In September and October I ran two half marathons, one in Spring Lake, the other in Grand Rapids. I’m partial to this 13.1 mile distance for a couple of reasons. First, it takes me at least three miles to get warmed up. I hate 5k races for this reason. By the time I cross the finish line of a 5k I’m just getting started. Second, the 13.1 miles challenges me and gives me time to think. I don’t run with headphones because I can’t think clearly with all that music going on (I also can’t write with lyrical music playing; orchestra music, yes, but no singing). I construct some of my best ideas, solutions to vexing problems and new ideas for stories when I run. If I run longer than 13.1 miles, I start to fade. By about 12 miles, I’ve thought all my thoughts and I just want to stop running.
Lately, I’ve observed that I have a comfortable word count, too. It is my 13.1 mile run of writing–1600 words. About half of the chapters in my memoir-to-be end at 1600 words. When I write fewer words, I feel like I’m not quite there and when I write more, I feel like I need to be more concise. As with running though, I sometimes need to push and take a subject further, recently I wrote about Noah and his feeding tube, a 2200 word piece. It tells an important realization by Mike and I in his life and health. One, I wish we’d come to sooner. I’m writing essays for my UCLA Extension writing class now and the instructor likes our work to be 400-800 words, which is even more difficult. It has forced me to make choices about details and dialogue; cutting and revising.
Being comfortable in my writing (and running) is satisfying, but facing new a new challenge keeps me thinking boldly, believing in myself and in the story I have to tell.