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Writing: The view from the ground

By June 7, 2010How To

This past Saturday, I did something I swore I would never do again.

I ran more than 10 miles. In fact, I ran 11.2.

The swearing was because, nine years ago, I ran a 10 mile road race and hurt myself so badly that I couldn’t walk, let alone run, for several weeks.

But this morning, I ran and I ran and I ran. Nothing hurt, though it was so muggy it was hard to get a full breath, you know, the kind that catches deep in your lungs.

A few things we can deduce from the above: 1) clearly I hold grudges and I’m stubborn as hell about letting them go, when usually I’m the only one being hurt by them; 2) never say never—you just end up with egg on your face.

Running that far (or doing whatever your equivalent of running that far is) is as much a mental test as it is a physical one. I got through my run by balancing the fact that I could stop at any point, with my desire to reach my goal, with my pride, with my fierce competitiveness and with my insistence on winning.

I knew exactly where the 10 mile point would be, and told myself I could stop there. But, instead, I ran all the way home.

The view from the car.

The longest part of the run was around one of my favorite parts of the island, Lambert’s Cove Road. It’s a 4.5 mile, crescent shaped road that curves quickly around and through woods, meadows and old dirt roads that lead to the ocean. I’ve driven it in my car countless times over the last twelve or so years, so I knew it was fairly long and full of fast twists and turns.

But it wasn’t until this morning that I experienced it with my body. And I learned quickly that those curves don’t only go side to side, they also go up and down. None of it was flat.

It’s always nice to have some variation on a run, and none of the ‘ups’ were huge, so it was okay. But I was shocked that I’d never noticed. I was mind-blown by how easy it had been—from the fast, high-level view of the car—to miss the finer points, to miss what it was really like to travel on this road.

On the ground.

Writing a book sounds like fun. So does writing a blog. Or a crafting a speech for a client. Or making enough plates, bowls and mugs to fill your pottery shop. Or starting a webinar series on WordPress design. Or running 11 miles.

The high level view of the pitch (or what it looks like when your brain mulls through your project) is the same as being in the car. Yes, you notice the length of project, you see that there are loops and switch backs, that you have questions. Yes, you can troubleshoot—but it’s not until you start, ’til you get in there and get your fingers sticky and your brains dirty that you see the project for what it really is.

I invite you to really hear that. You won’t know what it really looks like and feels like, what it really takes, until you are knee-deep, neck-deep, (maybe even) in over your head.

And, as such, you must give yourself permission, once you’re in there, to go harder or softer, to stop or persevere, to ask for help.

And, as such, you must also give yourself permission, once you’re in there, to be proud. That even though you didn’t see some of it coming, you kept going.

And, whatever ‘kept going’ looked like for you, it had to have been good. Because it got you here.

Image credit: GElisbeth

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • David Spinks says:

    What a perfect analogy…

    Hate to write one of those “omg so true!” comments but this one warrants it. It’s a lesson I’m currently learning for myself. I get these great ideas all the time. I want to start this big new project. In my head it’s all very clear. I just need to go through the steps… but then once you really start getting in to it, you realize that each step has sub-steps and each sub-step has sub-steps.

    At the same time, in business/writing, once you get in there at the “view from the ground” it’s important to once in a while, take a step back and look at the bigger picture again.

    David, Scribnia
    .-= David Spinks´s last blog ..Using Seesmic Desktop to Manage Streams of Information =-.

  • Jed says:

    Well done. It speaks to me today, when I’m thinking about what it was that inspired me to create this blog. ( It never sounded easy, though. The thought of doing all this writing “out there in public” in a medium unfamiliar to me was un-nerving. I think I spent too much time walking (not running) the road and paying too much attention to uphills and downhills and the rocks and gullies in the surface. Now the challenges are not the creation of the material…it has more to do with the quality of it. Maybe it’s time to pick up the pace…or extend the distance. Turn a 5K into a 10k.

  • Todd Jordan says:

    Love this. I’m a fan of the best way to succeed is to dig in and get your hands dirty.
    .-= Todd Jordan´s last blog ..Charter Rocked Our Tweetup =-.

  • Not only does this apply to writing, but also to any service business, if you have to propose work and then get in there and get your hands dirty. When I started my business, we would do all the strategy work upfront, before a client paid us, in order to win the business. Now we know that so many things change, and clients won’t tell you certain things until they have signed a contract, that we don’t do any of the work upfront…and we have a clause that says if anything business-related changes during the program, we have to relook at fees. You really never know about anything, until you get in there, even if you’ve run that same path 100 times.
    .-= Gini Dietrich´s last blog ..Using Social Media for Lead Generation =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      So true, Gini! I actually have a ‘Project Scope Creep’ protection clause in my contracts. Wouldn’t go anywhere without that one!

  • heather says:

    I have a quote on my vision board by yes…Dr. Phil…that reads, ” Just put it on the line and see what happens.”
    I love this post Julie!

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    That’s beautifully said. And having recently read your post about the 10-mile run breaking your body (if not your spirit) way-way back, I was cheering from the sidelines to hear that you’d beaten 11.

    I don’t run yet, I’m barely jogging, but I’m bad about heading out for what’s supposed to be a relaxing walk on one of my “rest days,” then pushing myself faster, and harder, until I find myself breaking my own records again.

    I know every intersection that would make my path shorter, every turn that could take me home, and it’s always a conscious choice to go the other way. I wear myself out. But I grow, too, in ways I never thought I would.

    That’s gotten me where I am as a writer, and it’s gotten me healthier (in three short months) than I’ve been in my entire life.

    Thanks for sharing, Julie. You’re inspiration.
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..Researching Your Writing =-.

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