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The finishing line

July 12, 2020

Each morning during lockdown I have made time to write before work. And now, much like parts of lockdown, I have reached the end.

As the grip of the crisis loosened, so the words flowed more readily. 100 or 200 words a day in March or April, 1000 or 2000 in May or June. 72,000 words accumulated in batches.

Writers sometimes say that writing a book is like running a marathon. Having done both, it’s true… up to a point.

To run a marathon you spend months plugging away at the distance, gradually building up following a careful plan. You shift your life around the routine. You push through hard solitary winter miles when the days are dark and the rain lashes down carried only by your own drive and motivation. You accumulate far, far more miles than the 26.2 that everyone sees at the end. The race itself is the tip of the iceberg, the rest remains concealed beneath the waterline.

As a runner, you can track all sorts of data. Miles run each week. Longest distance run each week. Average pace. Active calories burnt. Weight. VO2 max. Recovery time.

As a writer, you can track one data point: words written. Each day words gather like snowflakes. At first a scatter or two, building gradually, slowly until a soft even drift covers the ground. And then, it stops.

Now it has, I’m in the wilderness months. Snow blind. Because there’s no ready measure of the output of drafting, other than time sunk. The word count will fluctuate, growing some days, shrinking others. I hope to avoid a thaw. But each day I will wade in, moulding and sculpting the accumulation, hewing something better out of the raw material that has fallen.

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