by Christina Kapp
When writing, most people don’t think of what they’re doing as a sport or as something requiring a level of fitness, but it’s quite possible that is where they have gone astray. In fact, writing does require a certain ability that is typically associated with athletics: endurance.
Endurance is a funny word, one that is associated both with sports and a general ability to withstand discomfort, as in the idea that “God doesn’t give us more than we can manage.” Endurance implies hardships, struggles, and pain. But if we consider endurance from the athletic side we also know that we can endure challenges, distance, and heightened efforts. It is this sense of “going the distance” that I think applies so well to writing and the writing life.
I took my first fiction workshop in the late 80s as an undergraduate. A friend of mine talked me into it and, as a long-suffering and miserable student, I took it on as the lesser of many possible evils, just one more notch toward being done once and for all with my torturous academic career. I never, ever expected that in creating a couple of short stories I could discover a certain truth about myself. Whether I had any talent for writing or not, I certainly had a taste for it, and became and English major simply so I could do it again.
Writing, however, has proven to be a punishing, difficult endeavor. I have given up in disgust more times than I can count. I have hated it, cursed it, sweated it, and cried over it. Rejections have left me completely hopeless and demoralized. I have equated my inability to stop writing with an addiction that I may actually need a 12-step program to remedy. And yet, when the frustration clears, I sit down and start again.
Which brings me to the meaning of endurance, which has a sense of overcoming and persevering and is certainly applicable to my writing life. Writing, at least creative writing, is less a job than an art, and its achievements often feel less like professional milestones than athletic goals. Writing successes are hurdles to be reached for, personal bests, even if not best sellers. Creative writers can benefit from the notion that art, like athleticism, measures success largely in time and practice. It is in endurance that real achievements are made.
Oxford Online defines endurance as, “the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.” If you write, you probably recognize something of yourself in this concept. You know, or at least suspect, that the road is not going to be smooth. But these are the times to remember that as a writer you are a marathoner. You are going to have to train yourself to work at it. You are going to have to set goals and work toward them. You are going to have to learn to recognize your own personal bests and celebrate them all by yourself. It won’t come easily, but it will come.
If only we can learn to endure.
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Christina Kapp is a mom, writer, and occasional triathlete who leads the New Jersey Writers Society's Franklin Chapter. Her fiction, poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, most recently Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners, apt, and Best of Eclectic Flash 2010. She blogs at: http://booksandcrayons.wordpress.com.
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