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Monday, November 03, 2008

First You've Got To Last

You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast

You can make the most of the distance

But first you need endurance

First you've got to last

- Rush, "Marathon" - Power Windows, 1985


Yesterday, Francine completed her first half marathon in the annual Road 2 Hope marathon. Last year, she ran 10 K in the same race, but set her mind to it that she would complete the half marathon -- lo and behold, she trained religiously every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday -- and then, one year later, she did it.

As her husband and best friend, I'm proud of her.

And as a writer, I'm impressed and inspired.

I've been a sprinter-writer for a long time. I started writing at least somewhat seriously back in the early 1990's. I'm going on two decades now as a writer. And for the most part, I have a minimally successful history of getting short fiction published (I've had over thirty pieces of short work published); some of those stories and poems were reprinted in a collected back in 2004; a couple of plays that I have written haven't yet been published but have been performed by 3 different elementary schools in the Hamilton and Ottawa area; I edited both a small press magazine and a small press science fiction anthology; I ghost-wrote and edited a non-fiction book of biographical sketches on Canadian Prime Ministers, Fathers of Confederation and Governors General; and I did roll-out a novella length story in "real-time" via a blog back in 2006.

But I have only completed the writing of a single novel (which hasn't yet been published), have two other novels that have been on and off the back-burner for a couple of years now, and haven't yet had a novel published.

I would equate Francine's original success in completely a 5 K run the equivalent of completing and publishing a short work (article, fiction or poetry) Sure, it represents sticking to it and working at it -- but doesn't quite represent the more sophisticated determination required to complete a half marathon.

Interestingly enough, two years ago, I took a 10,000 word short story that I had written and decided to answer a friend's question about "what happens next" and turn that into a novel. Under the project/working title name A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK, I started working on this novel in November 2006 as part of a reality series on The Writing Show podcast called "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" -- two years later, it's November again, and while my original goal had been to complete the first draft in November 2006, I still haven't finished it -- reserving myself to slowly chipping away at it bit by bit.

While the ongoing series of interviews with Writing Show host Paula B and interaction with Writing Show guest host Mick Halpin and regular participant Mark Herbst has been a lot of fun, I've really been neglecting this longer project and failing in my goal to complete the novel.

But Francine has inspired me. She was determined to run a half marathon (21 Kilometers) and set a goal of doing it in under two and a half hours. Her time yesterday was 2 hours, 17 minutes and 24 seconds. She not only met her goal but she did it with plenty of time to spare.

Given all the crazy busy things going on at work that have me doing work-related things at home in the early morning and late evening hours at home, I'm not sure where and how I'm going to be able to focus time and energy on my personal writing projects -- but Francine has proven that if you set your mind to something, it can be done.

I have continued to throw excuses out such as work is getting too busy or I've been focusing on my short fiction (both writing and submitting pieces to market) -- but at the end of the day they are just excuses. Francine not only trained for the half marathon and ran it, but she also completed several shorter 5, 10 and 15 K runs in the same year. Drawing the same parallel there's no reason I can't work on short projects while continuing to plug away at the novel and not use working on one as an excuse that the other isn't getting done. Fran never said: "I'm focusing on the half marathon so I don't want to do this or that 5 K race." Nope - she set her mind to it and ensured she could do both.

So I'm going to follow her lead and try to establish a proper "training" schedule. Block certain times away that will be dedicated just to certain types of writing -- and despite the weather that day or how I feel, I should do my best to follow her lead and just do it, in the same manner I watched her do throughout the year.

At the end of the day (and I know Francine will both roll her eyes and yet completely understand the depth inherent in these words), my wife is more inspiring to me than Rush lyrics. (No insult, intended to Neil Peart -- just a huge kudos to Francine)


It's a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race
More than blind ambition
More than simple greed
More than a finish line
Must feed this burning need
In the long run...
- Rush, "Marathon" - Power Windows, 1985

5 comments:

lime said...

congratulations to francine, that is no small feat!

and how wonderful that you can use her success to inspire you to press forward with your own goals.

Steph said...

Well, Lime said pretty much what I was going to say!

BTExpress said...

Congratulations Francine! I ran a 5k once, but then my feet gave out so had to stop.

I hardly ever work on my book anymore. I need an inspiration like Francine to get my ass in gear and work on it.

Good luck with the book.

Paula said...

Mark,
I want you to start writing on ACWINY ASAP and send me your output every time you do. Each time I receive something from you, I will send you an "Atta boy" of some kind. All your work will go into a special ACWINY folder, and when you reach certain milestones, you will get extra credit.

This isn't about word count, though. This is about overcoming obstacles. Send me 5 words and that's just as okay as 10,000. I just want to hear how you do it.

Sound like a plan?

Paula

Mark Leslie said...

Okay, Paula, that sounds like a plan . . . every single word is like a step towards the finish line . . .