I run. Or rather, I like to say that I run, but I probably jog. I have running shorts, running shirts, and running shoes. But I jog. There’s probably a speed threshold between jogging and running, and I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen beneath the required minutes-per-mile.
I used to run. Once I could sustain nearly an eight-min-mile average over five miles, but no more. If I got a nine-minute-mile average these days, I’d open the door to my house and strut around like a 1970s John Travolta.
So this morning, I got done with my five-mile run (jog?) and sat panting on my front stoop. I’m eighteen pounds overweight by my reckoning, and I promised myself I’d moderate my food intake and run (jog?) at least 5-miles every other day until I lose that weight. That was two months ago, and I was twenty five pounds overweight when I made that self-pact. Can I get a “yay!” for perseverance?
“I’m going to get a washboard stomach,” I told my wife Lara. My son is a climbing gym rat. He has a washboard stomach. I envy him.
“Have you ever had a washboard stomach?” my wife asked.
She paused for a moment. Her pauses are often louder than her verbal statements. “So, your goal is to get back into shape?” she finally asked.
“Maybe choose a shape you’ve had before?”
Ouch. And, y’know, funny. She’s funny, is my wife.
So as I sat on my stoop, panting and sweating and feeling the ache in my left hip and my left knee, I thought about perseverance, about pushing through pain and obstacles and past reasonable goals. And I started thinking about my writer’s life, about how unlikely it is that I’d be at this point now.
One of my favorite quotes from Wildmane, an immortal demi-god from one of my earliest stories, came to me then.
“Does trying make a hero, then? To continually try?”
I’m obsessed with the concept of heroes. I have been all my life. It’s why I do what I do. So naturally Wildmane, one of my first—and perhaps my greatest—heroes, questioned what it takes to be a hero on the pages of the story I wrote.
I loved that it could be so simple. For a person with so much power, he didn’t say, “The ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound” is what makes a hero. He determined that the worth of a hero is in the trying, and the perseverance to keep on trying. Thoughts about my efforts to get back into shape switched to thoughts of my efforts to write. How many different phases had I been through in this roller-coaster of a profession?
I’m approaching the release of my twentieth novel this year, and it stuns me. Every time I write a book—every time—I doubt if I’ll actually finish it. Even now. Even after twenty books. I’d written that Wildmane quote over twenty years ago, and here I am, still tapping away a the keyboard. Still trying. Through the years, through all the books, there were many times I could have fallen off this path, given up the keyboard, chosen to invest my energy somewhere else, but I didn’t. And now…twenty books.
Inspired, I got up and went inside my house and, after greeting my dog for ten minutes (Author’s note: my dog must be greeted thoroughly when entering the house, and there’s a proper way to do it. Do it this proper way, and it will keep you from getting enthusiastically clawed. Here’s the trick: you must say, “It’s good to see you!” over and over again while he wiggles and turns in circles and wiggles up against you. If you don’t observe this bit of doggie social protocol, he will jump up and put his paws—read: claws—on you until you do.), I went upstairs to my computer and went looking for some quotes about perseverance. To close this blog post, I submit my favorites from that internet search:
“Fall down seven times. Get up eight.”
“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”