Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hitting the wall...Marathon writing Gu

For those of you who don't know, I'm an avid runner as well as a writer. Avid as in I'm in training for my second marathon. Over the past three years I've run over 30 5k's (3.1 miles) a few 10k's (6.2 miles) and 1/2 marathons (13.1 miles) and one doomed from the start but very funny (after it was finished) marathon. I intend to redeem myself by running this upcoming one without making a bunch of rookie mistakes. We'll see.

How does this relate to writing and revision? Just bear with me.

When training for a marathon (26.2 miles and yeah, that's a LONNNNNG way to run without taking a nap!) you have to plan on certain factors that non-runners never think of. For those of us who aren't elite runners, it's going to take 4-6 hours to complete the course. That means we have to deal with these issues longer than those who can throw down a 2-3 hour marathon. THOSE people are freaks of nature. But in a good way. And I'm friends with some of them.

But as to the issues...remember, I do have a point!

Chafing and blistering: I won't get graphic, but after several hours of certain body parts rubbing against fabric (or other body parts), skin gets irritated. While training, you need to learn where your chafing and blistering points are, apply your preferred sweat-resistant chafing cream ahead of time, and you're golden. Except sometimes your toenails fall off, (which is a bragging point among runners) but that's another issue. 

Hydration and nutrition are other issues.That means you're going to sweat not just water but electrolytes and lose a lot of glycogen. During our long training runs, we try out different types of "gu" or "blocks" that add back some of those needed electrolytes and glycogen so we can keep running. One of a runner's worst nightmares is to get a DNF (did not finish) especially on a race that they've spent so much training time and money on.

For those who don't know, glycogen is the sugar in the body that gives runners their "kick". When you run out, your body hits the clutch, pops into neutral, and slowly shifts gears into fat burning mode. This is a long, slow, PAINFUL process called HITTING THE WALL. It's when you mentally and physically feel you have to give up because you have nothing left to give. Your body is in the process of shifting gears so it's spinning wheels on gravel, your mind is freaking out (studies show you actually produce chemicals that produce negative emotions!) because your body isn't reacting the way it supposed to, and the whole experience can literally stop you in your tracks.

If you let it.

So, dear writers. What does this have to do with writing?

Sometimes we get chafing and blistering when we constantly rewrite and rewrite a scene that isn't working. We do it so much the scene becomes meaningless and gets further and further out of context with the rest of the piece. What should we do? Well, I have two suggestions. One. Remove what's causing the chaffing. What are you saying, Cannon? Take out the scene? Yep. Take it out. Take it all out. Then re-write it from scratch without looking at what you had before. I guarantee you'll be happier with what you had before. It's a lot of work, but it's better than ending up with blisters every time you face that scene (or worse, procrastination syndrome because you're tired of working on it). Second suggestion is to take the scene, outline what you want it to say on a piece of paper or a separate document, THEN revise it. Either way, you should be able to "glide" your way past the blister. (Haha. Glide is a brand of chaffing prevention cream. Just in case you didn't know.)

And what happens when you run out of glycogen stores and you...JUST...CAN'T...WRITE? Well, okay, I'll admit, that's what I'm doing right now. Finding my writing "Gu" to recharge my creative stores. Blogging instead of working on my novel sometimes does that for me. So write, just don't write on the piece that you've been banging your head against. Keep writing otherwise you'll again get into the procrastination syndrome. But there's no sin in writing something else while your body and brain recover from whatever trauma they're dealing with that is preventing you from writing on your story. I'm dealing with a lot mentally right now. Physically, it's been really HOT lately and with the uptick in getting ready for school and training for this marathon, I just haven't been in the game. But I'm not giving up. I'm still going to write.

When I ran my first marathon I had two injured knees, fainted 1/2 way through (then got my butt up off the ground because I WASN'T going to get a DNF on my first marathon!), got leg cramps, stomach cramps, overheated, and sunburned but I learned a valuable lesson: persistence. Don't give up. Never give up. Find a way. It may take longer than you want but persistence is a stronger tool than any other. Go ye therefore and write!