Writing a book isn't a marathon
unless there is some marathon that lasts between three weeks and thirty years
I wrote this a bit ago when I was at a turning point in some manuscript, and if I am truthful, I have entirely forgotten which manuscript and what turning point. Presumably someone told me that “writing a book is a marathon.” And then I had feelings.
It has been edited lightly.
Writing a book is not a marathon
Writing a book is training for a marathon and running halfway down the course and chickening out and going for pizza;
it’s telling everyone about this great idea you have for a marathon if they want to do it instead1;
it’s backing up to the starting point and beginning again, approximately 46 times, or 146, or 1,046;
it’s looking at other people’s marathons and thinking theirs look so much easier and trying to run like them even if they are six feet tall and run on prosthetics at seven minute miles and you are five foot one and run on anxiety at fourteen minute miles with breaks for coffee;
it’s getting halfway down the course and realizing you are doing the WRONG MARATHON;
it’s running the entire course and realizing you ran the wrong marathon and in fact you are in the wrong city, in the wrong country, possibly on the wrong planet;
it’s wondering if you are supposed to be marathoning at all and moaning to any friends and family who will listen about your existential marathon crisis;
it’s listening to someone else tell you what they think running a marathon should look like and then running the way they said to do it;
it’s realizing they’re wrong and you must run it your own way2;
it’s running the marathon to impress somebody else with your awesome coolness and then getting done and realizing that actually, nobody was even watching you;
it’s running one marathon and then another one and still failing to find the right course, and if this was a dream it would make more sense;
it’s every single person you know telling you that they always had an idea about running a marathon, they figured they would do it someday, maybe on weekends or when they retire;
it’s people who have never run a marathon before telling you how to run a marathon because they’ve read about it on the internet;
it’s your family or your friends thinking that to run a marathon you just go out and run, as if literally anyone could do it, as if they would let someone fix their plumbing who had always just liked the idea of holding a wrench3;
it’s finally completing the right marathon, collapsing, panting, practically catatonic for several minutes, and then dusting yourself off and starting the same marathon over from the beginning because REVISION;
it’s going back to the same course over and over because you are sure you can do parts of it better or someone else tells you that you should;
it’s realizing you have been running the same goddamn marathon for six months, or a year, or two years, or three years, or four or five or six or maybe just your whole life, it started at birth;
it’s having your spouse, or family, or friends stare at you when you say you’re a marathoner and reply, “really?”;
it’s having your spouse, or family, or friends stare at you when you say you hope to have a career in marathoning and reply, “is that realistic?”;
it’s having your spouse, or family, or friends stare at you when you say you plan to continue doing marathons after you finish the first one and reply, “oh, I thought maybe you were going to get a real job”;
it’s wondering if maybe they are right and you are in fact a fraud, because no one issues certificates saying that you are indeed a marathoner and maybe marathoning isn’t actually a job even if you get paid to do it;
it’s redefining success in your own terms because absolutely no one else can tell you if you’ve done this marathon correctly, much less well, much less smashed it, although sometimes people will try to and you must pretend not to hear them;
it’s only stopping because you cannot face going back to that freaking course one more time;
it’s the end—for real: THE END—and you fall asleep by the side of the road. This is the long blissful sleep of the warrior poet who has charged fearlessly into internal battle after internal battle and now dreams with the angels. You sleep so soundly; you sleep for days; you sleep for eons.
Then you wake up with selective amnesia and a new idea for a brand new marathon.
You lay back in the grass with a smile on your face that belongs to children and the delusional, and you see this beautiful new marathon and you think to yourself, gently, reassuringly, maybe even with abandon and enthusiasm and joy, I love to run! Marathons are my favorite.
Because despite everything, they actually are.
(Footnotes and an additional love note for paid subscribers, below! Thank you to everyone who subscribes; you make my marathoning a little less lonely and I am grateful to each and every one of you ❤️)
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