So a few weeks back a friend challenged me to ride a bike race in the near future. It is 53 miles long, and at the time I was riding about 12-15 miles a day, most of that part of my commute. I decided to train for the race, in an attempt to do one thing: finish.
Like any good citizen, I fired up Google to find a training plan, and I found one designed to prepare a cyclist for a 50+ mile mountain bike race. There was only one minor problem with every plan that I found.
They were 12 weeks long, and I had eight weeks until race day. I was reminded of the expression of stuffing 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag.
I was also reminded by my ever overworking mind that I also had to move during that time, and help another friend move. So some of my “training time” would be spent lifting boxes, a noble activity, but one that did not really count toward my goal.
With another self imposed writing deadline looming, one designed to get me back in the novel writing game, I realized the two were parallel for a number of reasons.
Time is Short
There is only so much time in a day, and while I write every day, and way more than some people do, I need to allocate how much of that writing time is for Fiction. Because while writing for Huffington Post, Tweak Your Biz, and other websites is fun and helps pay the bills and spread the word about the other things I do, my new detective series is languishing, and fiction sales need the boost that only new work can give it.
Time management has become critical, but I have to be careful. To accomplish goals, I can’t set aside my other priorities. I have a family and other obligations, and neglecting them to write or ride is not the right thing to do, at least long term.
Time Resting is not Time Wasted
Did I mention that I tore a calf muscle playing basketball in March? You may not know much about cycling, but your calves play a big role. The tear (which happened a week before my wedding, making other things tough as well, like the honeymoon) is healed and pretty much rehabbed, but there are days when I get out of the saddle and realize how much it still hurts.
Writing muscles are much the same. I have been in a non-fiction, tech and business writing type mode, and while that is great, the fiction writing muscles need to be flexed, stretched, and exercised as well.
But rest sometimes allows those muscles time to heal. In fiction, ideas build up so words flow like water released from a dam. In cycling, muscles are ready to tackle a challenge and be pushed harder than if they were already tired.
Deadlines Motivate Me
I work well under the gun. When I have a deadline looming, I push myself and do some of my best work.
I also exercise more often, mainly because I feel like I have a purpose, a goal in mind. That goal makes it more important that I apply myself, since the last thing I want to do is fail because I did not put in the effort.
You can only control your efforts and what you try to do. Accidents happen, and people and relationships are still more important than any goals you may have. These setbacks are decision points. Do you drop out of the race, or change your goal for completion of your novel? Or do you buckle down and work that much harder?
Handling setbacks without just giving up completely is the hardest part of endurance. Make no mistake, long distance biking and writing a novel have that in common. Both are endurance events.
There are other things you can compare to novel writing. All of them are tortuous and require strength, flexibility and endurance. Do you think training for a mountain bike race compares? What else do you think compares? Let me know in the comments below.