On Marathon Writing

One reason National Novel Writing Month — or NaNoWriMo, for those in the know — does not appeal to me is that I have never been a marathon runner. I’m a kindling, a firefly. I burn bright and fierce and am gone tomorrow.

I’ve never been the sporty type. At school I had to do two years of cross country (it was either that or a team sport, yuck.) I was stick thin, all bone and muscle, training three or four times a week for our races against other schools. And I didn’t do too badly, either. But I cheated.

Where my best friend would maintain a steady plodding pace, unfaltering, unwaving, I sprinted. Sprint and walk, sprint and walk. My energy came in bursts, and I recovered quickly. I tried to change but the races where I forced myself to maintain a steady pace were my worst. Perhaps I am just not built for the long haul.

The same applies to my writing.

Write 1,667 words in a day? Fine. Been there, done that. Write 1,667 words a day every day on the same story for 30 days? No thank you.

A marathon is about being committed to one goal to the exclusion of all else, and I have my fingers in far too many pies for that. I’d get bored working on the same project all the time, so I work on many projects in many sprints.

It’s Monday night! I’m supposed to update my webfiction on Tuesday. Sprint, sprint, sprint! Phew, that’s over. I’ll stroll for a bit until… Oh noes, I’m behind on my schedule for that short story anthology! Sprint again! And when that’s dusted I’ll take a week off fiction and write book reviews.

I’d rather run loads of little races than one big one. It keeps me fresh, keeps me challenged. It avoids that dreaded mid-race slump where nothing seems worthwhile anymore and the finish stretches further and further away.

And if you add up all the sprints, well then I guess I am a marathon writer. Just a cheating one.

3 thoughts on “On Marathon Writing

  1. I am the same way…. I consider that an unfortunate thing, though. My problem is just having too much on my plate between work, school, and raising my kiddo, writing is most unfortunately my fourth highest priority, and that usually means sprints of writing just like you mentioned. I’m looking forward to a sprint today to hopefully get two posts ahead on VZFS, oh no! Not behind yet, but definitely don’t have Sunday’s post ready yet. Ugh… back to the Friday grind..

    • Yes, it can be hard juggling loads of different things eg work and writing and cleaning (ha, the last one always sinks low on my priority list). It’s really impressive how many writers juggle so much and still find time to write.

      I don’t have kids (phew!) but I think I make my own life harder in other ways like by working on multiple stories at the same time — 2 serials, a short story anthology for February, outlining a novel, writing another novel, some short story submissions…! Ah well, who needs sleep?

  2. I used to be the same way. Now I can focus on a project over the long term. I didn’t learn that through writing though, I learned that from the day job :)

    But in the end, whatever works for you is the best way to do things. The only measure is completion. If you’re finishing projects, then you’re golden. It doesn’t matter how you get there.

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