Mark Terry

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Writer's Ultra-Marathon

September 26, 2007

I am reminded all too vividly these days that writing fiction is like running a marathon--or an ultra-marathon, for the really masochistic among us. And during that trip we're bound to have good moments and bad, uphill and down, and hit "the wall" quite possibly more than once.

[A bit of an afterthought here, but the metaphor only stretches so far. At least with a marathon there's a finish line, you can drink your beer, have some pizza and go sit in a hot tub for a while. That doesn't really apply to writing fiction, although, now that I think of it...]

A writer friend and I have been commiserating a lot about this via e-mail, both agreeing, I think, that we're a little nuts and our thinking on the subject of writing and publishing can be a bit tortured, confused and complex. Certainly my feelings about writing itself remain relatively straightforward, but when you mix it with the world of publishing and book promotion, my thoughts get churned significantly. Hell, rejection is almost a piece of cake to deal with compared to some of the other aspects of publishing.

Yesterday I tripped across this blog post and I recommend you visit and give it some attention.

"I frame it that way instead of talking about following the dream because following the dream is the easy part. Dreaming of writing a book is easy. Setting out to write is easy too. Not quitting when the writing becomes difficult or the world dumps on you is hard....

"In the acknowledgments of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty and the Midnight Hour there’s a note that says “to Dan Hooker for calling the day after I almost decided to quit.” Every writer who’s followed the dream to fruition knows about that day, or those days, as the case may be.
It might be the day you got the rejection letter for that first novel, the letter that finished off the set of major publishers and killed the book for the foreseeable future, the one that meant that if you wanted to be published it would have to be the next book or the one after that. It might be the day your agent called to tell you the 3 book deal that tied all of your work up for the last 2 1/2 years had been killed at the last minute by marketing. Or it might have come earlier, when you realized that after taking three years to write the first book, it was now going to take another one to revise it....

"The reason is almost immaterial. The decision not to quit is what really matters."

Well, I can say this blog post didn't come a minute too soon.


Mark Terry


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was running I never approached marathon distance but a 10K seemed like a marathon to me so I can appreciate the analogy. Also, I'm thinking, I have some nerve damage in one leg which prevents me from running but maybe the nerve damage in my head keeps me writing. So what's a reverse analogy?

But maybe here's a better analogy. I remember reading about this endurance race....maybe 100 miles...across Death Valley or something. But just to make it a challenge you could get bonus points for stuff, like for carrying a brick say. But anyway, toward the end of this run, maybe after you'd run 80 miles there was a table set up, at which you could stop and earn the biggest bonus pints of all, according to how much Spam you could eat.

So I think that's a better analogy for a writing career -- run across Death Valley for 80 miles, eat Spam and keep running.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Oops...I did mention nerve damage didn't I?

11:32 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'm hard pressed to think of which is worse, running across Death Valley or eating Spam.

Damn, they could both kill you.

12:09 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Spam? Over my dead body. Heck, I won't even touch pork.

I think the key is the beer, pizza, and hot tub.u

1:00 PM  
Blogger Heather Wardell said...

Great post. I am running my first marathon on Sunday, and will finish editing my second novel this afternoon. It's neat seeing both 'marathon training programs' ending at the same time.

It does leave me wondering what to do next, though... how do I top this? Faster race and longer novel, maybe? Write the novel WHILE running the marathon? :)


5:49 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Pizza, beer, hot tub.

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