I watched a bit of the Boston Marathon on Monday, and thought of the old analogy between novels and long distance running. Like a marathoner, a novelist has to set a good pace–not too fast or you’ll burn out before the end. Not too slow, or you’ll never finish. Like a marathoner, a novelist has to train and build up to longer writing stints. It takes time to hit your stride with a book–or any creative project. A novel is like a marathon with its own obstacles and difficulties. There may be times when you hit a wall, times when you struggle to run up a hill, even times when you feel like you can’t go on. There are also times when writing comes easily. You’ve got your rhythm, you feel the wind at your back, and the views are beautiful.
There are also huge differences between marathon running and novel writing. The marathoner follows a set course. The novelist has to make up a course. The marathoner knows the distance she’ll run. The novelist has to make that up too. The marathoner confronts hills and valleys, good and bad weather. The novelist writes hills and valleys and decides her own weather. The marathoner runs her own race. The novelist runs her own race and sets the pace for readers too.
As I write, I like to imagine my readers running with me. Some run fast; some take it slow. Some run in packs. Some run alone. As we round the bend, we see the finish line and pick up our heels. I’m tired, but I’ve been looking forward to this moment for years. I’ve planned this last stretch ever since I came out to this place and mapped the course. I can’t wait to finish, and at the same time I want to keep running. This is my favorite time–closing the distance.