My two sons love telling jokes. They have, in fact, become a headline act in our church's yearly talent show. Andy Murray's favourite number? Ten is. His bedtime? Ten-ish. Such is the quality of quip featured in their annual performance.
'What do running and writing have in common?' sounds, initially, like a question so absurd that it wouldn't be out of place in their next recital. Running and writing? Surely these two verbs are from such far-flung ends of the 'verbial' spectrum (sorry, a neologism was necessary there!) that they can only co-exist in a comedy line-up?
Think again! I have long thought that running contains a limitless supply of metaphors for our spiritual lives. It was only recently that I began to discern its countless connections to writing too. As I set out running, a few weeks ago, for the first time in a while, after weeks of holidays, parties and indulgences, I observed a few things about running that we would do well to heed in our writing.
One, I reflected, was that it's really hard to get started again after a long break - but you have to start somewhere! I could have put it off for another week, but it would have been just as hard - harder - if I had let another week elapse before I leapt into my lycra (okay, crawled into my kit is more accurate). When we haven't written for a while, picking up a pen and starting out again feels hard - but as we do it, we suddenly find ourselves in the flow again and, a few pages in, we wonder why we left it so long.
Secondly, if we compare ourselves to others and try to keep up with them, it is tempting to give up when we've barely begun. This is a real battle for a beginner runner - and writer - like me. Though my two running friends declared themselves unfit and out of practice too, they soon sped ahead, leaving me pounding the pavements at my own sorrowful speed! Beetroot red in the face, I was tempted to take a short-cut home. But my eyes were on the end game; if I wanted to get fit, lose weight and be healthy, the painful beginning had to be endured, however far behind others I lagged. Likewise with writing. If I look enviously at the impressive CVs of other writers and compare them to my beginner's ramblings - this would be the last thing I ever wrote! But we all have to start somewhere and it's only with patient and disciplined practice that our running and writing 'fitness levels' improve.
Finally, we need encouragement - so much encouragement - to keep on keeping on. Despite my tortoise pace and my bright red face, my friends congratulated me on getting back out there, arranged another run for another week. Our writing needs this too - someone to spur us on, encourage us to keep doing it, even when progress is slow. If you haven't uttered any encouragement to a fellow writer recently, make it a priority this week! It is oxygen to a discouraged soul and may just be the nudge they need to have the courage to keep honing their God-given gift, instead of hurling their tentative scribblings onto the nearest log burner.
So starting is hard. Re-starting is hard. But in writing, as in running, rewards await those who set themselves in for the long haul. So get out there! Start writing. Keep writing. Stay focused on what God has given you to write, not what others are up to. Most importantly, be an encourager, especially cheering on those flagging at the back! Type that comment, send that text - you may be the catalyst someone needs to keep training, keep trying. Ultimately, your five seconds of encouragement could help to keep a plodding beginner from veering off and collapsing on the side of what could be an exciting road ahead, as God anoints small beginnings and transforms them into great things for His kingdom.
Georgina Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive. She is married, with two sons, aged 9 and 6, who keep her exceptionally busy! She feels intimidated by having to provide an author-biography, when her writing only extends, currently, to attempting to blog, writing the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local paper occasionally, and having a poem published in a book from a National Poetry Competition! Her musings about life can be found on her blog: www.somepoemsbygeorgie.blogspot.co.uk