Breaking old habits with a marathon of words. The Authors Collection
November 13, 2013
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.
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.
Now 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.