Christina Henry — of Running and Writing

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BLACK SPRING(1)I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t run I wouldn’t be a professional writer. Strike that. I’m 100% sure that if I didn’t run I wouldn’t be a professional writer.

See, when I was 12 years I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and I decided then and there that I would be a writer when I grew up. My dad gave me a notebook and I wrote my first “novel” in that notebook.  As you might imagine, the story was just a teeny-weeny bit like The Lord of the Rings, except that it had a 12-year-old girl as the protagonist (surprising, no?).

I continued to write for fun, for myself, all through high school, although at that time I took up poetry instead of fiction because I was going through puberty and I had FEELINGS and I needed to FEEL my FEELINGS.

I went to college. I enrolled in a writing program. I did a lot of writing.  I enrolled in a master’s program to avoid entry into the real world for two years. I did a lot more writing. I enrolled in a second master’s program to avoid the real world for a further two years. There was writing.

I finished chapters. I finished short stories. I finished two master’s theses. But I never finished a novel.

I kept thinking I didn’t have the time.  Then I had a baby.

I realized that before my son I had lots of time. Oodles of time. I had so much time that I don’t know what I was doing with myself for all those years with all that time.  I could have written a million novels with all that time. All I really remember is that my husband and I seemed to go out for sushi a lot, and see movies without scheduling them months in advance.

For the first two years after my son was born there was no writing. There was only the frazzled how-do-I-take-care-of-this-squalling-baby-and-not-mess-up and the desperate desire for more sleep that categorizes early parenthood.

Then I decided to run a marathon. Because, you know, I didn’t have enough to do.

I’d run since high school. I’d worked my way up to a half-marathon distance and suddenly decided I needed to run 26.2 miles. I really needed to. I needed to prove that I could it.

And I did.  Very slowly. Very, very slowly. I’m pretty sure your average snail ran that first marathon faster than I did.

But something interesting happened once I ran that marathon. I crossed that finish line after months of training and thought to myself, “If I can run a marathon I can write a book.”

Writing a book isn’t really that different from running a marathon. When you train for a long race you do it incrementally, building up from a few miles of running to 20 miles in your longest run. When you actually run the race you never think, “One mile down, 25 to go.” Instead you think,  “One more mile. One more mile.” And slowly but surely you get to the finish line. Fast or slow, as long as you keep moving forward you will get there.

When I write a book I never think, “5 pages down, 345 to go”. I just concentrate on the five pages I am trying to write that day. Sooner or later there are 100 pages, 200 pages, 300 pages and then suddenly it’s over. Just like a marathon (and I feel the same desire for a glass of wine and a large pizza).

I’ve run 3 more marathons since then, and written 7 more books. And I’ve finished all of them – running or writing – by taking one step, and then another, and another.  As long as I move forward I know I can finish.

CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the BLACK WINGS series (Ace/Roc) featuring Madeline Black, an Agent of Death, and her popcorn-loving gargoyle sidekick Beezle: BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING. She is also the author of the forthcoming dark fantasy ALICE (summer 2015).

 

Bio pic (1)Christina was born in New York and now lives on the North Side of Chicago with her husband and son. She sees no conflict in rooting for both the Yankees and the Cubs.

She also enjoys running long distances, eating large quantities of cinnamon rolls, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with zombies, samurai and/or subtitles.

 

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2 comments to Christina Henry — of Running and Writing

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Well, I’m very much not a runner, so the title of your post had me thinking, ‘Nooooo. I caaaan’t.’ However, the one-step-at-a-time approach I can *definitely* get behind (just, for me it works better as a hiking metaphor where even slow steps up the mountain are still steps up the mountain and often way better than wearing yourself out early).

    For me, a huge reason I actually got to the end of my (still in revisions(…)) first book is that I’m a big-projects sort of person; the more time and effort I invest in something the more determined I become to finish. But I am curious how the motivational carrots work for others.

  • Razziecat

    For me, the biggest motivation is usually that I want to know how the story ends, or if I think I know that already, I want to see how the characters get to that ending. Strangely (for me, anyway) numbers seem to play a part. I’m a “word” person generally; I always say I don’t have a math brain. But for this, keeping track of numbers works. It’s like my pedometer: Walking 10,000 steps a day becomes doable because everytime I look at the meter, I see the goal getting closer. When I keep track of how many words (or pages) I’ve written, it feels like I’m getting somewhere. NaNo Wrimo is great for this, but I’ve been applying that same push the rest of the year too.