Efforts featured image

Sasamat Lake. Photo by Alex Costin

November 30, 2018

On November 1st I started writing the second draft of my first novel. Despite the well-established 50,000 word framework of National Novel Writing Month, I set myself a goal of 65,000 words. I did this because I’m a wordy writer, because I knew from my 2016 attempt that this was a big story, and because setting arbitrarily ambitious goals in stone is just a thing I do, I guess.

Before I started, I also attached a carrot to the project: if I met my goal, I could then sign up for my first ultramarathon, the Diez Vista 50K. Tandye and our companion and housemate Carlos even agreed to crew me on that race… assuming I actually met my goal.

On November 26th I completed the novel draft with over 67,000 words. The book’s not finished, but the whole story is there, and I’m excited to read it out loud to Tandye next month. In that way, I can get feedback from my ideal audience, polish the prose, and fill in the gaps.

part of the Diez Vista course (photo via @diezvista)

This morning, registration for the DV50 opened, and I claimed one of the first 20 spots. Now I have a 19-week training plan in place, an attainable goal for the race (just finish!), and the support and encouragement of my wife and the truly incredible trail running community here in the Lower Mainland.

I’m excited about what I’ve done, and what I’m about to do. Writing a novel and completing a 50km trail race are both huge accomplishments. And the one thing I keep thinking about – despite the impulse to lock into tunnel vision about the race, or starting to fret about cleaning up the novel, or wanting to tackle any of the multiple other projects that I put on hold this month – is how lucky I am to have the support of the people close to me. These are solo endeavours – I’m the one who has to write the words and run the miles – but they don’t happen in a vacuum.

The word count graph for my untitled novel

When I was writing the novel, Tandye gave me the time alone that I needed to focus. I am already a solitary person who loves to focus on her own pursuits – thanks a lot, Asperger’s – so this meant that I was even less available as a partner. To be with someone who understands and supports an endeavour like that, and who is willing to shoulder the emotional and practical burdens, is a lucky thing indeed, and I am so very grateful to her. To Carlos, too, since he got stuck doing even more of the chores around the house!

Ironically, a solo project like writing a novel or training for a race takes a lot of time and effort from multiple people, and I am coming to understand that the results of those efforts ought to benefit those people too.

Training for the DV50 is going to take a lot of time, particularly weekday mornings and Saturdays. The effort there will be just as intense as writing 67k words in a month, although it will probably take slightly fewer hours per week, and it will require more from my body than my mind. I know from previous training blocks that I’ll have a lot of time to think about stuff while I’m out there on my own, grinding out those hill repeats and long runs. The main thing I want to focus on over these next 19 weeks is how to ensure that the people in my life – particularly Tandye – benefit from the hours and the effort as much as I do.

I’m happy when I’m writing, and I’m happy to have written. Likewise, I’m happy when I’m running (even in the dark and the rain), and I love having run, being able to look at the mileage and think about the things I saw. Both experiences put me in a good mood when they’re going well, and I feel like I can be more generous with my spirit and my actions (in other words, nicer to be around) once I have something to show for the effort.

A huge story I get to read to Tandye. A better rapport with my body and peace of mind and spirit. These aren’t quite the same things as being a partner who’s always mentally and physically present, or someone who can always tidy up the dishes and clean the litter boxes, but that just makes me even more keen to ensure the intangible “benefits” really are of value to the people who are affected by my temporary absence. When I’m present, I want to be fully present, engaged, happy and selfless.

It’s all worth the effort.