Breaking old habits with a marathon of words. The Authors Collection

Marathon runners

I remember the first time I saw a marathon.  I was living in downtown Los Angeles in the loft district on Traction Avenue.  To get to the event I had walked a few blocks east to Little Tokyo.  I passed the many little stores and even the grocery store where I often shopped, but on this day, I was looking for a place to sit to watch the Los Angeles Marathon.

I finally found the perfect spot and settled myself on the curb.  The crowd was so thick I didn’t notice that I had chosen a seat on the curb just a half a block from where the Kodo drummers had set up.

Beca Lewis
Beca Lewis

When they started drumming, I felt as if the thunder of the gods was rolling down the street. I had never heard, or seen, such power and precision. The sound and rhythm felt like a thousand hearts beating next to me.

Adding to the drummer’s rhythm and beat was the pounding of the runners’ feet as they headed our way. Soon, runner after runner passed by, filling the entire street, shoulder-to-shoulder. One line would pass by and another would be right behind their heels. They just kept coming.  I had no idea there would be so many people.

Besides the sheer number of people, what intrigued me was the fact that although they were all moving down the same route, they were all unique.

There were fast runners, slow runners, walkers, people carrying things, men, women, people of all ages, people wearing costumes, people smiling, people waving, people concentrated on the task.  Each person ran that marathon in his or her own way and all of us present, either as runners, helpers, or watchers, were part of the experience.

It was hours before I got up from my seat, saturated with sounds of the Kodo drums, the thousands of feet hitting the pavement, and the energy that swelled and flowed from each runner as they went by.

FC-Living_In-Grace_09-23-13-frameNow all these years later, I am part of another kind of marathon. I am not sitting on a curb, there aren’t any Kodo drummers, and I am participating instead of just watching. No, I am not running a marathon with my feet; I am participating in the marathon of words, called NaNoWriMo, or National November Writing Month.

I heard of this event a few years ago, but was afraid to participate. The idea of writing a novel of at least 50, 000 words in one month seemed as beyond me as running the Los Angeles Marathon.

However, I harbored a secret wish to be part of the event. This year, I decided, that just as anyone can run a marathon in his or her own way, I could participate in this word marathon in my own way.

I decided I wouldn’t worry whether what I was writing was any good, or if I would use it later. I would write just to get into the habit of writing lots of words, every day, and get out of the habit of procrastinating writing.

A week into the marathon, I have kept up so far. Instead of going back and reading what I am writing, I am simply writing what comes next.  I told myself that I would follow whatever the characters took me, not worrying if it makes any sense. I am not editing, not checking spelling, just letting my fingers do the running. When the month is over I can edit all those words, or I can simply toss it out and begin again.

There are thousands and thousands of writers participating. If we were all running, it would take hours for all of us to pass one spectator watching in awe, as I was that day.

If you are one of those runners running the writing route with me, I say “Hey, so happy to be running with you!” If you have thought of doing this yourself, then join us next year, or make your own kind of marathon, because choosing to be in any kind of marathon is one of the most powerful ways to do something bigger than an old habit.

We are not all runners. We are not all writers.  However, every one of us can participate in a marathon of some kind, with a like-minded community.  Pick one that calls to you. Breaking old habits that keep us stuck, and making new ones that work for us, is always easier, and way more fun, within a community! Let me know what marathon you choose, and I will cheer you on!

Please click the book cover image to read more about Beca Lewis and her books. It won’t be long before she has her first novel in the mix.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Beca, I’m afraid there is only one difference between a runner’s marathon and a writer’s marathon of words. For the writer, the race never ends. There is no finish line. You cross one and begin another race. I am excited about your novel. This is indeed a major break out for you. When you finished spiffing it up, please let us know how we can help you.

    • Beca Lewis

      Oh wow Caleb – thank you! I know .. writing never end, but it sure feels good to start and do it anyway. I appreciate it your offer and will take you up on it!

  • Blessings and best wishes for those who are able to attempt marathons – or NaNo.

    Even when I used to run, I never aspired to marathons. One year at work I was persuaded to participate in a work-related run – the more people in a department who signed up for this event, the better that department came off. Or something. They said it didn’t matter that I was slow. Finally, they wore me down.

    But I proved them wrong. They should have just left me alone. By the end of the race, the follow car was urging me to just give up and get in – and I refused, and continued my very slow slog until I got to the finish line – where everyone had long gone home.

    I finished – yay! Nobody cared and the organizers just wanted to go home. Ever since then I trust my own judgement – because I finish what I start. If possible. I did almost finish Web Serial Writing Month this year – because I could set my own goals. As in that long-ago race, I accept that challenge is good, but knowing yourself (once you’ve tried) is better.

    Consider yourself cheered – from the sidelines.

    • Beca Lewis

      Thanks Alicia – I am so much more like you! I have often described myself as a turtle – I’ll get there .. just give me time. (and you know how important turtles are!) Thank you for cheering me own, I am feeling heartened!

      • You WILL get there – we turtles have to stick together. I like it, ‘turtles.’

        • Beca Lewis

          We certainly do! Turtles unite!

  • Beca,
    I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but my youngest daughter is doing it this year with you. If you see her, give her a thumbs up. I’m sure she will cheer you on, too. I agree with Caleb’s remark below that for writers the marathon never ends. But your post drives home the main thing for writers to remember: Just keep at it. Set your goals and keep running.

    • Beca Lewis

      Thanks Stephen – I am sending a thumbs up to your daughter. You are so right – just keep at it. I am thinking of Diana Nyad when she said she kept saying to herself, “find a way.” And so we shall -right? Right!

  • Darlene Jones

    NaNoWriMo is not something that I would try, but I certainly admire those who do. Kudos to you for running this particular marathon.

    • Beca Lewis

      Thanks Darlene – I am finding it is really helping me get over the big hump – for me – of trying another genre. I have been stalling far too long!

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