During NaNoWriMo 2009, I wrote twenty-four chapters of Overcome, my first-ever novel work-in-progress. It was over 50,000 words and so a success, by NaNo standards. But in the course of 2010, I tried with increasing levels of desperation to write that story through to the end. I couldn't do it. I tried everything, including scrapping the partially written first draft and returning to the plotting stage. When my creative steam fizzled out nineteen chapters into the second first draft, I faced an ugly truth: I couldn't write the novel. And that truth was a fertile bed for fear. I was afraid I'd never write a novel.
You hear the phrases all the time: The Power of Positive Thinking; Self-fulfilling Prophesy; Positive Mindset. Rhonda Byrne sparked a phenomenon in her book The Secret, which is, in itself, a metaphor for believing a dream into reality. Byrne says, "Your current thoughts are creating your future life. What you think about the most or focus on the most will appear as your life." 1
Though writing is still on my front burner, there's another goal brewing in a pot next to it. You see, a couple months ago I took on a new goal, one that has me face-to-face with those principles of self-belief. The lessons I'm (re)learning have filtered through my new experiences and trickled down to my writing.
My new goal: On October 23rd, I will run my first half marathon. A 13.1-mile race is a lofty goal for someone who has never been a runner. I mean, jogging on a dreadmill at the gym a couple times a week, hardly qualified me as a runner. When a girlfriend recently shared her passion for long distance races, I told her it sounded wonderful...but wasn't for me. After all, I said, I'm not a runner.
But you know how it goes: a conversation stays with you, quietly tapping the shoulder of your mind until you finally turn and cry, "What? What do you want from me?" And at the time I was feeling blue, bored with life's regular chug-along. Two days later the weather was gorgeous. It was the first day to signal the end of summer with a bright blue, haze-free sky and low humidity. I decided to forego my gym workout and try an outdoors run.
It was ridiculously hard. My ankles and hip flexors ached, and my thigh muscles burned. I had to keep slowing to a walk to catch my breath. My lungs felt two sizes too small. I don't think I lasted even three miles. But something happened to me out there, sweating in the fresh air. Being outside, free from the stale, recycled air of the gym, unlocked a reserve of resolve I didn't know I had. And, I enjoyed the challenge of trying something new. That day, I decided I was going to be a runner.
I decided I was going to be a runner. When I told this to friends who are runners, they shared lots of suggestions for my success, including tips on training schedules, ideas for diet plans, and pointers on hydration and electrolyte replacement. But the overwhelming piece of advice offered to me was this: Believe you can do it.
Six weeks of training later, I've learned to what extent running is a mental activity. During the difficult legs of a course, particularly up the inclines or through the final miles of a long run, your mind must cheer your body on. Yes you can keep going! You've been up steeper hills than this! You're strong, you CAN make it!
Now, I run up hills without breaking stride or stressing my cardio-vascular system, because even though it's tough, I know I can make it. Twice now I've completed ten-mile training runs. Ten miles! With three weeks of training still ahead of me, I know I can finish a half marathon by race day. I believe it, because I am a runner.
"See the things that you want as already yours. Know that they will come to you at need. Then let them come. Don't fret and worry about them. Don't think about your lack of them. Think of them as yours, as belonging to you, as already in your possession." -- Robert Collier (1885-1950) 2
Not at all coincidentally, work on Piper Crow, (the working title of my second attempt at a novel) has been exciting and productive. This time, I will not let fear sniggle its way into my heart. I can write a novel because I believe I can do it.
After all, I am a novelist.
[The above article was written by me and originally appeared today in the Drama Newsletter at Writing.com.]
Thanks for reading!