Running and Writing

Canyon wall in Canyonlands National Park
flickr credit: US National Archives

There’s a word for a writer who never gives up… published.

— JA Konrath

JA Konrath, author of the Jack Daniels series and dozens of short stories, didn’t publish until he had racked up nearly five hundred rejections.

Think he knows something about determination?

Got a little lesson of my own on the topic recently, self-imposed (read: my fault) and seemingly unrelated.

Running on Empty

When the weather had not yet turned cold, and we still had some daylight during non-working hours, I had been running about four miles every couple of days. A big accomplishment for me. Okay, one day I ran five miles without meaning to! But usually it was all I could do to eke out that four.

Some days, the run was a struggle from the start. One run made me realize how similar running can be to writing.

Yup. Writing. Running. So much in common.

My goal was four miles. Nothing crazy, just my usual. If I went all the way to the Marina before turning around, I might squeeze in another quarter mile.

By about a mile and a half, I was done. Cooked. A little barbecue sauce and I’d be delicious.

I was tired. Later I would realize part of my problem was fuel—or a lack of it. I hadn’t eaten yet, though I’d set out at about 9:30 a.m. I’d been up for over two hours.

So by the first mile marker, I was running low. A half mile later, dreaming of that breakfast I’d skipped.

But I inherited a family trait that can be an obstacle—or serve you well if needed.

I’m stubborn.

No easy outs

I kept running. Even knowing that the further out I went, the longer my return trip was. Even knowing there are no shortcuts on this road along the Hudson River. I aimed for the route I planned knowing it was harder.

As soon as I hit my two-mile marker, I made a u-ee! Screw the Marina!

I slogged on. One foot in front of the other. I’d pushed myself two miles out. I had to get myself back. I would get back.

Cursing all the way.

Later, analyzing the huge fail this run felt like, I suspected the reason I hadn’t eaten was another cause of my tribulations. I hadn’t felt like going for this run. I was just not in the mood. So I puttered around the house for two hours, trying to convince myself to go. I even dressed in my running clothes to try find my motivation.

It worked. Eventually, I gathered up my gear and headed out the door. But I hadn’t eaten. And I didn’t really want to do it. Two strikes against me.

Two strikes isn’t an out.

By mile three, I was envisioning the finish line and trying not to think about that small incline at the end that would no doubt feel like Everest. As I pushed myself over the Penny Bridge, it struck me: this was what that overused phrase sheer will was about: pushing yourself when you’ve got nothing left (okay, maybe not marathon-level nothing, but it’s all relative). This is determination.

My mind made another leap. Many long-published authors tell us newbies, You’ve got to have determination and perseverance. You can’t quit when everyone else says you should. You’ve got to keep going.

There are no shortcuts. We have to continue even when we’re running low, on fuel, on energy, on motivation, even on hope.

I now understand Konrath’s words like I never have. Not giving up, having perseverance—it means going on when you see no reason to. When your own brain is telling you to stop, to quit.

It’s hard. And it hurts.

But guess what?

I ran my four miles.

I think I have what it takes to make it to the finish line.


Have you had your determination tested? How do you muster the perseverance necessary to make it to publication? Let me hear from you!

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