How Writing a Novel is like Training for a Marathon

I’d like to just start off by saying that as I type this, I have completed neither. However, I am in the middle of attempting to do both. I have noticed how similar the approach is for both feats so I thought I’d share some of my observations with you.

They both start with a single step.

One literally and one figuratively. Writing a novel or running a marathon is an epic undertaking – enough to make your head spin with the sheer amount of work, time, and suffering that go into these things. But if you break anything down into its smallest parts, anything is doable. I started running by taking a single step. For writing a novel, I had to just start the novel. I sat down and typed a word and there my novel begin. Now I’ve got 20 miles and 25,000 words under my belt all made up of single steps.

They both take time and dedication.

So much time and effort has to go into both goals. No way I could spit out 60,000+ words or 26.2 miles without some time going into it. Congratulations to you if you can run a marathon in under a couple of hours without any practice at all. As for the rest of us, it takes hours and hours of running for months ahead of the event. Same thing for novels. If you can write an entire publishable novel in under a month then why the heck are you reading this. Go out and do that. Also, teach me how you do that because damn. So far, it’s taken me a long time to get 25k words, a plan and a bunch of mess and I’m still plucking away.

They both carry a social construct.

There’s this idea of what a runner is. A runner is someone who is skinny and health concious. A runner runs marathons all the time and they were born fast and athletic.

There’s also an idea of what a writer is. A writer is someone who reads the classics, can pop out a few novels off the top of her head. She probably either makes loads of money or is starving to death for the sake of her art.

Maybe these are true about some, but not everyone. Runners and writers come in all shapes and sizes and genders and personalities. For both, there are people who run but don’t think of themselves as runners. The same for writers.

Basically, if you run, you’re a runner. If you write, you’re a writer. But…

They both require action.

And lastly, for both things there’s no way you can do any of it without taking action. It wasn’t long ago that I thought how great it would be to run a marathon, but there was no way I could do it. For about twenty years I’ve been thinking of how great it would be to write a novel and then I’d go on to doing whatever it was I was doing.

Neither one of these things are possible without actually doing them. They’re not crazy dreams that you hope one day to accomplish. They’re actionable goals that anyone can achieve.

It seems so simple, but it took me a long time to finally get it through my head that wishing and doing are not the same things.

So from now on, no matter how epic the goal, I’ll always remember that if I don’t actually begin, I will never achieve anything.


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