Tag Archives: writing

The Write Stuff

IT’S TIME TO MAKE one of those “put up or shut up” moves. And ’tis the season to do so, after all.

I began this 2011 with the goal of sharing my journey to my first marathon and from there to my “year of being 50” celebrations, including a 600-mile bike trip and my first 50K ultra, among other challenges.

Like finishing this race (2016).

For eight years now I’ve continued to write about my adventures, mainly in athletics. But I haven’t shared much about my other writing, which includes fiction, essays, and technical papers. With everything else going on, including starting and running my own company, some things had to be set aside. And creative writing just for the sake of creative writing has been one of those things.

It’s a poor excuse. And it must end.

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was very young. In elementary school, my adventures of a police detective and his faithful St. Bernard were considered good enough to read to my entire class. And over the years I’ve written many short stories, worked on some ideas for novels, and even made some feeble attempts at poetry. I’ve also attended several writing seminars and been part of a writers group. It’s been fun, but always a sideshow to the rest of my life. In one of my very first posts on this blog, I confess to this. Here’s a link to it:  The Hard Work

Being part of a writers group helped me write more regularly, but it wasn’t enough.

I daydream about getting that work out to a wider audience, or even pursuing (yet another) career as a writer. That takes time and effort. And above all, having a writing routine. Among the “keys to success” of prolific writers is that they write on a regular basis. Stephen King writes every day. With no distractions or excuses allowed.

And so while I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to make one for 2020. And that is to find out if I really want to finish those stories and novels, and do my best to get them read by others. From ultrarunning and Aikido training, I know I possess the discipline to accomplish anything I really want to do. It’s time for me to decide if creative writing is one of them.

“If you want to be a writer, write.” – Epictetus (*)

And if it ends up that is not? Then at least I will know that. But even if I end up going in other directions, my athletic and other adventures will definitely continue. As will my dedication to share them with you in this blog. Thanks again to all of you for finding the time to include me in your life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours.

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(*) I suppose I should mention that, like Socrates and many other famous teachers (including the one whose birth we celebrate this week), Epictetus never actually wrote anything down. We are fortunate enough to have some of his teachings thanks to his students. (Then again, Epictetus never said he wanted to be a writer.)

Reality Calls: Back from Black Rock City

I’m back!

Actually, I’ve been back for a while now.

Nearly a month, in fact.

I know what you’re thinking.

Where have you been? I hear you all asking. What have you been doing? Why haven’t you written?

I could make some lame excuse about being continually busy working big races, unpacking and cleaning up, catching up on very important business paperwork, dealing with issues at my office job, recovering from an illness, and getting in some running.

So that’s what I’ll go with.

The good news is that I’m loaded with stories about what happened at Black Rock City. And while there’s no way I can fully describe what it’s like to be among 70,000 generous, hard-partying, free-expressing people, I can share the highlights from this one guy’s point of view. Stories to start very soon – watch this space!

For now, I can tell you what it was like to emerge from the fantasy bubble of BRC with its gifting economy, no responsibilities, unbelievable art, and people of all sizes, shapes, and clothing options, back to the “default world” where money, deadlines, and personal agendas are inescapably embedded into our lives.

It wasn’t that bad.

First, I had time. I avoided the shock of leaving BRC, hopping on a plane, and being back home in one day. By driving across the country over several days, I could ease back into real life and spend some serious time reflecting on the experience. And you know, Party Town is fun for a short time but I don’t see it as a long-term lifestyle. The faults and challenges of the real world, and dealing with and overcoming them, is part of what makes life fulfilling for me.

That said, there are some practices and principles of Burning Man that are well worth carrying over into daily life, at least to some degree. What are those? Stay tuned – I will be sure to tell you!

Here’s a little taste of what’s to come.

As always, thanks for reading. See you again soon!

Why I’m Not Giving up Goals

Last month at my favorite writers retreat, I was talking with a friend about my running, and that I’d just run my first 50-miler (hey, she asked). She shook her head. “How did you ever do something like that?” she wondered.

I told her about my “year of being 50” activities and the stuff I’d accomplished, including a 50K, and this had been the next challenge. “You are so goal oriented!” she said. And it’s true: I got where I am by setting goals all along the way. And I intend to keep doing so.

Now wait a minute! In your last post, you argued against setting goals!

Now wait a minute! In your last post, you argued why you shouldn’t set goals!

True. Lemme ‘splain.

Have you learned yet, grasshopper?

Have you learned yet, grasshopper?

I’m fine with the idea that you can pursue something for its own sake, and you don’t need a goal to grow and improve. My Aikido instructors have been trying to beat this into my head for eight years – that I should focus on the training, and not on what rank I am. So I didn’t set an arbitrary date for achieving black belt, although I have set goal dates for tests. (But not this year: my injured shoulder has made testing impossible for the time being, so I am forced to focus on the training itself. Karma?)

But with running, setting goals has helped motivate me. It’s how this infrequent runner who did the occasional 5K race became a 1,000+ mile per year runner who can run 50 at a time. I didn’t really get serious as a runner until I signed up for a Running 101 class at a local running store. The instructor handed a questionnaire to all of us, asking what we wanted to get out of the class, and – significantly – to choose a running goal and a timeframe for achieving it. I’d never run more than 5-6 miles at one time, but I committed to a half marathon later that year.

Crossing the finish line at Run Woodstock.

Crossing the 50-mile finish line. Never woulda happened without that first commitment to a distance I’d never run before.

Now, I wasn’t going to “fail” Running 101 if I hadn’t set a goal, and no one would have been disappointed (except me), but putting it in writing, and handing it in, made it real – something I felt obligated to carry out. Every milestone since then has been the result of setting a goal, then putting in the training needed. If I were just running to stay fit, or for the social aspects, then I wouldn’t feel the need to keep setting them. But there are still some personal limits I’d like to test.

And then there’s this quote from Bill Copeland:

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

Is it possible to do well at something without goals? Sure. But will you? Without that first half marathon, would I have run a full one the next year, or my first ultra the year after that? Maybe, but likely not. The simple act of committing to the half was that rare event – a genuine life changer.

NaNoWriMo Web BadgeGoing back to the writers retreat – I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade school, attended many retreats, and even managed to “win” the 2012 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge by writing a novel of 50,000 words in one month. With NaNoWriMo 2013 fast approaching, I’ve had to ask myself why I didn’t finish that novel, revise it, and look to publish it. Yes, I have a rather busy rest of my life. But is the real reason because I didn’t set a goal to finish what I’d started?

I think I’m going to make myself find out. Stay tuned.

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P.S. My thanks to the Personal Excellence website for introducing me to the Bill Copeland quote with their article on why you should set goals. Read the article here.

2012 – The Fitness at 50 Year in Review

IT’S STILL A BIT HARD TO BELIEVE that 2012, my “year of being 50” is over and done with, even as full a year as it was.

As a forward-looking guy, I’m more interested in what I’m doing and learning now, and training for events to come. But readers who joined me during the year (thank you, thank you!) may not be fully aware of everything I’d planned for, and did, during 2012. So, in a nutshell, here’s what I’d set for myself to accomplish last year, and how it worked out.

2012 – The Setup

The idea to do something special at age 50 began in 2007 as a “500 at 50” bike trip, in which I would ride from home to our campground near the Sleeping Bear Dunes and back (500 miles) in the summer of 2012. As I continued to train and get in better shape, however, I thought of other things I could do to celebrate being 50, and gradually the plan developed for all the 50-related goals in 2012 – including creating a blog to tell the story.

In addition to the bike trip and a total running/cycling goal of 2,500 miles (50×50), I set monthly targets in the various activities and hobbies I pursue.

With such a great coach, success was a near guarantee.

With such a great coach, success was a near guarantee.

Calisthenics (January):  I kicked off 2012 with a modest goal of 50 pushups per day in January, and despite getting a cold a couple of weeks in, made the goal. A good start!

Cooking (February & March) – This part didn’t work out so well. My initial goal was to cook 50 new recipes in February. I didn’t get near that number, even when I extended it to March. A key certification effort at work meant I didn’t have the time or energy to get there. On the plus side, I created or found some recipes that became family favorites. Later in the year I tried out a few new truffle flavors, too. My experience with durian in December was less pleasant, but a learning experience nonetheless.

Of course, these are all "calorie-free" - since I don't sell them, all the calories are free.

Of course, these are all “calorie-free” – since I don’t sell them, all the calories are free.

ReverseHandThrowAikido (April, July) – Goal: attend 50 classes in one month. I chose April because the big push at work was over, and it wouldn’t be too hot in the dojo (our school doesn’t believe in air conditioning). By attending my regular Rec & Ed classes and getting in lots of extra training at the main dojo, I wound up with 55 for the month. We celebrated by doing 55 pushups at the end of the final class.

Bokken - KamaeIn July my goal was buki (wooden weapons) practice in increasing sets of 50. So at the end of the month I was doing 200 sword strikes per day. I think I improved my technique as a result, although I’ve been told it takes 1,000 strikes per day to get really good.

Cycling (May, August) – The August “500 at 50” bike trip was the main event, but I wanted to get some serious BIS (butt-in-saddle) time before then. I decided on some all-weekend rides in May, with the goal of visiting 50 small towns during the month. Town #50 was Honor, which I reached during our Memorial Day weekend trip up north.

Doing my part to save lives!

Doing my part to save lives! (Breast cancer walk fundraiser in Clinton.)

Daughters - the best welcoming committee!

Daughters – the best welcoming committee! (Arrival at the campground.)

The August 500-mile trip wound up being 600 miles due to back roads (and getting lost a couple of times), and despite some unexpected detours and riding an entire day in the rain, made it there and back on schedule, meeting a number of wonderful people and eating a lot of cookies and scones along the way. You can read about it here.

NaNoWriMo 2012 Winner CertificateWriting (November) – November was National Novel Writing Month (fondly known among writers as NaNoWriMo), whose annual challenge is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month (how convenient!). I selected a story idea that had been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, and finally put electrons to it. I got over the 50,000 word mark with a day to spare. Now comes the fun part – completing it, then edit, revise, and repeat.

Mile 19 - State Street - croppedRunning (year round) – Wow. When did I turn into a runner? My count shows 20 races from December 2011 to December 2012, with age group awards in 12 of them, a PR (personal record) in every distance, and a finish under 20:00 in a 5K, something I’d been working toward for two years. I also set a distance PR by running a 50K (31.2 miles) ultramarathon at Run Woodstock in September (and did something else for the first time that you can read about here). And you couldn’t ask for better support than my coach, Marie, and the wonderful folks who run with PR Fitness.

The PR Fitness teams at the Crim 10-mile. (I'm the last row, far right.)

The PR Fitness teams at the Crim 10-mile. I’m in the back row, far right. Marie is center, bib #2875.

You may have noticed that not every month is covered. June was the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon and the Ann Arbor Marathon, so I figured that was enough to go on. October I just couldn’t think of anything, so I let it go. (That was the best part of this whole thing. My year, my rules!)

So, have I set goals for 2013? Yes – and no. Details to follow.