Spring has arrived in central Michigan where I live. Finally! It's come with lots of storms and flooding. But interspersed between the rainy days are a few that are perfect and sunny.
When we have those one or two beautiful days, everyone heads outdoors to walk or run. It's actually rather comical. The sidewalks are full of people desperate for the first breath of warm air after months of being cooped up inside.
I exercise inside all winter by using a walking DVD, and I'm just as anxious as everyone else to finally be set free. But this spring, instead of walking, I decided to take up the challenge to run with one of my daughters.
So a couple of weeks ago, during one of the lulls of rain, we started running–or I should say, she started running. I merely tried to survive, panting and puffing alongside her in an elephant-like gait. Finally for the last block she left me in the dust as she sprinted home. Yes, sprinted. I on the other hand, with my gut ache, stinging lungs, and sweating face, could barely manage to walk the last distance.
This was the first time running for both of us. But the difference between the two of us (beside thirty years!), is that she is in shape and I apparently am not. Even though I walked during the winter, my level of workout was minimal compared to my daughter's, who lap swims through her synchro swim team.
The truth is there's an obvious difference in our endurance, strength, and speed. While neither of us are ready to enter any races or marathons, she's much closer than I am.
It's easy to admit to the realities of our physical limitations, isn't it? When we're beginning, we can readily acknowledge the work and training that lie ahead of us.
But it's so much harder for writers to accept the realities of where they're at in the spectrum of readiness for publication.
When I was a beginning writer, I didn't want to admit that my writing muscles were weak, that my endurance was low, and that I still had a long way to go. I wanted to believe that I could beat the odds, that my natural talent exceeded everyone else, and that I could somehow skip ahead and bypass the long waits and rejections.
But the truth is, there are very few writers who are born with natural writing genius who can write a salable, commercially viable book on the first try (just as there are very few beginning runners who will be ready to race even if they're in shape like my daughter). All writers have to take the time to strengthen their writing muscles, learn techniques, improve their skills, and increase their endurance.
As I'm improving in my running skills, my lungs burn, my body hurts in places I never knew existed, and I feel like giving up. But I force myself to keep going and to run consistently. I realize it will take days, weeks, and even months to build myself into a strong runner. I don't expect to be fast or fluid right away, and I have patience with myself.
And the same is true as writers. There will be plenty of days when we'll feel like giving up, when we'll hurt deep in our hearts. But the only way to get better is to keep going, to write consistently, and to have patience–knowing the process of improving will take days, weeks, and even months.
My agent, Rachelle Gardner said this in a recent post: In the fiction queries I receive, average or poor writing is the biggest reason for rejection. Some people have terrific ideas for stories that sound like they’re going to knock my socks off. But when I start to read, I realize they haven’t taken the time to develop their craft prior to submission. (This can be quite disappointing to me, because often the ideas are really good.)
I believe one of the top reasons for those rejections and the mediocre writing is because beginning writers want to rush the process, instead of doing the slow steady work of getting into shape for publication.
Improving in running and writing are a lot alike. Essentially, the best way to improve is to do it consistently, over time, with a dedication to learning the techniques.
What about you? Do you think enough writers these days are doing the work it takes to get into shape? Or are they expecting to reach publication without the necessary conditioning and training?
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