Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Cor. 9:24
I know. The Apostle Paul was speaking to the early church about their spiritual lives when he wrote this letter, but this verse has spoken to me in multiple ways lately. Especially this morning as I dragged myself out of my amazing, warm, and comfortable bed to meet my brother at a local park. We’ve been less active of late and decided it was time to change that.
Since graduating from college I’ve been more of a yoga/Pilates girl, though I used to run when I was younger. I’m not entirely sure what got me interested in running again. Maybe it was all the posts from friends on Facebook about preparing for various races. Perhaps the seed was planted when I was reading through Paul’s epistle the last time. Whatever the case, I decided I want to compete in a race myself, and the time to start training is now.
Like starting any new exercise regimen, the first day is always the most exciting. You have lofty goals. You’re starting a new adventure and you can almost taste your eventual victory. Then you hit the trail and realize just how out of shape you really are. You also realize just how physically and mentally demanding running really is.
For me, the greatest obstacle I face is in my mind. I visualize the distant finish line and am determined to reach it whatever the cost, but once my heart starts pounding and my breathing accelerates, if that finish line is still out of sight, all I can think about is “I’m getting tired,” “I’ll never make it,” and I come to a halt. This morning when I started feeling the strain, however, I remembered the advice from one of my running friends: Make short-term goals. Pick a point you can see and run to it, just before you reach it pick a point just a little further ahead and focus on that. When the goal is in sight and is your sole focus, you find you can run longer distances. The more often you stop, the harder it is to get going again.
I’ve found the same is true in my writing. When I first picked up my pen in college I was going to have my debut novel published by the time I was 23. It would be a series that would rival the most popular Young Adult fantasies. But as time progressed without a single acceptance letter showing up in my mailbox, I despaired and considered giving up.
I’ve since realized that while my dream is one I should continue striving for, I was trying to run a marathon when I was barely ready for the hundred-yard dash. I needed to be training, which I’ve done by reading books on writing and through my time working my way through my Apprenticeship, Journeyman, and Craftsman courses in the Christian Writers Guild. I also set about making smaller more manageable goals.
In the past year I’ve had the privilege of seeing several articles and short stories published. The encouragement from that mixed with the feedback I’ve received from readers has inspired me to run a little further. I make a goal for myself each week now; sometimes I reach it, sometimes I don’t. But I’m focusing. I’m training. And I’m becoming a stronger writer as a result.
I didn’t make it as far along the trail this morning as I would have liked, but I did go further than I thought I could. In that, today served as a perfect reminder that the key to succeeding isn’t so much my physical ability; it’s overcoming the battle in my mind. I have to force myself to focus in the beginning, but once I find my pace I find the drive to continue.
I want to encourage you to do the same. Make short-term goals to go along with your long-term dream. Post a blog piece on a friend’s site if you don’t have one of your own. Write a human-interest piece for your local paper. Stretch those muscles. Push yourself to go a little longer, a little further between writing breaks than you did the day before. And never lose sight of the finish line.
Writers! To your marks!