“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” This quote by Richard Bach, who wrote “Jonathon Livingston Seagull” is a hopeful one for writers to remember. That novel had multiple rejections on its way to success.
It is so easy to step off the journey of writing that all-American number one best seller we have in our head, after we get to chapter 23 (or before) and realize we still have a ways to go, and a whole lot of editing to do!
One workshop leader said he edited everything eleven times after writing it. That is work.
And hearing our work needs work is so disheartening. It’s like heading down a merry path full of birdsong, and running smack into an unending 50 feet high concrete wall. It seems too big a hurdle. But one that we can get through, by chiseling out one brick, or word, at a time. Perseverance is an attribute all writers need. I stand by another “p” word: procrastination. Doesn’t get me anything but frustration, but it seems to be hard to shake for me.
We need to treat rejections and critique’s as our opportunity to write better. To be more creative, to break out of our preconceived notions of what we can do, to realize our creator thinks we can do better. However, we may feel wounded instead. That’s okay. Feelings will come without permission. But feelings aren’t always right.
We need to talk to our negative feelings, and talk them into being positive feelings. If our first work needs work, great. Now we have an opportunity to be even better.
Many, many great novels, movies, etc. were rejected multiple times before becoming huge successes. Perhaps, they wouldn’t have been as successful if not for those rejections.
“Then I got to thinking. In a different Hardscrabble Homecoming book, a character (and I do mean character) has a pet chicken (which integral to the story). I’d heard stories of a writer who did, indeed, diaper her chicken and keep it inside as a house pet. So what the heck. I looked up “Diapered Chickens.”
Wildlife photographer SJ Brown writes about hiking the Appalachian Trail.
“Guided by a series of white hash marks we wandered into the woods and left civilization behind and began to enjoy the tranquility of the trail. This leg of our journey had the most elevation and would be the most challenging for both of us. As the rain subsided we longed to reach our first peak and the well deserved rest we had promised ourselves. We had heard stories of snakes and bears along the trail but encountered neither. We did get a glimpse of a coyote and maybe a fox.”
Cher’ley Grogg discusses reasons for blogging. Squirrels and alligators might or might not be among them.
“It is hard to get the first blog out, but over time it gets much easier. My reason for blogging and for creating Writing Wrangler and Warriors was mostly geared toward number 8. We average 18 bloggers, so if each blogger reads, comments and shares each blog just think of the coverage we get.”
Stevie Turner writes about bonds formed around a chess board.
“It was my lot in life to raise a hyperactive son. Luckily my trials and tribulations are all over now as Leon is 36, but when he was a boy I tried to help him focus his mind and concentrate by engaging him in a game that my father had taught me. This game is excellent for getting small boys to sit still…”
“A few nights ago, I was walking my wire fox terrier, Arty (Full name: Slarty Barkfast, for all you Douglas Adams fans). I was thinking of the deadlines looming this month and the next, and fretting a little. Can I meet them? And if so, will I arrive with my sanity intact?”
Neva Bodin looks for a way to hold on to ideas without running the car into a mailbox.
“Does anyone else have a mind that jumps from one story possibility to another? Or to suddenly knowing what should be added to or done with a scene while in the midst of another task or driving the car? It is very frustrating for me, because the brilliant insight/thought is gone by the time I have a notebook and pen.”
Joshua S. Robinson discusses the links between running, writing, and building community.
“I wanted them all to succeed. I hoped the ones trying to make certain times would do so, and that the ones just trying to finish would cross the line proudly. Every runner out there was participating as an individual, with his or her own goals and motivations. Yet there was still a sense of community, of camaraderie. Even among strangers, they all understood one another.”
Renee Kimball offers a look at three novellas by prolific writer Stephen King
“Full Dark contains a common theme of each novella, a theme that explores the darker human psyche, retribution, revenge, and a sense of twisted justice. Redemption is not found, but retribution appears in each. Even evil acts can result in a twisted kind of justice–a black and damaging kind of justice, but justice nonetheless.
Noreen Cedeño discusses how she creates characters outside her own experience.
“Part of my job in writing fiction is to create fully formed, believable characters that people can recognize, identify with, or at least be able to envision as a functional being. The more types of people I can imagine, the wider will be my casts of characters. So how do I improve and increase my casts of characters? I have to improve my knowledge of humanity as a whole by increasing my knowledge of the unique individuals whose quirks and personality extremes exemplify the wide variations in human behavior. I have to read.”
Mike Staton watches Hurricane Florence through the eyes of friends living in its path.
“I’m writing this Friday morning in Henderson, Nevada where I live. Five years ago I lived in Wilmington, North Carolina and worked as a weekly newspaper reporter at the Duplin Times in Duplin County’s courthouse city, Kenansville. I sat down at my laptop and took a look Facebook, and what I saw shocked me.”
Abbie Johnson Taylor discusses how she creates real characters and real life in her writing.
“How about belching? I’m going to be vain one more time and give you an example from a short story I wrote several years ago that hasn’t yet been published. It’s called “Living Vicariously,” and it’s about a Catholic family dealing with issues related to religion. In one scene, a teen-aged girl who has lied about attending confirmation classes, is eating dinner with her father in a pizza joint. She’s drinking Dr. Pepper, and she says she doesn’t want to be a nun because she doesn’t want to give up the beverage. Then, she belches for emphasis. Again, I’m showing you her character.”
Sometimes my descriptions of a scene, idea, character, etc. can use a little pictorial help. For me, I find Pinterest can be a great resource to help me get the picture in my mind “just right”. Other times, I’ve used it to store ideas for future writing, motivate me when I need a new idea, and in a few cases, to prove a theory of a book I’m working on.
I have a couple of manuscripts in the drawer (that’s a writer’s way of talking about finished manuscripts that you haven’t sent out to any agents or editors YET}. Two of them are fun little murder mysteries that take place in a small Illinois town called Hardscrabble. The title on my Pinterest account for this series is Hardscrabble Homecoming. I have a Pinterest board for each of my series: “Chicago Cubs” supports my 2016 novel, Three Days at Wrigley Field. “Preachers Murders” has scenes, jokes, ideas from my Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery Series. There are boards for future book ideas as well. “Ada’s Story” is where I keep all my visual material on the book I’m writing about a reformed Hitler youth who has devoted her life to making sure the world never sees another Hitler. Only she doesn’t get it quite right. I’ve also got a Board that supports my “Writing Whimsies”—little nuggets about writing. Some make me smile. Some make me think. Some just get me back in the chair.
Since I was at the dentist this week, it reminded me that I had a dentist in one of my Hardscrabble Homecoming books. I decided to check out a few graphs of the procedure done in the book. Then I got to thinking. In a different Hardscrabble Homecoming book, a character (and I do mean character) has a pet chicken (which integral to the story). I’d heard stories of a writer who did, indeed, diaper her chicken and keep it inside as a house pet. So what the heck. I looked up “Diapered Chickens”. Today I actually put these photos up on my board.
First, I needed to know what a chicken diaper was. Then I needed to prove to myself (and my readers) this wasn’t a half-cocked idea. (Sorry.) Some chickens are considered house pets and wear diapers.
I really do enjoy researching stuff for my books. The more creative, the better. If chuckles ensue, that’s the best. Thank you, Pinterest for helping me research my books! If you’re interested in checking out my Pinterest boards, here’s the link.
K.P. Gresham, author of the Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery series and Three Days at Wrigley Field, moved to Texas as quick as she could. Born Chicagoan, K.P. and her husband moved to Texas, fell in love with not shoveling snow and are 30+ year Lone Star State residents. She finds that her dual country citizenship, the Midwest and Texas, provide deep fodder for her award-winning novels. Her varied careers as a media librarian and technical director, middle school literature teacher and theatre playwright and director add humor and truth to her stories. A graduate of Houston’s Rice University Novels Writing Colloquium, K.P. now resides in Austin, Texas, where life with her tolerant but supportive husband and narcissistic Chihuahua is acceptably weird.
[ This post originally began with a rant. I have since removed it. I was frustrated to the max when I posted–because after I finished the post, more slings and arrows of outrageous fortune came flying at me. However, I’ve calmed down to a simmer and so no longer need to share the rant. I will note that the post is one long block of text because my paragraphs got lost. Twice. But I’ve calmed down.
[Oh! Look! The paragraphs are back!]
I accidentally posted a test post.
I wrote a test post because WordPress is introducing a new method of posting–they say it’s “modern”–and I was trying to figure out how to perform a certain function for a friend who asked me because she couldn’t figure it out.
I didn’t choose to use the “modern” way. I used it because when I tried to use the Old Fashioned, Sensible way, the “modern” way popped up. I didn’t ask to use it, I didn’t ask to test it, I just GOT it.
I thought I had figured out how to do what I wanted to do, but obviously I hadn’t, because I clicked something I thought I understood, and there it was–posted for all to see.
One really neat aspect of this “modern” way of posting–in case you’re not sure, the continued use of quotation marks stands for I am being sarcastic because if I don’t, I will weep, explode, and/or type words that would cause WordPress to delete my blog because I have it registered as friendly to families*.
As I was saying before I digressed, one really neat feature is that most commands are hidden behind one little plus sign way up in the left corner. No more comprehensive toolbar (or it might be a task bar) at the top like the original WP Admin has, no more abbreviated toolbar at the top (like the second generation “improved posting experience” has), just a *#&!(^ plus sign in an out-of-the-way place where it won’t attract attention, especially the attention of bloggers who want to know where all the stuff on the old toolbar has disappeared to.
Another neat feature–when you’ve pre-scheduled a post and then want to go back in and edit the pre-scheduled post, it takes three clicks to get to the draft format so you can make changes. It used to take no clicks at all.
If I’m wrong about the three clicks, I will admit my error. When I tried it, it took three clicks.
I pre-scheduled the test post so I could experiment with the commands–those I could find–and then, I thought, unscheduled it. But oh, silly me, I guess I didn’t unschedule it, because when I went back in to confirm that I knew how it worked–whoosh–there went the post, out into cyperspace, where it will live forever. I guess I didn’t know how it worked.
A third invaluable feature–under the little plus, there’s a pilcrow–the symbol that means start a new paragraph. About that, I will say no more.
Back when WP introduced the “improved posting experience,” there was a place users could tell WP what they thought. We were invited to tell them. A whole bunch of us did. Some people thought it was peachy keen. Others thought it was wretched and said so.
I remember saying I thought they were rolling out a new version just because they could. I’d never said that to anyone, but having already said so many things they didn’t take seriously, I figured I might as well insult them as not. They responded that I surely knew my accusation wasn’t true.
I didn’t bother to be ashamed of my outburst because other people burst worse than I did.
To all of us rabblerousers, WP said we were stodgy and set in our ways and didn’t want to learn something new. As far as I’m concerned, WP should have apologized for that.
Some of us threatened to move our blogs to Blogger or another service.
After a while, WP stopped responding to our remarks. The roused rabble continued remarking. One in particular noted several times that WP had stopped responding.
There may be a place for users to tell WP what they think of the “modern” way of posting, but so far I haven’t found it.** I suspect they learned their lesson the first time.
I don’t know if our input was responsible, but WP kept the original posting “experience” as an alternative to the “improved” one. The original page has more words and therefore is more flexible than the newer experiences. It also has more links to other functions, so fewer clicks are needed to navigate the site.
Some of the rabble suggested WP created the “improved” (second) version to make it easier for new users. To that I say–LET THEM READ THE ******* SCREEN. Like READ the WORDS.
Oh oh oh! Look look look! When I previewed this post, it appeared as one long paragraph. Just one more thing. So I opened a second screen and copied and pasted the post into it. And what should appear but the message,
It’s the classic WordPress editor and it’s a block! Drop the editor right in.
I see no advantage to the blocks.
(And I would like to drop the editor right in.)
In addition, the toolbar appeared at the top. When you click the little plus, one of the choices is Classic. Maybe this means WP Admin will remain. As in, They learned their lesson.
I guess the Classic was there the first time I clicked the plus. I guess I should have read all the box. If I hadn’t been jangled by the little plus, I might have.
Just so you’ll know: I’ve used the “improved experience.” It’s okay, if you want just the basics. If you want to do anything more, or to find out something you don’t know, you’ll have to take a circuitous route.
I also appreciate that WordPress offers this service free of charge. I pay for extra features, and that’s fine with me. However, I would like basic features to work.
Let me be clear: WordPress malfunctions, large or small, are not important.
As many scientists observe, global warming is important.
As Spencer Tracy observed, plumbing is important.
But right now, WordPress’ messing with my posting “experience” has brought me to the verge of apoplexy.
The “modern” experience, by the way, is called Gutenberg, a most inappropriate name.
Because believe me, folks, if Johann Gutenberg has invented this, we would still be using scrolls.
*I don’t know a lot of those words, but I will use the ones I know, and if I need more, I’ll find more on the Internet. The Internet is not family friendly. I learned most of the words I know by studying Chaucer.
This Blog began in May with a phone call from my daughter. She was looking to cross something off her bucket list and wanted me to accompany her. By the end of the call we had a plan to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail complete with tents, sleeping bags, food and water. Since my daughter like me is directionally challenged this is quite an undertaking for both of us.
I originally planned to write a single blog detailing my prep for this trip and the hike itself. However I doubt anyone would sit and read a blog that long. So I am splitting this into 2 blogs. This one will cover my prep for the trip and the beginning of our journey. My next blog will cover the final leg of our trip.
The first thing I needed to do was get in shape. Yes I hike to capture critters on film. But this was a longer distance and I would be carrying everything I needed with me.
I began by walking ½ a mile to the end of our street. I should mention that the hill just up from the house kicked my butt everyday for the first 2 weeks. Once I had concord that hill I began adding distance. Eventually I was up to 5 miles. Those five miles included 4 hills.
The next phase of my self imposed training was to add a backpack. I had never worn one before so I needed to get use to it. I began with my tent and sleeping bag attached. Then I added weight to the backpack each week.
At the suggestion of a friend I searched on line for hikers who had completed our route. Some made me a bit skeptical about attempting this, while others encouraged me and helped with some valuable information.
Meanwhile my daughter was training for a half marathon. I was sure she was much more prepared than me and continued to push myself daily hoping not to slow her down on our hike. By the end of August I was as ready as I was going to be.
I packed my backpack and put it on, and my heart sank. Then I remembered I still had the weights in there from my training. After removing the weights and repacking the backpack I knew this would be a challenge, but I could do this.
On the eve of our excursion my backpack was down to less than 20 pounds. We had a map of our route complete with landmarks and an elevation chart. Thanks to some fellow hikers we knew where we could refill our water bottles and where we were going to camp for the night. We allowed ourselves 3 days to complete our hike.
When our hiking day finally arrived our planned starting point wasn’t accessible so our first challenge was getting onto the trail. However we had my hubby dropping us off and he is really good at this sort of thing. So within minutes we were at the South Mountain Inn parking area. We strapped on our backpacks as a gentle rain fell. Just after 8 am we said our goodbyes and my daughter and I made our way onto the Appalachian Trail.
Guided by a series of white hash marks we wandered into the woods and left civilization behind and began to enjoy the tranquility of the trail. This leg of our journey had the most elevation and would be the most challenging for both of us. As the rain subsided we longed to reach our first peak and the well deserved rest we had promised ourselves. We had heard stories of snakes and bears along the trail but encountered neither. We did get a glimpse of a coyote and maybe a fox.
The Appalachian Trail is well marked most of the way. At the first road we encountered we experienced a few minutes of concern. We weren’t quite halfway to the shelter where we planned to spend the night; it was much too early in our journey to be lost. Finally we spotted that prized hash mark that told us we were still on the trail.
The next few miles were a mix of elevations speckled with occasional breaks and lighthearted chatter. We arrived at the Crampton Gap shelter at 1 o clock and decided it was way too early to stop for the night.
This seems like a good place to stop, for now. Come back next month and find out how our journey turned out.
Thanks for stopping by and letting me share my thoughts.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap. Bennie the Butterfly and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.
Blogging enables you to reach the billions of people that use the Internet. Blogging can help you promote yourself or your business. Blogging works as a method for attracting an audience because it provides something of value to them before asking for anything in return.
And there are a few more reasons on Joshua Becker’s blog.
It is hard to get the first blog out, but over time it gets much easier. My reason for blogging and for creating Writing Wrangler and Warriors was mostly geared toward number 8. We average 18 bloggers, so if each blogger reads, comments and shares each blog just think of the coverage we get.
Where else can we get free advertisement, free branding, free sharing? Where else can we add something of value to other peoples’ lives? Where else can we do numbers 1-8 from above and reach the number of people we reach?
Stats for WW&W
An unknown number of shares and people reached through the shares. Your name is getting out to thousands. And hopefully, if you are reading this, you are a regular reader and sharer.
September 21st had 48 views, that’s just the number of people who took a peek that day. Congratulations to Joshua S. Robinson on such high numbers and on your first blog too.
Where else can we show interest in other’s lives and writing in just a few minutes?
Learn to use a blog for your benefit, for the benefit of the other bloggers, and for the benefit of the readers.
Make sure you use photos that reach out like Squirrels and Alligators and Children. In “It’s All About the Girls” and “Boys will be Boys” there are lots of stories about children and the writers as children, lots of photographs and lots of great writing. Both books have many tips for parents raising children, but there are also many stories that will make you smile and nod your head in memory of your own growing up years.
It was my lot in life to raise a hyperactive son. Luckily my trials and tribulations are all over now as Leon is 36, but when he was a boy I tried to help him focus his mind and concentrate by engaging him in a game that my father had taught me. This game is excellent for getting small boys to sit still…
From the age of 5 or 6 my dad would instruct me in the rigors of Chess, and I soon learned what each piece was allowed to do. Dad and I fought battles over the chessboard for many years, but unfortunately I never did beat him. He died when I was 19, but in all those years he never let me win, no matter how temperamental I became at yet another defeat. However, I did beat my uncle on a couple of occasions when I was about 12, and the look of pride on my dad’s face at the time is still seared in my memory!
Anyway, Leon had (and still has) a very quick brain. He picked up the game within a short space of time, but like me as a child, could be rather ‘vociferous’ when he lost yet another match. I remembered how Dad would tell Mum that I’d never learn if he let me win, and so I followed suit with Leon. He couldn’t beat me, no matter how much he tried.
Meanwhile my youngest son Marc was picking up on the game. Marc could sit still and concentrate for hours, and he loved Chess. My husband Sam also played Chess, and to while away the evenings the four of us would take it in turns on the chessboard. I would beat the three of them, and eventually all three refused to play any more matches with me. The chessboard got put away in the loft, the boys discovered girls, and Stevie went back to work and Chess was forgotten.
Fast forward 25 years or so… the boys have married and left home, but about 3 months’ ago I had a notification on Facebook Messenger that Leon wanted to play Instant Chess with me. This is an electronic version going around, and Leon sent me the board with his first move done. I hadn’t played since the boys were about 14, and I had total ‘finger trouble’ moving the tiny pieces around on my phone and made loads of mistakes. Leon won and told Marc, who also sent me a request to play Instant Chess. By then I’d got my head around the electronic version.
It’s a good way of keeping in touch with my boys. I win some games and lose some. The boys are ecstatic when they beat me, and I imagine them dancing with joy around their living rooms. Sometimes we sit up late into the night playing Chess over the airwaves. They’ve both improved no end from their teenage attempts, especially Leon. I think I might have lost my touch a bit as I’ve grown older but still, it’s good that I’ve been able to teach them something.
Sam still refuses to play any matches with me by the way – but he would probably beat me now, as both boys do quite regularly, but hey, it’s always good when I win too! Only yesterday to my surprise I received a request from my 13 year old granddaughter to play Instant Chess! I still have the original chessboard that Dad and I used to play on – it’s very precious to me, and here it is below.
Have you ever asked a question and received an answer that you just didn’t want?
In my mastermind meeting last month, I asked the question of my accountabilibuddy: Where should I focus my efforts when I go back to teaching in the fall? She confirmed what I’ve been suspecting but didn’t want to hear: I need to withdraw from regular posting at Writing Wranglers and Warriors if I’m serious about meeting my goals this year. I know myself—if I allow any little loophole or temptation to procrastinate, I’ll take it. (And I’ll justify a donut for the extra calories I’ll burn coming up with extra content, too. What? Brain power requires fuel … )
If you’re interested, here are the irons I’ve got in the fire this fall:
Exciting things happening over at the Cole Smith Writes blog, where I write about creativity, productivity, and writing. We’re offering more freebies and resources along with the free weekly newsletter. And along with all the new content, I’ll be hosting several in-person workshops and coaching sessions in the coming months. If you’ll be in West Virginia (the best Virginia), I’d love for you to join us so I can see you IRL, as the kids say. (Actually, I don’t think they say that any longer. But I still do.)
I’m part of the writing team at Grace & Such, and am happy to announce we’re publishing two (TWO!!) devotionals this year. One is seasonal, the other is creative nonfiction based on the lives of women in the Bible. I jumped at the opportunity when it was announced earlier this year—there’s one woman, in particular, who has absolutely fascinated me. I’m enjoying writing in between the lines of what we know of her life. Want to know who? Click here to sign up for news of the release. (Not just to tease you, but also since I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell you yet!)
I have a tentative late-October release date for my book, a YA novel called Ursula Spark and the Fourth Frankenstein. I’ve grown quite attached to Ursula, and I think you’ll like her, too. She’s pretty great 🙂
A lot of self-publishing advice is contradicting, here. Some swear you should crank out a series as fast as possible and build a raving fan base. Others, (uhm, none other than Hugh Howey !) say to try out all different genres. Welp, your ol’ buddy Cole Smith is going to test it for you, so stay tuned …
A few nights ago, I was walking my wire fox terrier, Arty (Full name: Slarty Barkfast, for all you Douglas Adams fans). I was thinking of the deadlines looming this month and the next, and fretting a little. Can I meet them? And if so, will I arrive with my sanity intact?
I tilted my head back to look for the familiar constellations in the soft summer sky. Immediately, a shooting star blazed across the blackness. It affirmed that I should set stretch goals. Like a good story structure, it’s only when we leave our comfort zone that we find adventure. (I mean, hopefully that’s what it meant, and not that I was going to suffer epic burnout…)
So it’s with gratitude and fondness that I step away. I’ll still be lurking in the comments section now and then. If you’d like to pop in for a visit, stop by my website. Or better yet, sign up for my weekly newsletter. It’s always short and never spammy.
Thank you WWW Blog! 🙂
Cole Smith is an author, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia.
Book ideas can come without notice in the midst of any activity. I am trying to improve on having a notebook in my purse to write random things/thoughts in.
Recently at an open mike musical event, I enjoyed some wonderful performers and voices, who I thought did not present themselves to their best advantage. I wanted to help. I had a ton of ideas for them. It was hard to sit still in my chair and remain in the audience. Hence, someday I will write “The Overeager Angel,” (not that I am an angel, but my character will die haphazardly trying to help someone, and then become an overly helpful angel which will land her in all kinds of trouble). But first, I better finish my other 4 WIP’s!
Does anyone else have a mind that jumps from one story possibility to another? Or to suddenly knowing what should be added to or done with a scene while in the midst of another task or driving the car? It is very frustrating for me, because the brilliant insight/thought is gone by the time I have a notebook and pen.
So record, some say. Well…one dark, cold winter morning in North Dakota, as I drove the 45 country miles to my job as marketing and education director at a hospital, I picked up a Dictaphone to record a brilliant idea. Whoops! Like Dorothy in her tornado that took her to Oz, my car went into a spin, whirling around and around in a cloud of snow that blotted out all images of the real world, like a magical vehicle, then rapidly backed into a ditch and stopped. Right beside a mailbox. No Oz.
Luckily an angel, (not overly eager) in the form of the driver of the country school bus came over a nearby hill less than one minute later. And, since we were living in my old stomping grounds then, I knew him and his family. He took me up a long driveway to his mother’s house (whose mailbox I had landed beside), and I called my hubby, rescuer of damsels in distress (me mainly). I was only six miles from home luckily. So, you can see, I am hesitant to use a recorder, at least while driving.
I do think getting some kind of device like a cell phone that would record as I talk to the air around me, (as I see people doing quite often now) would be a good thing. I’m a psych nurse too, so it’s taken me a few years to quit diagnosing people who do this.
At any rate, I am open to ideas other writers have on how to handle this, or anyone who has brilliant ideas they want preserved for more than a moment! I thank anyone who can help!
I’m twenty years older and about a hundred pounds heavier than I was the last time I ran any significant distance. My brother, on the other hand, has been training for a little over a year, and I recently went out to support him at a race.
I’d never been to an event like that before, and I didn’t know what to expect. Would I have to fight through a crowd of spectators for a good spot? Would I be able to look for my brother and talk to him before the race?
Grey clouds hung low in the sky, but there was no hint of rain in the air. I crossed the highway toward the West Virginia University Coliseum, where the start/finish line was located. A handful of others walked with me, some of whom already had race numbers pinned to their clothes. I was the only one carrying a poster board sign.
In front of the Coliseum, a few empty tables and folding chairs sat behind temporary fencing, surrounded by several unoccupied tents. I followed the sound of announcements being made, the speaker’s amplified voice echoing off concrete to break the early morning stillness. On the other side of the building, I found a giant inflatable arch that marked the starting line.
Runners of all ages filled the parking lot. The athletes were stretching, doing warm-up drills, and filling hip pouches with little snacks. Some prepared in solitude while others stood in groups wearing matching tee shirts. The subdued din of the crowd, punctuated occasionally by laughter or a cheerful greeting, hid an undercurrent of reserved energy, an anticipation building.
I found my brother and we waited at the starting line for the first race to begin. The full marathon runners lined up in rows, and WVU’s mascot, the Mountaineer, fired his musket in the air to send the first wave rushing past. We cheered and clapped wildly as they set out to run 26 winding, hilly miles.
Fifteen minutes later, we cheered on the half-marathon runners. Fifteen minutes after that, I held my sign and shouted encouragement at my brother and his friends as they lined up for the 8K. Once they were off, the inflatable arch over the starting line came down, and the few of us that remained meandered toward the finish line.
Runners at the starting line
I wanted them all to succeed. I hoped the ones trying to make certain times would do so, and that the ones just trying to finish would cross the line proudly. Every runner out there was participating as an individual, with his or her own goals and motivations. Yet there was still a sense of community, of camaraderie. Even among strangers, they all understood one another.
A little over half an hour later, the first finishers arrived to cheers from the small but enthusiastic crowd. My brother finished fifth overall in the 8K, and I couldn’t smile wide enough. I congratulated him with a high five, then wrapped my arm around his sweat-soaked shoulders.
As the racers came in, the crowd grew in both size and energy. Every person who crossed the finish line was greeted with cheering, clapping, fist bumps, and words of congratulations. I made it a point to wave at or high-five as many of the finishers as I possibly could. They panted and let their bodies slump, arms hanging limply from their sides, smiling all the while. Despite the exhaustion, the entire crowd buzzed with positivity.
The experience reminded me of the writing community. We all have our own goals, we work at our own pace, and we support each other despite the inherent competition. This sense of belonging helped start me on my writing journey with NaNoWriMo in 2010. It grew when I joined West Virginia Writers and when I found the writing community on Twitter. Even though writing is typically a solitary endeavor and writers are stereotyped as introverts, something magical happens when we come together to inspire and support one another.
Whatever your goals are, in writing or otherwise, I truly believe finding the right community is a big help. Whether you’re looking to shatter records or just cross the finish line, know that there’s a high-five waiting for you when you get there.
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Joshua S. Robinson holds a Master’s degree from West Virginia University and works full-time as a systems engineer. He also writes fiction and published his first novel, Separate Ways, in 2017. He is a native West Virginian and still lives there with his wife, Anna.