Rejections/no response(= rejections) to novel queries: 12
Months since last queried: 3
Pages written on second novel in January: 0
Hours spent perusing five-button henleys and boots on the clearance racks this week: 3
Feelings of inadequacy and guilt from perusing the clearance racks instead of writing: 5,342
Sometimes I wonder why I have chosen mostly solitary activities as an adult: writing, running, playing the piano, reading… I love being around other people, often to a fault. Someone asks me to lunch? Yes, I’m pulling on my shoes while still on the phone. Join a club? Yes, my friends tend to get them mixed up: book club, writing group, wine club. Interviewing community heroes and educators for my columns? I’m there. But the fact remains that the core of my day is alone time.
Last night, my 9-year-old daughter came home with news about her randomly chosen multiplication group at school: none of her friends, a wiggly boy. All of her concerns were mine in third grade: overcoming kids who didn’t care, carrying the group, keeping others on task. As I flipped cards with 9 x 5 and 12 x 11 on them, I thought about numbers. Numbers aren’t my thing. But (and this is difficult for me to admit) they keep you honest.
The fact remains that whether it’s your multiplication facts, the pages in your novel or the miles that you run, only you can be held accountable for what’s there. And what’s not.
A year and a half ago, a woman in my neighborhood asked if I wanted to run with her. I had been running for about 13 or 14 years, to varying degrees of success. If I had a busy week, I might only run three days instead of four. Looking back on my journals, there are ways I let myself off the hook: resting a knee, a little sniffle, writing that needed to be done. I was fooling myself.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I would mesh with a partner: with running, there are goals, paces, reliability issues to address. We started tentatively, in the broiling July temperatures, and it kind of worked. Most annoyingly, she didn’t take breaks. Or days off. Or think that being sick was a reason to skip. By November, she convinced me to sign up for a spring marathon. And something began to happen: I realized that by keeping to a rigid (Nazi/Jillian Michaels-like) schedule, my miles started to add up, my running journal had more numbers than white space, and I was accomplishing more than I had ever thought possible.
Writing, like running, is both solitary and quantifiable. Sure, it’s an art, it’s a craft, but not a thing accrues until you do something to make it happen. I finished both my first novel and my first marathon last year. Word by word, mile by mile, the numbers creeping in this petty pace from day to day.
You won’t catch me applying for any accounting jobs any time soon. But writing by the numbers is probably the only thing to do for this year. The numbers don’t lie: I need to see more multiplication than duplicity.