Used by permission

This weekend I completed my first 5K, a mud and obstacle covered race in DFW called Jailbreak. It was a celebration of a good friend’s birthday.

Even with a bum foot, I loved the adventure. I am a thrill seeker at heart, and I love challenges. The race gave me lots of firsts… my first rope ladder, my first slide across the hood of a car, my first rope climb, my first 5K, and my first time in a long time to actually let loose with a bunch of female friends. We bonded over mud then water then mud then water then–well you get the idea.

The race was a blast. As I relive it through the countless pictures, I think what was most fulfilling was the immediate feedback. I did not know if I could climb the rope ladder, straddle the top, and climb back down on the other side, but I did know that I would see my success or failure within just a few minutes. Each obstacle held its own immediate gratification.

I did not know if my core and upper body was strong enough to pull me up a muddy slope by a slippery rope, but my determination got me to the top. And the possibly infected scar on my right knee proves that I also conquered the ride across the hood of a car.

Writing is not like that. I can sit down and type out what I believe to be an amazing short story worthy of a theater rendition, toss an address on an envelope, and send it to a competition, but then I have to sit back down at my computer and keep moving my fingers across the keyboard because it usually takes 3-6 months to hear back from anyone. Even the response often leaves me wanting more. Form letters that say, “please submit again,” do not tell me anything about the piece itself. Does that mean it was horrible or that it just did not fulfill a current need? Should I submit it elsewhere of “file it” in the recycle bin?

The acceptance or rejection of any piece of work on a potential publisher’s desk lies not only in the writer’s talent, but also in the reader’s current mood, his stress level, his background, his preferences, and perhaps even what other works he has recently read.

Races, however, are full-fledged, pass or fail, immediate feedback tests of physical endurance that can’t be cheated. There is no judge. There is just you, your training, and the clock. That simple. You either do it or you don’t.

The cliché here would be that writing isn’t a race; it’s a marathon, but even that is inaccurate. Even a marathon has an endpoint. Triathlons have a finish line. Writing, at least for me, is never over. I’m never finished. There is always another character begging for a heartbeat, another setting requesting the thousand words to paint it, or a plot seeking my effort. I have a million stories that I want to write, that I need to write.

Yes, the races fulfill the part of me that longs for immediate gratification, and friendships built there make me a better person and a stronger writer (because all of my crazy friends find their way into my stories at some point), but ultimately my passion in life is for the written word. The sewing together of nouns and verbs make me who I am. The rest is just muddy and sweaty side tracks.