I have recently started training for a 5k. I have never enjoyed running, mainly because whenever I have tried I have gone full tilt round the local park, got only half way round, then collapsed in a red faced heap. I couldn't understand why I wasn't The Flash. Or Mo Farah. It looks so effortless when Mo runs.
It’s the same with writing. With my first drafts, I expected to pour out greatness my first attempt. I couldn’t understand why my first draft wasn’t as beautifully structured and written as the books I saw on the shelves. I thought I must be terrible and lacking in skill, the same way I beat myself up for not being immediately able to race around the park.
The thing is: I can’t see the hours Mo puts into training, or my favourite authors put into their writing. I can only gawp at the finished product and feel inadequate. But all the athletes we’ll be marvelling at when they come to London for the Olympics this summer have worked, day in day out, early mornings, no holidays, to get to where they are. So do successful authors. They work at it. They hone their writing muscles, the same way athletes do. They put the time in.
I had this post ready to go, then I read Lauren Oliver's latest post where she discusses the importance of practice (See here). I completely agree, and I loved her post on the subject.
So. I am putting the time in, in all cases.
I started the NHS Couch to 5k series of podcasts. The first podcast asks that you run for 60 seconds at a time, interspersed with 90 seconds of walking. I could manage that. The aim was to get to the end; to get started. Gradually I built up my speed and stamina. I practised breathing and moving my arms. With each podcast my stamina improved, and I could go that bit further that bit quicker. Soon I was running 20, then 25 minutes in a row. This was unheard of a few weeks ago. I still can’t believe that I, who hated cross country at school, is willingly racing round the park and what’s more, enjoying it.
When I first wrote my novel the aim was to get to the end. It was to get started. Then I honed it. I have edited and re-drafted. I have changed the POV and tense, cut scenes and expanded others. It flows better. I can pick less holes in the continuity or structure. I don’t see glaring mistakes in it everywhere. This was unheard of a while ago. With every piece of writing, I feel it is better than the piece before because of everything I have learned.
I will never be a Mo Farah, and I may never be as good as my favourite authors, but if I work at it, I will get that bit closer. So don’t give up: train.