Runners run, writers write

This month was about making good on promises to myself.

Last winter, I felt like I was getting further away from the person I wanted to be. I know there’s a lot of commercialized talk about “self care” now, and I’m all about getting a pedicure or indulging in some little treat that helps buoy you. But at a deeper level, I knew to I needed to look at the aspects of my life that I had been neglecting and come up with a plan to reconnect with a few of the things that make me feel like I can bring my best self to the world.

So I signed up to run a 20K. Running was a bit part of my high school experience, and I ran a few half marathons in my 20s. My distance running has been pretty nonexistent lately, as in the past six years since having kids. The June 1 DAM to DSM race was a compact with myself, a deadline to get moving. It inspired me to sign up for a 6-week challenge with Burn Bootcamp this winter (which involved 5:30 a.m. workouts that I was surprised to appreciate!) and to take up a weird practice of listening to OnBeing podcasts while running on the treadmill and watching HGTV shows with the closed captions on, like a total weirdo. I embraced a quick run before the kids woke up, or in random half-hours that I used to spend scrolling the internet.

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And I did it! My longest training run was probably five miles, so I was very nervous heading into the 12-miler. But we had wonderfully cool weather, and I felt amazing out on the course. I wasn’t fast, but I finished just under the 2:30 target I’d set. And, the kids joined me on a jogging loop at mile 10 around Union Park, and were super excited to see me finish. I am seriously considering signing up for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth next June, before my old knees give out.

The second thing I set for myself was to sign up for a workshop through the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. I chose “All those pages” a novel-writing session with the author Sandra Scofield.

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The last time I took a creative writing workshop was as an undergrad at Mizzou, and I absolutely loved it. My short story was published in Epic, the student journal, but pretty much everything else I’ve done has been journalism. And this blog. The idea of walking into a group of strangers and sharing my idea — an idea I’ve hardly spoken about at all, and definitely haven’t committed much time to — was terrifying.

The workshops are capped at 12 people, so it was an intimate roundtable of writers. Sandra’s workshop helped us focus on the “aboutness” of our novel, and helped us tighten our ideas into statements that convey the plot, the theme, the tension.

When the workshop started, she challenged me and pushed me and I questioned whether I had enough to work from. But by the end of the weekend, I left with an outline that gave me much more clear direction and confidence. The other writers in the workshop asked each other questions about our work, and made suggestions on areas we were struggling.

It was energizing to be in a room with a bunch of people who had committed to their ideas, and were honing their craft. I don’t know it my book will get published, but I am committing to at least writing it. Like the race, it’s about setting a goal and putting in the miles.

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