Measuring Success

This weekend is a big deal for my family. The kids and I will cheer on my husband as he runs the NYC marathon. Though he has run ten marathons before, it will be his first time running this amazing event. He’s tried for years. It’s a tough race to get into without a corporate or charity sponsorship. But this year is his year. He’s finally in! He’s well trained and he’s more than ready to run. And we are more than ready to be there!

But as we get ready to see him off at the starting line, I can’t help but think about how many times we’ve done this very thing over the past seven years. I also can’t help but think about the fact that in the same year he started running (2007), I started writing. I set out to write a children’s book in the same year he set out to run a marathon.

Hmm…

So it has crossed my mind (more than a few times) that my uber determined husband has accomplished his goal—ten times over so far. He’s even accomplished running goals that he set AFTER he set his original goal, namely qualifying for and running the prestigious Boston Marathon. And I couldn’t be more proud of his focus, dedication, and achievements. 🙂

But still.

In all the time that he’s reached so many of his goals, I haven’t reached my ONE. Nope, I have not published a book for children.

I could feel like a failure. I could wonder why in the world I keep at it. I could throw in the towel. But I guess you guys know by now…that’s just not me. Sure I have days where I compare myself to him. I see him bring home shiny medals and plaques and gourmet peanut butter. (It’s a running thing). But then I think about all he’s done to get where he is…

I see him create a training plan at the beginning of each year. I see him lace up his running shoes and head out the door- in the rain, slush, hail, snow, dark, cold… no matter how tired he is, or what work deadline he has to meet. I see him push through injuries and rehabilitation. I see him overcome bouts of self-doubt.

But I also see him accomplish small goals, which lead to big ones. And I see him smile when he comes back from a good old- fashioned run. I see him run because he loves to be out there, in the cool, crisp sunshine. I see him run because he loves it.

And that’s when I realize, I am not too different from him. I am not a failure. I know exactly why I keep at this and I will not throw in the towel. Why? Because I love to write stories for children. I want to see my stories in their hands. I want to know my words have made even one child feel hope or happiness. I want to know my words have made even one child smile or feel like someone understands what they are feeling. I want to know my words have taken a child someplace they may never go, with friends they will carry with them long after they read the last page. I want even one child to know that anything is possible.

We all have our reasons for writing. We all have our own writing goals. Some may be measurable and some may not. Sometimes your gut feeling is all you can measure your progress by. And that’s what I have—a gut feeling that I’m close. And that’s why I keep running, chasing my goal with pencil in hand. My finish line may be in sight, or it may be miles and miles away still. But as someone wiser than me once said , “Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

So in honor of my husband, who inspires me every day (in more ways than just running), I’ll get my book published someday. Until then, I’ll keep cheering for him (especially this weekend!) and I know he’ll keep cheering for me. My small accomplishments may not be tangible, like a PR (personal record) is for runners, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They are. I’ve set them and I’ve accomplished so many of them already. And even though there are no crowds cheering for me when I reach those, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

And so I will continue to make my writing plan at the beginning of each year. I’ll get my butt in the chair, and open up my laptop at 10:00pm or 5:00am even when I can barely keep my eyes open or write a coherent thought. I’ll re-write problem scenes. I’ll make my stubborn characters come to life. I’ll revise and revise again. I’ll critique other writers’ work. I’ll craft those dreaded query letters and loglines. I’ll research agents. I’ll read books in my genre. And I will write. And write some more.

And I hope you will too. We have so many amazing words to share. So even if you aren’t getting a ticker-tape parade for a scene you’ve written, or a partial request you’ve received, don’t let that stop you. At the end of the day, we all get to write. And to me, there is no better reward.

6 thoughts on “Measuring Success

  1. Jim Yeager says:

    Your dedication is inspirational – Not just to writers, or to runners, or to me. You’ve crossed many finish lines already – they just happen to be smaller races. Your “Marathon” finish line is closer than you think. But, just like running, there’s always another finish line someplace else. Maybe it’s a triathlon or a car race. Whatever it is, if you want it bad enough and you follow your dreams, you’ll get there.

    I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished already, and you should be too. As runners, we are in search of that elusive PR. When we get one, we raise the bar and move on. We race against ourselves and against the clock. We encourage each other and race each other into the ground at the same time. Sound familiar to your writing career? Keep your eye on the prize and don’t forget what you love. In runner speak… “Lookin’ good!!”

    • swirlandspark says:

      Okay Marathon Man, you know it doesn’t take much to turn me into mush… *dabs eyes with a tissue* Thanks for your sweet words and heartfelt encouragement. It means everything to me. 🙂 xoxo

  2. Riley (and Jordan) says:

    First of, all Marathon Man’s response was way more sweet and romantic than his proposal…that came from your nieces! And your sister…

    Someone once told me that the only way out is through. You are living that right now. No one knows how close to the goal/finish line they are. But you are so much further than when you started.

    We are all so proud of you. We see the small and not so small goals you’ve already accomplished. Far more importantly, the perseverance you’ve exhibited already is such an inspiration.

    You will make it. Never doubt it. None of us do.

    Much love and admiration.

    T

    • swirlandspark says:

      Riley and Jordan, Thank you so much for your words. Your support through the years has mean immeasurable! You both are one of the reasons I keep at this…and I will keep pushing through. I hope you both will too (no matter what your particular finish line is)! *hugs* Aunt Jackie 🙂 Oh and BTW, I agree with you about the proposal!! LOL You’ll soon find out that Prince Charmings can come in many shapes, sizes, and personalities!! xo

  3. Katie Robles says:

    The BIG difference is that in publishing, they keep moving the finish line! It’s like they hide it in the woods somewhere and tell you to just keep running until you trip over it. Keep up the good work, kudos to you AND your husband. If I trip over the line, I’ll tell you where it is. 🙂

    • swirlandspark says:

      Katie, I laughed out loud reading your analogy. That’s SOOO true! Thanks for your kind words. I hope you find the finish line too, but be careful, the rest of us may be hanging onto your ankle as you cross!! 🙂

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