventually, you’ll find your way home from the race. Eventually, someone will realize how much your book is worth and publish it.
You just have to keep working. The hard part is done and congratulations for that! But don’t quit. You did something great. Celebrate it, get back to work, and do better next time.