I used to be a runner. I started running 6 years ago and was soon training 3-4 times a week. I even took part in marathons (once!), half-marathons and 10k races. I collected medals, and lost weight and moodiness in one fell swoop.
Of course, there were many days when I didn’t feel like going out for a run. Anyone who knows what England is like in November can confirm that there are many November days throughout the year. But I survived the rain, the snow, the few days of summer heat, a wasp sting, getting lost in a field full of rampant bulls.
Then I sprained my ankle quite badly, and was laid up for a few weeks. When I recovered, I injured my toe. A few months later, something else happened. And so injury followed bed rest followed pain… until I was completely out of shape. The longer I stayed away from running, the harder it got to get back into it.
Here in France the weather is not November all year round, but did that rid me of excuses? No, on the contrary, it provided me with more of them.
‘Today is too hot’ or ‘I can’t run in the snow’ alternated with ‘I’m too busy travelling’ or ‘I’ve got to prepare for this important business thing.’ And of course, the children – handy, trusty old excuses – they always figured in there somehow, in my list of excuses. My ever-expanding list, to match my ever-expanding waistline.
This month all my prevarications and procrastinations were laid bare. My children were shipped off to the grandparents. There was no work to be done over the summer. All I had to do was get into shape, with my running and my writing.
That’s when the similarities hit me! I was putting off running, pretending to limber up through all sorts of other exercises (Pilates DVDs, swimming, cycling). Then I try a few abortive little run-walks, which remind me just how out of shape I am. So then I avoided running even more. But I know that the only way to get my form back is to break through that pain barrier, to stick with it for long enough.
Same with my novel. I’ve been putting off editing it by writing blog posts, poems, the odd little bit of prose here and there, book reviews – anything but the novel, in short! So meanwhile, my mental form is corroding. Yes, sure, any kind of writing is better than no writing at all, just like any kind of exercise is better than none at all. But this dilution of effort and focus does not bring me a single step closer to what I want to achieve.
You only become a runner by running. You only become a novelist by writing a novel.
Have I learnt my lesson? Well, for the past two days I’ve started editing. And you know what? It’s not as bad as I thought. It’s hard work, it’s rewriting more than editing, but it’s fun. In a masochistic kind of way.
I think I may even go for a run soon!