a blog by J.M. Cottle
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I lost and I won

Last month, I was more of a runner than a writer. I know, right? What’s the world coming to? In the last few days of April I successfully completed the Zombies, Run! 5k Training app, and I miserably lost Camp NaNoWriMo. Instead of obsessing over characters and plots, I obsessed over pace and form and whether or not I would flop on my face mid-run and be eaten by zombies.

The biggest surprise is that I’m too proud of my running to care that I failed at writing. This radical shift in priorities almost makes me feel guilty — I mean, when 5k starts to mean 3 miles instead of 15 pages, something has gone terribly wrong, hasn’t it?

What I’m coming to believe, though, is that it’s okay to put things down. If they are important enough to me, it won’t be long before I’m picking them back up again. This post on Raptitude suggests focusing on one thing for a year, letting go of other things (even important things) and making vast improvements in that one area. I feel more relaxed seeing someone suggest this, although for me, a few months seems to be a better timeframe than a year. It’s okay to obsess over one thing for a while, and it’s okay to take breaks, even when it comes to the important stuff. Beating ourselves up won’t get us anything but bruises.

And can I just talk about Zombies, Run! for a second? Because it’s pretty great. It got this sedentary, weak, mildly asthmatic slacker out the door three times a week, in 90 degrees and in 60 degrees, and brought me from collapsing in a wheezing heap after five minutes to running forty minutes straight with hardly a hitch.

Let me tell you, friends, that final 5k run was quite a rush. At about the last mile I couldn’t tell if my calves or my lungs were burning worse and I thought I would just walk for a couple of minutes, but then the game’s characters told me how proud they were and how I am their hero and how they knew I could get it done, and with “Waka Waka” by Shakira playing I slowed down and lightened my steps and kept going. When I reached the 5k mark I did a little celebratory hop-skip and kept right on running just because I realized that I could. “Waka Waka” is a very motivational song, by the way. Highly recommended for getting hard things done.

Fortunately, even though I’m still obsessing over running, I’m also still accountable for writing because I’m not alone in it. My partner has finished her research and May is dedicated to plotting. Writing collaboratively is excellent because when one person starts flagging, the other can become a cheerleader and get things back on track. Plus, it’s way more fun — just ask my roommates who accidentally wrote 130k together last month.

This is the first time I’ve lost a NaNo month, and I’m a little sad about that, but I’m also not worried. Being able to outrun the zoms is a worthy accomplishment. And writing is part of me; it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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