My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
In my blog The Power of Three that Broke Through My Writing Challenges, I described the three things that fuel my writing.
Praying, Reading, and Running.
I realize these do not only fuel my writing, but also my life as whole because it feeds the three essential parts of my being: Spirit, Mind, and Body.
So what am I reading right now?
Still covering a few pages at a time of The Magnolia Story, which inspires my writing life, The Way of Perfection to keep my spirit fed with spiritual nuggets from my spiritual mother, St. Teresa of Avila, and the Anatomy of Running, to avoid injury to my body.
Why the latter and why the concern for injury?
As most of you may know, I am training for the February 2019 Disney Half Marathon.
What I love about this training is that it brings back memories of the first book I wrote and self-published, Running the Millionaire Lane. That is a memoir on how I discovered my call as a writer and how running primed me to pursue that call.
I have learned many harsh lessons since then, which I blogged in How Running Got Me Writing and Vice Versa.
As I train for the half-marathon, I don't have much illusion of self-publishing another memoir on running. I may end up eating the dust off the covers of the book, when it languishes in some corner of the house or library.
But the lessons I'm getting from the run are too precious for me not to ink in black and white, so I decided to post each run with lessons learned on my Facebook page of Running the Millionaire Lane, where you can follow my pathetic struggle of achieving my goal.
The only thing that's keeping me on track so far is the $40 I paid in RunBet, which pushes me to run 4x a week using the Podrunner Interval Program Freeway to 10K, otherwise, I would lose the bet, and my money.
I have two more weeks to go, and I will get back my money and perhaps even earn, if the others who pledged to run, lost on the bet. Let's see...
Anyway, it was with this high stake in mind that made me hit the running trail yesterday.
My husband said, "Bring a gel pack or a small container of water so you can hydrate after 45 minutes."
Having run the same trail for 45 minutes without needing hydration made me say, "No, I'm good. I don't want to deal with urinary incontinence."
My mother-in-law, on the other hand, repeatedly said, "Apply sunblock." This was part of my routine, because I tanned easily with my brown skin, so I took her advice.
As I headed out, I decided to do the uphill run because the path was a long straight course. Intending to run long and slow that afternoon, I thought the open sidewalk beside the main road would be ideal.
How wrong I was.
As I heaved up the climb, the sun soaked my exposed skin, the wind blew at 14mph against my struggling body, and the 95F heat burned my fuel faster than expected.
I had been regularly running for two years averaging five days a week because it helped manage the pain of fibromyalgia and arthritis, but never had I experienced lung burn as I did yesterday, which was surprising, because my pace was not any faster. In fact, it was slower than usual.
I usually feel my lungs burn whenever I run at a pace of 12 min/mi or faster, or when I run in cold, winter weather. This would sometimes result in a coughing fit and spasm of my airways, from the need to inhale and exhale at a higher rate.
Yesterday, I did not cough but at the 22-minute mark, I took the inner path under the shade of the trees and buildings.
My lips longed for a cold drop of water, and my throat felt like sand. If only. At that moment, I regretted not listening to my husband.
When a man crossed the street with a cup in his hand, I had to restrain myself from snatching that precious cup from him. I imagined how the liquid would cool my burning throat, quench the thirst. And that thought did not help at all.
The shady cover was temporary because I had to go back to the open road to head back home. That long straight trail felt like a vast desert under the scorching heat of the sun. The road shimmered like a mirage.
I tried to cheer myself by looking at the clear blue sky. A cloud, looking like Jesus in His tunic encouraged me. "You can do it," He seemed to say. So I fixed my eyes above and for a moment, I forgot about the heat. The cloud beckoned, and my legs prodded me forward, but it disappeared shortly.
Where was the wind when I needed it the most to blow me downhill and relieve me of the excruciating heat?
Ahead, two young women were walking towards me. As they passed me by, they smiled. The energy to lift my lips robbed my legs of what little fuel I needed to get me going. Their smiles were encouraging, but all I could think of was I probably look like hell, or suffering its torture.
As I approached a train overpass, about 0.25 miles away from home, I knew I had to stop under the shade. Increasing nausea overtook my stomach. My muscles quivered and my lids could barely open.
I leaned against the wall, took out my phone, and dialed. While it rang and rang, I prayed, "Please pick up or else the police or paramedics will pick me up from this sidewalk."
Finally, my husband answered. "What's up?" He sounded like he was still on the training bike doing his own Sunday work-out.
"Please pick me up. I'm dying."
"Seriously. Where are you?"
I croaked my location and ended up gagging as I hung up the phone. Nothing came out of my empty stomach. He called again and asked if I was alright.
"Just get here asap," or something like that were the only words I could manage to gasp out, and I hung up again. I was too sick and breathless to talk.
It may just have been a few minutes before he arrived but it felt like hours. As soon as I got in the car, he gave me the gel pack and a bottle of cold water. Thank God! After taking in the life-saving remedies, I said, "I should have listened to you. These would have gotten me home."
He just laughed, but the concern was in his voice as he urged me to finish the gel and water. At home, he gave me a cold pack to put on my chest.
"Heat stroke," he said.
More like a heat slap. Or a close stroke with death.
"I think I need you to come with me to that Disney Half-Marathon," I said. The original plan of our group was to join the event without the family in tow. But after this event, I know that the last 0.25 mile was crucial, and I have a feeling my husband will get me through, whether by cheering words of encouragement, or handing me a gel pack, a bottle of water, whatever... I need his presence and support.
"I can run with you, probably pace you. But this is your run, and you dictate the pace," he said.
"I like that. At least I know I won't end up in Shrek's swamp groping at the water spinach, vomiting and weak, (in Tagalog, "Hindi ako pupulutin sa kangkungan) because you'd be there."
What a comforting thought. It was Running the Millionaire Lane all over again but this time, on a different level.
"You know, I need that. Your support,” I told my husband. “Not just in running but also in my journey as a writer. You’re my alpha-reader. Your encouraging words are crucial to getting me through that last 0.25th mile. One discouraging word or silence can make me lose fuel—my dream of becoming a novelist buried forever."
He understood. Because yesterday morning he woke up to a most strange dream.
"I was flying and..."
After listening to his narrative, I laughed out loud. “That is the answer to my prayer because my Chapter 6 draft seems corny, and I asked God for a better version. Oh, that's perfect!” I said. “And you’ll know why when you read Chapter 5 of my web novel.”
So he read Chapters 3-5, and I got his precious feedback. He’s supposed to be my alpha-reader, the one who would go through my draft yet he had not been doing his part. And it can be frustrating at times when you expect support from that one person who matters most in your life and not get it. God has His strange ways of reminding people.
Thanks to that dream, Lord. You did a St. Joseph strategy on him.
Back to my writing journey, that running incident taught me several lessons.
I needed to listen to my mentor who could help me set my pace, advise me what to do, what to watch out for, and so on.
My husband has been my running mentor since ten years ago when I took on running, a sport I hated.
And I did not listen to him yesterday. So I got in trouble.
In the same way, I have my writing mentors. They've been there and done that. I don't need to reinvent the wheel. Their experience will help me navigate this new road I'm trekking.
This is the reason why I enrolled in the Jerry Jenkins Guild, but if I don't heed Jerry'a advice and of those who have been on this journey, it would be like running without the gel pack or the water.
It's good that I have my critique group who could encourage me by being with me in the writing journey, but a mentor is there to point me to the right directions and give solid advice and recommend resources where I could learn more.
But I have to do my part.
Read, learn, and apply.
These will help me get through my running journey to half-marathon. These will get me through my writing journey and hopefully into publication of my novel.
So What’s Up?
The Readrunner* is back and this time, Running the Long Lane.
*I used to blog about running @Readrunner.blogspot.com, and my last entry was dated March 7, 2010, because in July of the same year, I sustained a back injury and was advised by my doctor not to run anymore. Now that I'm back on the running track, it's time to resurrect that blog in this website and raise it to a new level. How to cross-over from the writing journey blog is the big question.
The first book I self-published was Running the Millionaire Lane.
If you want to learn what-not-to-do as a newbie writer, you got to read this book.
It’s available on Kindle. It will not tell you what not to do, but will show you!
Don’t write in passive sentences.
Don’t publish a draft.
Don’t pantser (write off-the-seat-of-your-pants) without a clear beginning, middle, or end.
For $0.99, this will open your eyes to the sad reality that evades most newbie writers (like me).
Writing a book entails more than passion and purpose.
Learning the craft takes a while if talent is meager.
That’s clear value for your pennies!
But one thing this book will teach is determination.
And if your goal is to run 10K in a few weeks, this book will inspire you.
Determination got me from point A (someone who hated running) to point B (someone who craved running).
It did not occur overnight.
And many people who read it actually said, “If she can do it, I can.”
Yes, that’s how pathetic I am as a runner, enough to inspire anyone, especially a non-runner.
Because I managed to finish a 10K on my first race (almost crawling to the finish line), and improved on my time after a few weeks of training.
And those who read the book, and allowed it to inspire them, also managed to run 10K after a couple of weeks.
I published this book ten years ago.
It seemed prophetic when I mentioned potential migration to the US because here I am ten years after, living on the other side of the world and pursuing my writing dream.
In 2009, we moved to this land of milk and honey. But I had to “milk the cow” back then and “gathered the honey that exposed me to tons of bee stings.”
Nothing fairy tale-like about our immigrant story.
In 2010, I sustained a chronic back injury from an occupational hazard of lifting my patient, which limited my ability to run.
In 2016, concurrent with my decision to pursue writing as a full-time career, ministry, and work vocation, I found a chiropractor who managed to pull me back to running.
Since then, I found running as the best remedy to writer’s block, coupled with praying and reading.
And here are the top lessons I learned from running that I applied to my writer’s life:
1) Maintain a good pace.
- Going too fast risks injury and robs me of the joy of the activity. Going too slow does not achieve my goals.
- The right pace is to start slow and increase to a comfortable breathing pace.
2) Minimize extraneous movements.
- Keep feet grounded. Take small brisk steps. Keep my hands close to my body. Avoid distractions.
3) Less is more.
- Make it simple. Don’t complicate the set-up. Use the basic tools needed to get going.
4) Be consistent.
- Thirty minutes once a week is not enough.
- Two or three times a week is better than nothing.
- Cross training in between minimizes boredom.
5) Having a purpose keeps the passion going.
- Motivation fuels the engine.
- The higher the purpose, the greater the motivation.
Recently, family and friends spurred me to train for a half-marathon.
Why I bit the bullet after telling myself, I will never run in a race again and subject myself to unnecessary stress and pressure, which are potential ingredients for running woes?
It was because they made it sound fun!
“Let’s join the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in Florida next year!”
And I thought of every magical reason I could concoct.
One, I get to become a running princess for a day. Sounds like Cinderella without the glass slippers.
Two, it’s a couple of months away. I have time to train. Surely, it won’t be that hard.
Three, a chance to win a Disney medal and celebrate in Disney style (hopefully with the fireworks and roasted Turkey legs).
… As long as I finish the run in less than 3.5 hours so Mickey Mouse’s magic broom will not sweep me off the running course, I should be okay.
So here I am spicing up my writer’s life with a running goal, which hopefully would push this manuscript in progress to the next level—publication.
Any runners out there who want to join the ride? Or writers for that matter?
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