But how fast do you sprint from the starting line? Well, it depends on the race. I’d come out of the blocks a lot faster for a 100 meter dash than for a 1 mile run. Why? The longer the distance, the more important it is that I pace myself so I have enough energy left to finish … and finish strong.
I used to coach high school track and remember putting a particular runner into the 400 meter run for the first time ever. I told him not to go out too fast because a single lap around the track can be deceptive. He didn’t listen. The gun fired and he rocketed into first place. Those gathered around me started taking bets on when he’d hit the wall, and sure enough, with 100 meters still to go, his stride faltered and his arms began to flail. With sheer grit and determination, he staggered across the finish line (NOT in first place any longer) and vowed never to run that stupid race again.
My point? When at the starting line, it’s important to have a plan for finishing the distance. Not only to have trained for the moment, but to have a realistic picture of what it will take to reach the goal. That’s what pacing does. It breaks the end result down into stages and determines how fast I should finish each lap.
The same can be said of writing a book. It’s a marathon of a journey. Brainstorming and researching. Writing the first draft. Revisions, edits and the final polish. Is it better to burst from the starting gate and pour a flood of words onto the page before fizzling to a stop days later when I run out of steam and struggle for the inspiration to keep going? Or should I set smaller word count goals for each day – goals that will get me to the destination on a steady pace and leave me with a burst of energy at the end?
I’ve tried it both ways and have decided that for me, the slow and steady pace gets me there. So, this month I’m finishing my initial outline and setting word count goals. (I do have a day job that shoves writing to the side at times, so I try to plan small and write extra when I get the chance. Otherwise, I stick with slow and steady!) Starting Labor Day, I’ll start on the rough draft and hope to remember to enter my daily word counts so you can track my progress on the meter in the sidebar on my website. The goal? Finish the first draft by mid-December.
What about you? What goal are you working toward? Do you sprint or pace yourself? What does that look like?