You’ve all heard the expression before. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When it’s applied to writing, it refers to the idea that you don’t just rush off one book and expect to make it big. Instead, you plan for the long term, hoping to build something up over time – and a series of books.
I suppose by now it’s entered the realm of cliche. It sounds a bit like one of those statements that has been repeated so often it’s hard to tell if it’s really true or not. From my point of view, I’m not sure.
I was never much good at marathons. When I was a kid, I hated distance running. My body just didn’t seem to be built for it. After only a kilometre or so, my legs would start to ache and I would be running out of breath.
Sprinting, on the other hand, was something I was quite good at. We’re not talking Usain Bolt standard, but over a short distance I could generate a bit of speed. It wouldn’t last for long, but over 100 metres or so I could whip across the track at a pretty fair pace.
So where does that leave me in this modern writing world of marathon over sprint? I feel like I still have the urge to sprint. I still want to push myself hard for a short distance, and then look back and feel like I’ve really gotten somewhere. I’m never very good at planning beyond those individual short, sharp pushes.
And yet, at the same time I know that the sprinting alone isn’t going to work. I still need to take that longer term view. I still need to make sure I can run that marathon. And if all I do is one sprint after another, I’m just going to end up all pooped out without really getting anywhere.
So what’s the solution? I suppose I need to find some way to combine the two. I need to work out how to make sure each of my sprints fits into some bigger picture. Each has a clear start point and end point that means I’ve made some clear progress towards a greater goal. That, in effect, I’m sprinting my way to a marathon.
So there you have it. Another cliche broken down. Sure I know I’m competing in a marathon, but it’s not happening through one long, uninterrupted run. Instead, I’m breaking my marathon up into lots of little sprints.
Let’s hope I get there in the end.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as