Start Running (even if you need a bucket)
My family spent many hours watching the Olympics this summer. It surprised me how taken my young sons were with track and field. They especially loved the sprint races. Every night we crowded around the television to watch Usain Bolt or Allyson Felix run their hearts out. However, these sprint races were hard for me to watch. With each crack of the starter pistol, I found myself getting more and more tense. My hands would sweat, my heart would pound and at times I had to physically leave the room.
These sensations took me back to running cross-country in junior high school. I loved it… and I hated it. Before every race, my stomach tied up in knots. My arms ached from the adrenaline coursing through my body. I dreaded that starter pistol. I used to hear the starter pistol in my nightmares. I used to wish that the pistol would jam and or the race monitor would faint before he could pull the trigger.
In spite of my hatred, the pistol always fired. And there I was standing at the starting line with no choice but to run or scurry back to my parents waiting with anticipation. Peer pressure was the only thing that got my feet moving. All of my pimply-faced, lanky runner friends were already skipping along the hilly course in front of me. The dread of public humiliation always got me going. That and my coach yelling at me from the sidelines, “Start running!”
Start running I did – every time. And once I settled in, my arms loosened up and my stomach (although still a bit queasy) untied its knots. Two miles later, I would find myself still running. Somtimes I surprised myself and finished the race ahead of the pack. Other times (the majority of the time), I arrived at the finishing chute solidly in the middle. Regardless of my race time, I always finished.
Over time, and after many races spent wondering whether I would need the bucket my mother so discreetly placed next to the start line, I realized that I was a dependable and solid runner. However, being armed with this hard-earned knowledge that I was consistent never made it any easier to get my feet off the starting line. The nausea never went away.
This is the way I feel about writing most days. Today I find myself at yet another starting line. I took the summer off from fiction writing (and blogging) to focus on my paid non-fiction work. I have to admit, pulling myself out of the fiction “race” was a relief. Isn’t it always easier to not write at all than to line up at the starting line and face the blank page in front of you?
I knew I couldn’t stay away too long though. The stories keep coming and the characters keep talking to me when I’m drifting off to sleep at night. So I’m lined up for the race again. I unearthed my 3/4-completed draft and dragged it to the start line. The problem? I’ve been in the starting blocks for three weeks now. I’ve wasted more time thinking about starting the race than seems humanly possible. It’s harder as an adult. I don’t have my posse of pimply-faced friends threatening to whisper snidely behind my back if I don’t get off the start line. It’s just me and the computer.
Rationally I know the minute I get my feet off the blocks, I’ll settle in to an even pace. My body will loosen up and I’ll begin the process of one foot (or in this case, finger) in front of the other. But this morning as I type this, I’m still crouched in the blocks with my puke bucket tucked securely by my side. Have you seen that Geico commercial? I’m thinking about hiring my own posse of junior high girls to follow me around. Instead of “Ew…seriously…so gross,” I’ll pay them to say “really…coward…start writing.” Any takers?