Monday, June 26, 2006

Going the distance

By Heather Justesen

I hate exercise.

Did I ever mention I hate exercise? It’s one of those necessary evils in life that seems to take up more time than accomplish anything useful. I’ve recently started walking at the high school track in the morning again but it’s a struggle to complete my mileage every day. The first few laps are OK, nice even, but I have to drag myself most of the way. I hate the way my legs begin to turn to jelly and my pace slows the further I go. What starts off at a healthy clip ends in me pushing myself through the last bit on sheer willpower.

The fact that I have to get up far earlier than I would otherwise need to doesn’t help either. I’m much more of a night owl than an early bird, but if I wait too late to get out there it becomes too hot to complete my three miles—the goal I have been working up to.

In some ways writing a novel is like exercise to me, I love writing the beginning. One day last week I sat down and wrote nearly four-thousand words of a new story. OK, so maybe this isn’t a real viable story, maybe it’ll sit in the file of partial stories forever. On the other hand, maybe some day I’ll decide to pull it out and work on it more for the national market. The fact is I had this ear worm that wouldn’t let go, so despite the fact that I really ought to be editing, I wrote something else instead.

Most of my stories are like this one—the first couple of chapters, maybe even forty-thousand words. Seldom do they reach novel length, or get completed before I run out of steam and call it quits—for the time being. This is probably why I only have four completed stories and close to thirty that are partially done.

On the other hand, most of the stories in my file have real potential and I intend to use them. I have eight stories in various forms of completion for one loosely tied series, and the more I work on the later ones, the more I see things I need to change or fix in the earlier ones to put all the background in place. I tell myself that is progress, After all, if I hadn’t written most of Danielle’s story (fifth in the timeline), how would I have known in the earlier books that she was a vivacious journalist who ran her school paper as a teen?

On the other hand, if I didn’t push myself through those last few laps on the track, I would feel as though I had cheated myself by wimping out and if my writing is so important, why do I let myself be a wimp and not finish my stories?

So today I vow to get back to my real work, push myself through the editing so I can stop feeling like a wimp. It’s time to go the distance.

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