“I’m going to make it.” That was my mantra during the first marathon I ran. I felt unequal to the task, and yet I knew the course and the hills and the pain in my own body would not stop me. Even if it killed me, I would cross that finish line.
The same mantra got me through writing a novel. At 2:33 p.m., May 22, 2012, I typed “The End” on the last page of Ripple, my first novel. Don’t get me wrong: I still need to do edits and deal with the business aspect of publishing it, but all of that is comparable to getting my beaten body back to the car and home after the race has ended. And believe me, that is not an easy task.
For example, my fourth marathon took place in the mountains that surround Harper’s Ferry and the Antietam battlefield. The day I ran that, I had bronchitis (hey I am a runner which means I am a lunatic) and the temperature was 43 degrees. And it was raining. At the finish line, I stood there in the rain and waited a half an hour for my husband to finish. My man took one look at me as I stood there shivering from head to toe, and escorted me to the medical tent to be treated for hypothermia. And then we walked a mile, and caught a bus to the car. From there, we drove 90 minutes back home.
Like birthing a novel, running a marathon is an odyssey of pain and guts and determination. One step follows another like one page piles on the pages before it. When I run marathons, I must overcome my own weaknesses; indeed, I must forge strength from the fear and pain that chews away at me. When I wrote Ripple, I had to stare down my own history of abuse and addiction and continue creating a story that in so many ways was rooted in my pain and troubled past.
When I run marathons, I fed off the crowds of strangers and friends who lines the streets. As I have written Ripple, I have shared my struggles with the followers on my blog and Facebook page. Their support has propelled me to the finish line.
To train for the marathons, I relied on the love and support of my family and my family. I relied on love. I also relied on God to carry me.
Throughout the writing process, I have had the great fortune to work with, laugh with, and even cry with my writing partner, Renée Schuls-Jacobson. I wrote many passages with her on the other line, listening, adding, and improving the words I suggested. When I called in despair, and asked, “Does this suck,” she promised me it didn’t. If I wrote a “disaster chapter,” she was honest with me, but like a running buddy, rode shotgun with me and helped me fix it.
Toward the end of Ripple, I almost fell apart as I penned an especially graphic abuse scene. It brought my demons back. I had reached “The Wall,” which is what marathoners call it when the lactic acid builds up in their muscles at around the 21-mile mark. I wanted to quit because writing the scene made me want to start drinking again. She listened to me. And then the best writing buddy in the world pushed me to keep moving. And I did.
The best thing about writing Ripple, aside from finishing it, has been the friends I’ve made along the way. Thank you so much, all of you. And most of all, thank you Renée. I love you. And you’ll finish the 26.2 miles soon. I promise.