It’s marathon season! Congrats to all the runners who finished the Olympics marathons, and good luck to everyone training for upcoming marathons!

Writing Goal: What Marathon Training Taught Me About Writing

Back in 2011, I was one of these crazy people running 26.2 miles for fun. It was a lot like writing a novel: both are long-term goals that require incredible patience and discipline to achieve.

In fact, I find myself applying lessons from my marathon training to novel writing all the time. Here are some of the most important things I learned to help me meet my writing goals:

Create a Schedule and Stick To It

When I first decided to train for a marathon, the idea of running a million miles was overwhelming. It was enough to make me want to quit on the spot.

But I didn’t. Instead, I found a training schedule with achievable milestones for the novice runner. In the beginning I had to run only three or four miles. As I got closer to the race, my goals changed until ultimately, 26.2 miles actually seemed like something I could do.

Likewise, the idea of completing a 300-page publishable piece of fiction seemed impossible at first. Thankfully, I remembered what I learned while training—create a realistic schedule.

To finish my first draft, I created several writing goals. I aimed for 1,000 words/day with a goal of getting the thing done in four months (you'll see that factors in some flexibility). Just like with the marathon, the mini-milestones were a lot easier for me to wrap my head around.

Write down your goals. Commit to them. Next thing you know, crossing the finish line will feel like a breeze.

Don’t Do It to Lose Weight

Hmm . . . I admit this lesson doesn’t translate quite as nicely, so let me explain.

If you’re running a marathon solely to lose weight, chances are you will eventually decide that it’s not worth it. If you're writing a novel simply to get rich/published/famous, I doubt you'll find yourself willing to put in the time and effort your project demands.

Why? Because you need a deeper motivation to push you through the tough times.

A desire to be skinny would not have been enough for me to force my aching body to run 20 miles in preparation for the final race, the most difficult aspect of the training. And your dream of living the life of the rich and famous will not motivate you to stay home Saturday night to edit your novel scene by scene.

To accomplish something as difficult as running a marathon or finishing a novel, you need to have something intrinsically motivating you, and these superficial benefits are unlikely to be enough.

Tell People What You’re Doing

When I trained for the marathon, I told only a couple of people what I was doing, and I hardly discussed it with family or close friends. To be honest, I was worried that I would fail. I figured the fewer people who knew, the fewer I would disappoint.

But I didn’t fail.

The day before the race, I knew that I would be able to do it and I wanted the whole world to watch! Unfortunately, because I hadn’t included my loved ones in my journey or shared how important this goal was to me, only two people could make it.

This is why I decided to blog about this novel-writing thing despite similar fears of failure. Should I get there, I want to have as many people to share in my success as possible.

I’m not there yet, but telling the world my writing goal has had the unexpected and welcome effect of causing family, friends, acquaintances and strangers to send me words of encouragement on a regular basis.

The marathon taught me that my fears are a reason to reach out to people, not exclude them.

You Will Cross the Finish Line

At the outset, running a marathon seems like an impossible goal. You might feel like writing a book is equally unattainable. But I promise you, it's not. You can cross the finish line in running and in writing, and with the right strategies, you will.

Create your writing schedule. Find your deepest motivation. Share your writing goal with friends and family.

Soon enough, you'll hold your finished manuscript in your hands.

If you'd like to finish your book, the deadline to enroll in our 100 Day Book Challenge is tonight at midnight pacific time. Learn more and sign up!

What motivates you to keep writing? Let me know in the comments.


Take fifteen minutes to write, and continue working on your work in progress. If you don't have a project underway, start something new, perhaps based on one of these story ideas.

Do you have a daily writing schedule? If you do, go ahead and start knocking out today's word count goal. If you don't, take this time to write, and come back tomorrow for more practice and accountability as you establish a daily habit.

When you're done, share your practice in the comments below, and don't forget to leave feedback for your fellow writers.

Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

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