Friday Speak Out!: Training Wheels

Friday, August 24, 2018
by Amie McGraham

I’m a writer, a title that often feels as unworthy as when I first started running thirty years ago. I considered myself a jogger then; real runners, I thought, win medals and trophies and prize money. For most of my adult life—spent largely in a financial career I never wanted—I believed the same about writing. Real writers publish novels and sell articles. They win contests. Thousands of fans follow them on international book tours.

But if running has taught me anything about writing, it’s this: training is everything.

To run a marathon I train gradually, building speed and distance over the span of months. I have no aspirations to win; the goal is simply to finish.

When we approach writing the same way, we deflate the all-or-nothing realm of perfectionism in which we too-often dwell. With pressure-free writing, everything we write is simply training for the next project. Weekly flash blogs are training to write tighter prose. Short fiction leads to a longer story; a novella; a book. Contest submissions train for rejection. Reading others’ writing improves our own. Slow walks and meditation train our subconscious, freeing the muse for inspiration.

At the start line of my first marathon in San Francisco so many years ago, my husband asked me this: When does a jogger become a runner? He’s a personal trainer who’s completed nearly twenty marathons. Heart pounding and nervous, I had no answer.

“When you pin the first race number on your chest,” he told me. “Put one foot in front of the other and repeat.” His words propelled me to the finish line and continue to inspire me in every race I’ve run since.

Today when I write, I put one word after another and repeat. And yet, I still struggle with the riddle: When does a writer become a real writer?

The answer is simple: When our words inspire others.

I train to run. I train to write. I train to live. And if my words inspire, then I am a real writer.

Follow the soul of a writer, runner, caregiver & beyond in my new Twitter flash writing project: 140 days of 140-character microessays

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Amie McGraham grew up on an island off the coast of Maine and is a writer, family caregiver and occasional petsitter. Her fiction has been short-listed for the Fulton Prize and the New Guard Review and she was a semi-finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. 

She received her BA in English from Arizona State University and is currently writing a trilogy book series. Her articles have appeared in Motherwell Magazine, Writer Advice, The Caregiver Space, Best Friends Animal Society and elsewhere. Her flash blog, “This Demented Life,” is frequently featured in AlzAuthors and read in more than a dozen countries.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Amie--Yes, we're real writers when we put one word after another. We put our butts in chairs instead of our feet on the pavement... and we write.

Your blog is featured in AlzAuthors? Should I assume you write about being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer's? I ask because 1) my mother was my father's caregiver for many years and 2) I understand all too well how much support and encouragement caregivers need. A support group helped my mother immeasurably, just like stories, essays and articles can help.

Good luck with your future writing, Amie.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Amie ~ Your words inspired me, so you are a real writer! "Put one word after another" is a great mantra.

I'm a runner, too, but fractured my ankle trail running last December and had ankle surgery w/ a rod and screws. I'm hoping to get back to running at some point, and actually hoping to get back out on the trail. At least I'm walking. I can apply that to writing, in that even though my goal is to write a book, I'm still taking baby steps and writing something, anything--blog posts, essays, stories--I'm still training, still putting one word in front of the other. I will come back to my memoir, and I will run again.

Thanks for the post! :)

Senior Moments said...

I find that walking sometimes gives me more clarity and creativity. Keep moving forward, one step at a time!

Senior Moments said...

Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I’m caregiver to a mom with Alzheimer’s and I’ve found great help and comfort with online and in-person support groups.

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