I think about writing like I think about long distance biking. I (used) to do a century (100-mile) bike ride about once every other month and even tried a double century (but only made it 172 miles ). Tour de France rider I am not.
The analogy is this: Writing is a long-haul exercise, just like any endurance sport. And if you are into endurance sports you know you are going to hit really bad times along the way. It’s going to happen. You have to be ready for it, or you will give up when you hit the hard times.
For instance, when I start a century, the morning is cool, the bikes are pretty, there are a lot of sexy bodies around, everyone is laughing and joking. It’s all good. 25 miles in we are leading the pack and feeling good, rolling hard and fast, rotating lead, drafting off each other.
At 40 miles in, the pack has fallen apart, and my back hurts and the wind has come up and the sun is baking (this is Texas in the summer, after all).
At the 49 mile mark, I blow a tire, and it has to be the back, so what a bitch. Headwinds now, too. As a biker you learn early on that whenever there are winds, it is a headwind.
At 55 miles I’m thinking this is a shitty way to spend a day, but it was my choice. I could be with my kids at the pool, or with my buddies at a football game. Why am I doing this?
At 70 miles I feel like throwing up; something has upset my stomach…maybe those homemade cookies at the 25 mile stop.
I am on a highway by myself when I reach 80 miles, and I’m no longer sure where I am…if I’m even on the right route. My phone battery is dead and I’ve used my spare tube. My average speed is dropping, and I just don’t have the energy to keep it up.
Then, lo!, at the 90-mile mark I see a sign that says “Riders, this way” and I am on track.
At 95, I come across some of the people I started with, and strangely, I begin picking up speed. How weird.
100 miles and I’m pissed because I thought I was done, but more work to do…the “100-mile” course is really 102 miles, but I know where I am. And then…I cross the finish line. It was not pretty, and I did not set any land speed records, but I got it done. By myself.
It may sound crazy, but long-distance biking keeps me sane as a writer because both are endurance sports, and I know — I know — there are bad times ahead. But I also know, I’ll get through them as long as I don’t lose my commitment, never give up or give in.
The same goes for writing. Steel yourself to know that you are going to — figuratively speaking — have headwinds and blown tires. Life is long. Take a break. Catch your breath. Get back on your bike and keep on pedaling, keep on writing.