Note To Self: Be Kind, It’s Been A While

**Warning: I’m going to use an old, tired analogy in this post. But I don’t care. I’ve been writing all week and I have soup for brains and this is all you get from me. The leftovers. Flotsam and jetsam. Ragged thoughts after a glass of port and today’s badly-written pages. (I have to grant myself permission to write badly or nothing will ever get done. I actually wrote myself a note this morning: “Ariel has permission to write badly today.” I would show it to you but even the handwriting is bad.)

Moving on. Where was I?

My tired analogy: writing is like running. It sucks if you haven’t done it in a while. Hell, it can suck if you’ve been doing it every day for years. Do it anyway.

It’s been a while since I drafted a novel. Revised? Yes. Edited? Yes. Promoted? Yes. The first draft has always been and will always be my achilles heel. But I’m writing again. And I’d forgotten how hard it is. There is no feeling so dread-inducing as the blinking cursor on the first page of a new book. Truly, not for the faint of heart.

And there is no feeling so miserable as that first, sharp stitch in your side when you haven’t run consistently in months years. It’s the curse of the over-achiever. The misguided belief that you can pick up right where you left off without putting in the hard work to build endurance. And it’s always accompanied but the hard shock of reality.

Mental conditioning. Physical conditioning. It’s all the same. And the first time back always leaves you sucking wind.

It takes a while to go from lacing up the old running shoes to crossing the finish line of a marathon. It takes sweat and tears and pain and this really awful anti-chafing cream that I probably shouldn’t talk about in public.

Running Collage

It takes a while to go from typing the title page to celebrating the release of a new novel. There are no shortcuts. It’s a butt-in-chair every day for months on end commitment. Which, if I’m totally honest, creates the “If I’m going to keep writing I need to get back into running” mobius strip that I find myself on right now. Because now that I’m a bit older I find that there is a physical nature to the writing as well. A certain stamina that’s needed–and not just mental. All that sitting is hard on the body. Better to be in shape. Better to be at the top of your game.

Writing Progress

So this post is for me. It’s a reminder to be kind. To be gentle. To have mercy and compassion and to celebrate every tiny little bit of progress. This is me giving myself permission to write badly. This is me giving myself permission to run-a-song/walk-a-song.

It’s been a while since you wrote a book, Ariel. It’s been a while since you ran distance of any type, much less a marathon. Be kind to yourself. No one else can do that for you.

You’ve done it before. You can do it again. And though you might feel like the process will kill you, it won’t. You’ll just be totally spent once you cross you finish line.

3 Responses to Note To Self: Be Kind, It’s Been A While

  1. Tori Whitaker May 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Ariel, you are so right. Getting back to running, or getting back to writing, is hard. Hard work! And yes, you have to write badly sometimes just to get words on a page. (Have you read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird? If so, you know what she says about first drafts!) You’ll make your words sing later. I for one CANNOT wait to read your next novel! Hang in there. Do it for us, the readers. Do it for yourself.

  2. Lynn May 16, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    How true! We all must learn to be kind to ourselves. Thank you for your thoughts!

  3. R A Marsh May 26, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    Great post – I’m back at it after a long hiatus myself.

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