By guest author, Jennifer Klepper
I love the name of this group of writers: The Stiletto Gang. It’s sexy and fierce, and while the Stiletto Gang probably doesn’t actually wear stilettos while they’re writing their books (do they?), I can easily imagine them traipsing about in their spiked heels and drinking martinis after they’ve put their keyboards away for the day.
Seeing the sparkly stiletto on the page made me think of my own newest pair of shoes--purple and orange (yikes!) Brooks trail running shoes. They have a grabby sole for traversing unfriendly ground cover, they’re sturdy to help keep the ankles from twisting, and they are frightfully clunky-looking. Pretty much the opposite of stilettos.
The reason I even have these trail shoes is my writing. Next week, my debut novel, Unbroken Threads, officially releases. So of course I signed up to run my very first trail race and my very first 10k three days prior to launch. Why in the world would I do that? (I’ve asked myself this numerous times, including the day I sprained my ankle on an errant broken branch.)
As any writer can attest, you have to sit on your duff to write. Not just that, but you have to sit on your duff an awful lot for an awful long time to write, revise, and edit a novel. Let’s just say my muscle tone hasn’t kept up with my word count.
Scheduling a virgin run right ahead of my launch was tactical. I knew my summer would be nerve-wracking, with the prospect of my book baby being thrown to the wolves--I mean, world--in August. Having a goal, one totally and completely different from writing and publishing a book, seemed a mentally healthy diversion. Plus there was that muscle tone thing.
What I’ve learned in the ensuing weeks is that...running and writing? Not necessarily totally and completely different. Runners on the whole might look better in yoga pants, and writers might be better at Words with Friends, but the process and the experience of each have at least a few important things in common.
1. Writing and running are both solitary endeavors. Both activities require you to be in your own head, pursuing your own goal. Neither is typically a team sport. No one can run your hills for you and no one can cut 10,000 words from your draft for you.
2. And yet, writing and running both benefit from their supportive communities. Ah, the writing community! I love it so much and have gained friends and knowledge and good vibes. I’m starting to see the same in the running community. Established runners have been enthusiastic in their support and patient in their advice, whether it’s recommending I use bag balm on my feet (since I have to run through a river, of all things) or assuring me it’s perfectly acceptable to walk part of the race (I will).
3. There’s always a “better." Running and writing start small--first mile, first chapter, but no matter the achievement, there’s always another shiny goal glinting in the distance. Did you finish a marathon? Well, how about winning your age group? How about running fast enough to qualify for Boston? Did you write a complete manuscript? How about getting a multi-book deal with a Big 5 publisher? How about making the NY Times bestseller list? The pursuit can be exhausting and never-ending--the shiny horizon will always stay out of reach.
4. And yet, just doing the thing--finishing the race, writing The End on a first draft--is a tremendous achievement. I will not forget that. Ever. None of us should. No matter how far you get (qualify for the Boston Marathon or get a multi-book deal with St. Martin’s Press), that first achievement of finishing a race or finishing a draft is what got you there in the first place, and it’s much farther than most people to begin with.
5. Finally, each activity needs another activity for balance. Any activity that taxes the body or mind needs a complementary activity to keep us fresh. Just as strained muscles and tendons need a break, so do word-wrestling brains. Allowing ourselves to focus on a different aspect of ourselves, to exercise a different aspect of ourselves, permits recovery as well as growth.
So, within a week (if all things proceed as planned), I will have finished my first 10K and published my first book. And then I will continue working on my second book. Maybe I’ll train for a 15K, who knows? No matter what, though (and I know I won’t be able to run for as many years as I’ll be able to write), I’ll maintain some balance and try to ensure that I always have good shoes while I’m doing it.