I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by author, Mark Dursin, who shares his answer to my question (and I appreciate him adding writing the blog post to his goals, lol)...
ELF: What is one of your hobbies and how has it enriched your writing?
MD: In 2017, I had two goals: to publish (finally) the young adult novel my wife Sheri and I had co-written; and to run a half-marathon. I did both. What I didn’t realize at the time is how much those goals influenced each other.
Now, on the one hand, running and writing don’t seem to have much in common. Running is about getting your butt in motion; writing is all about putting “butt-in-chair.” Running has a finish line; writing is something that you usually just abandon. Running is solitary, for the most part; in the case of my wife and me, writing is a journey we took on together.
And yet, in many ways, the two endeavors are similar. Both running and writing are things you often have to push yourself to do—even when you don’t want to, especially when you don’t want to. Both require training. And both are sort of selfish; think of all the other things you probably should be doing instead of going out for a five-mile run or pounding out that chapter.
Even a cursory Google search will reveal that I’m not the first one to make this connection between running and writing. But here’s what I personally found was the most important connection between running a half-marathon and writing a novel: both require you to set goals.
When I got serious into the half-marathon training, I remember learning that one of the most important first steps is to identify a race in the future and then sign up for it. The reasons for this are two-fold: if you sign up for it—if you pay your hard-earned money for it, in other words—you’re more likely to see it through; and signing up for a race gives you an end-point, something to shoot for.
My wife Sheri and I did something similar for our young adult novel, LABORS OF AN EPIC PUNK. At the start of 2017, we had been working on this book—a re-telling of The Odyssey focusing on Odysseus’s teenage son—for seven years. And in that time, we made many changes—to the narration, to the plotting, to the age and temperament of our protagonist, whom we called Mac (short for Telemachus).
All necessary changes. But Sheri—thankfully—was the one who finally had to say, “We could tweak this forever. We have to be done.” She was right. We had to give ourselves an end-point—to “sign up for the race,” as it were. So we decided people were going to be able to buy our book for Christmas.
Naturally, it was a completely artificial deadline. Nothing was really on the line. If we didn’t finish everything until January, who would even care but us? But giving ourselves a “due date” motivated us, to carve out the necessary time to tend to all the nagging details—editing, picking out fonts, etc.—which have nothing to do with creating but are still essential components of a book. (And those things still took us months!)
Finally, the inter-related experience of running the half-marathon and finishing LABORS OF AN EPIC PUNK taught me maybe the most important lesson about goal-setting: if you set a goal, how else can you feel that sense of accomplishment once you reach it? My wife says she still gets a giddy feeling whenever she looks over at our end table and sees our book on it. But if we didn’t set that goal for ourselves, we might still be working on the 17th revision of our manuscript instead of writing this blog post!
by Mark and Sheri Dursin
GENRE: YA Fantasy, Myth Retelling
Mac is an epic punk. No wonder: after his dad went off to fight in the Trojan War and never came back, Mac spent his childhood evading his mom's scumbag suitors—all one-hundred-and-eight of them. Of course, he turned out this way—a moody, friendless sixteen-year-old who blows off work, alienates everyone at school, and pulls pranks. But when he trains a flock of birds to defecate on the headmaster, Mac (short for Telemachus) goes too far. The administrators give him an ultimatum: prove that he's truly the son of Odysseus by doing something heroic—or get out. A school story that just so happens to take place 3,000 years ago, Labors of an Epic Punk is a tale of friendship and transformation, regret and redemption, and a reminder to us all that even heroes need to survive adolescence.
No one on the field that morning had any idea that all Hades was about to break loose.
Well, one person did.
The stands were over-crammed with students, all chirping away about their summer travels, each one trying to out-fabulous the other. But Mac wasn’t talking to any of them. (No surprise there.) Instead, he just stared at the empty stage in fist-clenching anticipation. For the entire morning, the entire summer, the entire two years he’d wasted at this gods-forsaken school, he’d been waiting for this moment. His moment of glory, of genius. The moment when he’d finally and irretrievably cross The Line— that hard-to-define boundary between tolerable and intolerable. Between a week of detention and expulsion. All he needed was for Headmaster Gurgus to blow on that shell.
Just when he thought he couldn’t wait any longer without throwing up, Mac heard the band play the opening notes to “Yielding Never,” Pieridian Academy’s absurdly overblown fight song. The Opening Ceremonies were officially underway. From his seat high up in the stands, Mac watched intently as the members of the so-called Grand Procession marched onto Garthymedes Field: the entire faculty and staff, wearing shiny red gowns and smiles full of phony reverence; followed by the honored students, also in ritualistic red, condescendingly waving at the crowd; followed by a grotesque, nine-headed Hydra.
Lastly, waddling ten paces behind the Hydra, in all his roly-poly, four-hundred pound glory, was Headmaster Gurgus.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
For many years Mark, a high school English teacher, and Sheri, a freelance writer and blogger, wrote independently. No matter the writing project—newspaper articles, retreat talks, college recommendation letters, fan-fiction, blog posts on spirituality or 80s pop songs—they tended to work alone. Separate rooms, separate computers. But raising their twin sons helped them discover an important truth: All Good Things Come in Twos.
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