Years ago, way back in high school, I used to be a long distance runner. Most races ranged from a mile to three miles, but my sophomore year, I entered a half-marathon. That’s over 13 miles of putting one foot in front of the other.
I can still remember parts of that race. The starting line was miles up a canyon in Utah. Soon after the gun fired, the pack of runners spread out along the winding, scenic road to the valley below. The twists and turns masked the length of the journey and sporadic tables with paper cups of water helped break up the monotony.
Until about mile marker nine when I hit The Wall. That place in long races where every muscle cries out in pain for you to give up and quit. That reaching the finish line isn’t worth this level of physical torture. Where you’re wishing for an injury just to be able to bow out with grace instead of humiliation. Where every step forward is a supreme act of the will. As if you’ve run into a brick wall blocking your forward progress.
I’d like to say I’ve only encountered The Wall when running, but we can all reach that place in the long journeys of life. Marriage. Parenting. Work situations. Health issues.
Solution? Keep putting one foot in front of the other. For just a few more steps and then a few more. Maybe slow the pace down and walk a bit, but always keep moving at all costs. And when you push through The Wall, something amazing happens. The pain fades away and you get a second wind to carry you forward to the cheering crowds at the finish line.
I’d hit the wall with editing my latest manuscript. All of my critique partners’ comments were marked on the paper copy and sticky-notes flagged pages where I needed to add different plot threads. The revisions were done in my head, just not in the computer file. I was full of excuses about being swamped at work and having a hormonal teenager in the house, but the real problem was procrastination.
Then I got a much needed kick in the pants from a quote I heard on the radio. “Procrastination is the grave where opportunity is buried.” Ouch. Oppotunities to seek agent representation and pitch this book to editors at a writers conference I’m attending in May would never amount to anything unless I had a finished product to send them.
I shifted my schedule around and blocked out two days for writing in hopes to get momentum building again. I started that weekend with 13 of 30 chapters in pretty good condition and the knowledge that I needed to add another whole chapter. Friday morning, I plodded my way through another chapter’s worth of revisions.
Not bad. I started in on chapter 15 and then the phone rang. It was the call notifying me that this very manuscript had advanced to the semi-finals in the ACFW Genesis contest. Talk about a jolt of new energy and motivation to pursue this opportunity!! By the end of the weekend, I had written a completely new chapter and had 19 of 31 chapters ready. Over halfway done and motivated to push forward, I found my second wind.
Last week, even on nights when I was extremely tired from work and baseball games, I found the time to get a couple more chapters done. Then, Friday night, I went on a pre-birthday dinner date and saw the musical that plays a significant role in this book. Flooded with fresh ideas, I spent much of Saturday pounding away at the keyboard, adding new threads and pieces of dialogue to the already-revised chapters as well as pushing ahead on other needed changes. With only five chapters left to revise, the end of this stage of the race is in sight.
I’ve left The Wall far behind.
What about you? What long journey are you on? Have you ever hit “the wall?” Did you quit or push through? Did you gain a second wind of energy to carry you forward?