On Running and Writing


Zebu and Wildebeest are distance runners on the track team.

They have a teammate who started the season training with the sprinters.
One evening Zebu told me this kid (I’ll call him Whiz), accidentally missed the turnoff
for the sprinters during that day’s practice and instead ran the distance practice (4-5 miles).
With awe in his voice, Zebu said, "He kept up the whole way."

A couple weeks ago, the coach needed to fill some slots because of injuries and
put Whiz into an 800 meter race (two laps around the track which equals one half-mile).
Whiz won his heat.


A few days later, Whiz was on the 4 X 800 relay (each runner does two laps and

then passes a baton to the next runner on team).
The boy passing the baton to Whiz accidentally stepped on the back of Whiz’s shoe and 
Whiz spent valuable seconds trying to get the shoe back on his foot before kicking it off
and running his two laps with one shoe on and one shoe off.
Whiz’s time in that race beat Zebu’s best time.
This past weekend, Whiz ran his first 1600 meter race (four laps which equals one mile).
He ran it in 5:11, beating Zebu and Wildebeest’s best times.
Zebu is proud of Whiz, a fellow freshman and super nice kid, 
but is also flabbergasted by his ability to run so fast without all the miles
Zebu and Wildebeest have logged in their training.
I can relate.
Not just in my own running, but in my writing life, too.
I told Zebu that there are Naturals and there are Work Horses
(and, of course, Naturals who work very, very hard to get even better). 
I told him about the hardworking top-runner on my high school cross country team
who was knocked from her number-one spot by a freshman girl who just showed up
and blew everyone else away.
Then I said, "It’s a lot like the journey to publication. There are some people who write 
the perfect book at the perfect time, and their careers take off. Then there are those
who have to work hard for a long, long time to get there. I’m one of those work horses."
His silence told me maybe I shouldn’t have put it in those terms. 
Zebu’s had an up-close and sometimes painful window into my quest for publication,
and my unpublished status probably makes me a not-so-good poster child for Work Horses.
It’s true.
I’ve worked long and I’ve worked hard, and publication still hasn’t happened for me.
But whenever I wonder whether it’s time to let go of the dream, 
I think about my kids witnessing my efforts over the years.
And while I know hard work is no guarantee of success, 
I also know I don’t want them to think of me as The Work Horse Who Never Reached Her Goal.
So I guess that means, at least for the time being, I’ll keep doing what it takes.
I’ll be the Work Horse with one shoe on and one shoe off,
running hard for that finish line.

15 thoughts on “On Running and Writing

  1. work horses run the world!

    Of course the work horses keep going–that is what we do!

    there is another category though, I saw someone write a book with a hook idea and it sold right off the bat and then,,, crickets! She couldn’t find a 2nd idea that worked. she came to a local meeting and took the meeting over with her gnashing and spinning in fury that she quit her job based on the easiness of the first sale and now she left her husband and has a son, and why doesn’t anyone see that book 2 is amazing too? and then she started talking about the crummy books that others keep churning out and made our host feel uneasy.
    She was angry and she was letting it go. I don’t think she ever wrote another book. I think she has a blog. She didn’t get the work horse mentality and she didn’t want to either.
    She wanted to be a natural. But I do think she was a fluke instead.

    • Re: work horses run the world!

      Oh. My.

      Now that’s a storyline I do not want to follow. Yikes. And to sit there and listen to all that pain and anger…that would be absolutely no fun whatsoever.

      I’m starting to feel much, much better about my Work Horse status. Thank you, beautiful Laura.

      • Re: work horses run the world!

        oh it was ugly, and embarrassing since we were sitting in the living room of someone who had just sold her 3rd book!! And here miss crazy has ZERO thankfulness that she was published so quickly, and just ranting about other people’s “luck”.

        It was a lesson in gratitude. She had no gratitude at all. She thought the process was easy and fast and she knew nothing else and refused to hear anything from anyone. It was awful. I was embarrassed for her, because she was too crazy to be embarrassed for herself!

      • Re: work horses run the world!

        I’m impressed you were able to get a lesson from all that rather than only suffering the trauma. Situations like that make me about jump out of my skin; I want the floor to open and beneath my feet so I can disappear.

        I am absolutely confident neither you nor I will ever behave in such a manner after we’re published. I guess there are advantages to being work horses, huh?

  2. Yes, I do try to model perseverance for my boys too. A Little League dad told us about a book he read that said talent means nothing. If you practice anything for 10 years, you can become expert at it. (this was in regard to our sons who are both uncoordinated at baseball, and do a lot of extra practices at a local baseball place, but i think it applies to anything)

    • I wouldn’t go so far as to say talent means nothing, but I agree talent doesn’t mean much if a person doesn’t utilize it in a healthy way. My son is like yours; he does extra basketball practice because he isn’t a naturally gifted player. I’m sure your boys (along with mine) have a healthier perspective about their games and abilities than kids who haven’t (yet) had to put forth much effort.

      Not sure if you read Laura’s comments above, but that’s a pretty strong illustration of what can happen when you don’t have to work all that hard to get something. Yikes!

    • I’m sure for my sake Zebu wishes I couldn’t use that example. But you’re right, it dovetails with what he’s witnessing.

      I get to go watch my boys and Whiz run this afternoon. I’m so excited for all of them.

  3. Great example, analogy. I often wonder which I will be in the publishing game. Historically speaking, I’m a work horse. This means I have to grapple with my motivations underlying a dream on a regular basis (i.e., I almost stopped didn’t get a ph.d in psychology). Publishing is so…unpredictable. I see books in the stores and just can’t figure out how they got published. And then I read my friends’ books and shake my head with confusion as to WHY they aren’t published. It comes down to writing a good story, finding the right person, and timing. It’s not luck…but it is a matter of real elements lining up.

    • Yep, the work horse ethic definitely goes hand-in-hand with timing (at least in publishing). But I figure there’s no way I’ll have that good timing if I stop working at it. So here I am.

      The good news is, Zebu cut 10 whole seconds from his 800 time yesterday which is a huge chunk of time for a race that distance. My work horse genes are kicking in. 🙂

      I hope you’re a work horse with good timing, Tracy!

  4. Thank you, my wise friend! I swear I just had this conversation with catgirl tonight. She was in tears about kids being ahead of her in violin….

    As for writing… What can I say, but that I’m trying to enjoy the pasture.

    • I hope Catgirl feels better today. That’s a hard lesson to understand, I know. Zebu got a boost yesterday by getting his PR in the 800; he cut ten seconds from his time which was huge. I was very happy for him. And Wildebeest also PRd in the 4×800 relay.

      What do you mean about the pasture? Are you a work horse on leave? You haven’t stopped writing, have you?!

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