I’m not sure why I do it—why I continue to scribble and erase and type and backspace and rewrite and edit and…you get the idea.
I’ve never been one to walk away from a good story, but to write one myself—it dumps a load of bricks on my brain. Like other writers, I agonize over the details when I write, slicing the story when it needs revision and splicing back together what remains on the paper.
Writing mimics running, or the other way around, if you like. The comparison is made to the point of becoming a cliche, but it illustrates a reality of what I’m searching to accomplish as a writer.
I ran cross-country and distance in track during high school. Each time I toed the starting line for another 5K or the mile race, in a small crevice tucked within my mind, I thought: “How am I going to make it through the race?”
No matter how well I practiced during the lead-up to a race, I always grappled with the thought. It was a fear full of nonsense.
I always finished. And I loved it. There’s a transition that occurred to me when I ran distance races, whether it’s a 5K, a mile, or 2 mile race. I would begin with the fear, then when the race began, I would constantly make calculations like, “How’s my pace? What do my mile splits look? When should I make my move toward the front of the pack?”
And then it’s all over. The aching legs and wearied lungs would earn their parole, and I would think to myself, “I want to do this all over again.”
That transition from fear to eagerness is one that I haven’t been able to reverse engineer yet, but it’s something that I find in writing as well.
Before I sit down to write, I worry about how I’m going to overcome all the drafting, editing, and revision that stands before me. But once I get going, I somehow make a similar transition as I did when running. I write and revise and ponder and erase. After turning in or publishing my work, I somehow want to do it all over again.
So the cycle continues. I clench my teeth all throughout the writing process, but when it’s over, I want more.
I think that’s why I miss running so much after having to walk away after a spinal injury and nerve damage—it’s that transition, that near-mystical process from fear to determination to love.
I think that’s why I keep writing. I’m on an expedition to find “that something,” which is the ability for people to carry onward in jobs and pursuits that require so much of them.
I’m enamored by the hockey player who stands in front of a 100 mph snapshot, breaking his leg so that he can protect his team’s lead. I’m captivated by the Navy SEALs, Delta Force operators, and Green Berets that continue to serve even after double-digit combat deployments.
I’m awestruck by the everyday actions of normal people that display a similar quality: the single mother that works three jobs to put her kid through college, the counselor who teaches at a vocational college for students with developmental disorders, the volunteer fireman who walk toward the fire.
It’s that something, the ability to keep slogging forward even when there’s no light shining at the end of the tunnel and no recognition, that has me writing.
It’s more than just determination and grit; it’s a spiritual quality that inevitably points to God, even if the person doesn’t believe himself.
And it’s what keeps me writing.
Author’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series of articles that will chart the progress I’m making on writing a short story. The story will be part of a larger Geneva College project in which students from Dr. Williams’s ENG 344 Publishing compile their short stories into a published collection for the campus. Check us out on Facebook under “Geneva Inklings.”
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.