I did not grow up being a runner. My dad was.
He regularly ran 6 miles, several times a week. I watched from the sidelines thinking, Gee, that looks like a lot of work. But at varying times in my life, I tried running. For one stretch of college, I actually pulled it off, regularly running 2-3 miles a day. But I didn’t define myself as a runner until this year. Somewhere along the way my brain made the mental switch of seeing running as a form of gasping, wheezing torture to something I actually like to do.
Don’t ask me to explain it. I can’t.
In any event, despite the fact that I didn’t really come to running until my thirties, I did pick up one incredibly valuable concept from running early on, and that is the idea of the Test Mile.
There’s this notion among runners that even if you feel like utter crap, you should still get out there and do a Test Mile. By the end of that mile you’ll know whether or not you need to stop because you still feel like crap. Most likely, you’ll have pushed through the UGH and will go on to finish the rest of your run and feel better for it
(Note: On a health and fitness front, same applies–you will never regret a workout).
I want to challenge each of you to set a Test Mile for your writing. It’ll be different for everybody, given our wide variations in productivity. But the thing is, we all have massive demands on our time.
Unavoidable stuff like doing our jobs, taking care of our families, partaking in other social obligations.
And then there’s the stuff we WANT to do. Catch up on DVR. Read a good book. SLEEP.
In modern society we often operate on overload, constantly pushing ourselves until we’re cranky, tired, and the last thing we want to do is sit our Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard.
Do it anyway.
I encourage you, to establish a new habit, each and every day, to sit down and write your Test Mile. Whatever that is.
For me, that’s 500 words. That’s my comfort zone, something I can usually rip out no matter how lousy I feel or distracted I am.
For you that might be 250 or even 100 words. It might be 1,000 (in which case, you’re very lucky and should totally let the rest of us in on your secret).
Whatever your Test Mile is, sit your butt down and write it. Even if you don’t get beyond it. Even if every syllable blows chunks, that’s words, that’s practice, and that keeps your brain more properly oiled for the next time, when you’ll sit your butt down and totally kill it.