Saturday, October 15, 2011

How Zombies Can Change My Life

This year, my friends have been doing those 5K obstacle course races. I think it’s safe to say that some of them are addicted. I’ve watched from afar, admiring their passion, but not really getting into the craze. Until now. Next June, in the next town east of us, there’s going to be a Run For Your Lives Race. Not only is it a challenge in a location that can only be described as breath-taking, but it’s a chance to check off one of the items on my bucket list: Get chased by zombies. You read that correct. It’s a traditional climb up the vertical wall, hustle up the cargo net and climb under barbed wire in a pit of mud race, plus zombies are trying to steal your lives (think flag football belts).

How freaking cool does that sound? If it weren’t for the zombie part, I don’t know if I would be so excited, but since I’ve always thought it would be awesome to be in a horror movie but I lack a certain level of elementary acting training, this is the closest I’m going to get. Here’s the kicker. In order to do this race, which really will be a grueling one, I have a tough road ahead of me. I have to lose weight, break out the muscles that haven’t seen the light of day in a decade and of course, the first rule of the zombie apocalyptic: CARDIO!

It’s been a long time since I’ve trained for anything, and to be honest, I’ve always used the excuse that I’m not disciplined enough to do something like that. Except, wait. I was disciplined enough to write a book. And determined enough to revise and revise and revise. And I was passionate enough about it to subject myself to the gatekeeper’s (aka agents) rejections. Not only that, but I was persistent enough to start another book in order to start the whole process over again. It got me to thinking about how I can relate writing a book to training for a zombie invasion with sprints.

I start my training, officially, on Monday, when I begin the Couch to 5K program. (First rule, remember?) In a lot of ways, this is like writing the backstory, getting to know your characters, and developing your plot. It’s conditioning; getting ready to get into the good stuff.

In nine weeks, I will start the C25K program over, but this time, I’m hiking the incline on the treadmill up higher and higher each day. I’m also adding weight training. Those zombies aren’t going to get the drop on me when I have to hoist my body over a fallen tree. For me, getting the first few chapters done is a lot like this. There’s always so much to convey in those pages. It’s like going uphill in a wind storm. There are days where I just stare at the screen and wonder how the big time writers can churn books out time after time.

Now we’re 18 weeks into training. In case you can’t do the math, that’s exactly half way between today and the race. Now, I won’t be buff, yet, but one would hope the commitment is starting to show in my clothes. After a quick shopping spree to buy new workout gear, it’s time to rev up the training. Now I’m going to start the recommended training for the Indianapolis mini-marathon. I’m not going to actually do the marathon, but this will replace the C25K program and improve my endurance. I’m also adding three classes: boot camp, zumba, and pilates. In the writing world, this is where the work is flowing. I’m churning out a chapter a night. We’re cruising, baby. In the groove, got it goin’ on! But this is also a time when I’m most likely to get distracted by other things: youngest child’s birthday, spring break, life in general. This is where it’s easy for me to demonstrate self-destructive tendencies. But if I can avoid the pitfalls, I’ll make it to the home stretch.

Week 27. Nine weeks left until the big day. I’m still doing the Mini road training, weight training, the classes… what else can I possibly do? Amp it up. Look for the weaknesses and improve them. Wow. Sounds like the revision process, doesn’t it. Revise until the work sparkles, and not in a Twilight kind of way. Polishing and perfecting. Arms not quite able to make that vertical wall? More arms. Middle of the book dragging the plot down and messing up the pacing? Fix it!

Now, sometime during this last nine weeks I hope to get a chance to get real world training, from an Marine no less. I want to learn some of the techniques that will help me master the obstacles and continue to avoid the long arms of the walking dead. In the writing world, I would describe this as beta readers. It’s the first time the book is being taken for a spin, finding out what points of the plot others think work and don’t work. This is also a time for one more good revision. It’s one more chance to master the tone of the words and strengthen the story arc. This is the test-run.

Race Day. This is when I pray all the training and work pays off. It’s when I take something that’s been personal for the last several months and put it out there to be rejected. In the Run For Your Lives race, getting across the finish line is one thing. Doing it without skipping an obstacle is the difference between a finish medal and nothing. Since I want that medal for my motivation board, I cannot skip an element. It’s not an option. I have to find that one foothold that’s going to help me get over the top. But there are unforeseen issues. Maybe I'll get behind someone who steps on my hand with their size 13s and my bruised appendage just can’t hold on to the rope on the next obstacle. When I think about this, I realize it’s a lot like sending out query letters. All the work has been done. You’re as ready as you can possibly be and yet, there’s still one more hurdle to get through: finding the right agent at the right time who gets your book and wants to be a part of it. (In case I wasn’t clear, this is the finding the foot hold moment.) The rejections, and more importantly, the reason for the rejection are the unforeseen issues. There are all kinds of reasons why agents reject a manuscript, even one they really love. Those things are out of your control. You have to duck and weave when they come your way and keep moving forward.

But this is where the training and belief is going to shine. If you really dig deep, no matter how many obstacles you have to jump, if you have faith in yourself and in your work, you can reach the reward, whether it’s a finisher’s medal or a book contract. In the end, it’s all up to how much you want it and what you're willing to do to get it.

One more thing about the Race For Your Lives 5K… once you’re done, they give you beer. I think surviving the Zombie Apocalypse earns you at least that. But when I get my agent and that awesome person finds the right publisher for me book, we’re not doing beer. MARTINIS FOR EVERYONE! Until then, I’ll focus on my training and my writing, making sure I’m ready for whatever comes next. I never thought zombies could turn me into a race enthusiast, but it just goes to show you that you can BE PASSIONATE about anything you want!

1 comment:

  1. Heck, skip the beer at the end of that marathon and go for a martini anyway! That just sounds like the best goal to have (being chased by zombies) instead of boring weight loss that everyone else uses.