The Tootsie Roll at the Center of Every Really Good Goal

My writing instructor sent me an email this week outlining what I’m supposed to bring to the first class on Monday, January 8th. She explained and then she spelled it out again, just to be clear. Or (the expression that comes to mind is) to rub salt in my wounds.

  1. 20 consecutive pages, plus
  2. The 5 first pages of my book

This scares me. The expectations laid out in the class description were explicit when I registered. Writers were to be a minimum of 20 pages into their projects. For weeks I waffled.

Maybe I had 20 pages. Maybe. Disjointed fragments scribbled in this notebook and that one, relatively cohesive paragraphs mixed in with emotionally volatile journal entries, half finished posts decaying in my WordPress drafts folder and one tiny file on my hard drive. Maybe all of this together totaled 20 pull-out-your-winter-coat kind of drafty pages. On some level, though, I understood that this is not what the instructor had in mind. So I didn’t register.

Until the day I did. I’m not sure what changed. Certainly none of those questionable pages. It felt more like some deep rooted wisdom came bubbling to the surface. This was the class that would demand I stop dicking around, that would challenge me to stop thinking about writing a book and start actually writing it.

Now I am faced with reality. I have to pull these pages together in a week and it’s stressing me out. I am uncomfortable. Which is wonderful because I know it means I made the right decision.

I went through a similar thought process a few months ago when a 17 mile trail race, complete with ~3800 feet of elevation gain, caught my eye. The Sawmill Trail Runs. Maybe there was just enough time to train, to build up to a sufficient load at a safe enough rate. Maybe. But probably not. So I didn’t register.

But a seed was planted in that deep rooted place. Every late night Google search linked back to the same race, the internet’s own circular reference. So I compromised. I scrawled a training plan in a notebook I later lost and told myself I would play it by ear. If I managed to put in enough training, without getting injured, I would register right before the race.

The last time I felt that excited about running was 5 years ago, marathon training in between my husband’s rotating shift schedule and breastfeeding a brand new baby. Since then I’ve run a half dozen or so half marathons and who knows how many 3-10 mile races, but I’ve missed the Tootsie Roll at the center of every really good goal – uncertainty.

I waited so long to register I didn’t get a t-shirt. But I toed the line. And I was reminded of something as I ground my way up the final stretch to the finish. That messy space just outside of our comfort zone, where there are no guarantees – that’s where the magic happens.

Registration for the next scary thing opens January 20th: 32 miles and 7250 feet of elevation gain. I’m not confident I will be able to finish before the cut-off, which is wonderful because now I know. There won’t be any waiting around this time.

Photo Credit: Sawmill Trail Runs by Human Potential Running Series

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