Saturday, March 17, 2012

Writers Achieving Their "Personal Best"


My son runs track, and one of the lessons his coach taught him has made a huge difference. Coach said, "Don't always race against the guy in the lane to your left or to your right. Race against yourself, and your own time. Aim to beat your own Personal Best."

My son isn't the fastest runner, not even close, but that doesn't get him down. He keeps track of his own time, and strives to beat that. Even at high school, where there's so many distractions--good and bad--my husband and I remind him to "run his own race." Academically, athletically, and socially.

As I've taken this glorious writing journey, I've raced, stumbled, fallen, ambled, jogged, and cleared hurdles. I've kept one eye on my own race, and the other eye on my fellow runners.

You see, our fellow writers are in the lanes beside us. Some of them will reach the finish line first. They'll be the rabbits we chase after--the writers who inspire us to do more and become better. Some writers will achieve come-from-behind wins. Others will run at a slower pace, and we'll cheer them on as they finish strong.

Runners feel their competition at their backs, or watch them in their peripheral vision. They see them in front, and nip at their heels. For writers, this can become a distraction, and when it does, it's helpful to remember my son's coach's advice.

Each time my son beats his own time, he's moving forward. Same with us. Each time we improve, we're moving forward. Each time we reach a milestone, we're moving forward. The other guy might be faster or slower, but as long as we're moving forward and beating our own time, we're achieving our own Personal Best.

In her post, Know Your Own Writing Journey & Go at Your Own Pace, Jody Hedlund wrote these wise words: "The pace isn't as important as much as the fact that we don't stop moving forward." I love that, don't you?

Have you ever heard this advice? Are you ever distracted by the achievements of other writers? How do you strive to achieve your own Personal Best?

46 comments:

  1. Julie,
    This is an excellent reminder to each of us to run our own race. (And tell our own story.)

    I also like your blog subtitle, blogging between carpools. It reminds me of my daughter's writing efforts. You can find her at Denise J. Hughes.

    Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

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    1. Thanks, Marsha! I'll check out your daughter's page!

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  2. Julie, this was a really great post to wake up to. Thank you! I've often felt this way, but that coach's advice really sums it up nicely, doesn't it? I completely agree. How do I strive for my personal best? I focus on what I can learn, whether it be from messing up a first draft, leaving a work on the shelf too long before editing, marketing stumbles and successes. I've done a lot wrong as I learned...but is it really wrong if you learn from it and improve?

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    1. J.R., I love the phrase "nothing is wasted." That helps me so much when I've spent a long time doing something that might not work out in the long run. But still, we've learned from it, so it wasn't wasted.

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  3. Great advice, and I think the reminder is important, especially since the internet surrounds us with constant reminders of everyone else's paces (particularly those with very fast paces).

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    1. Hektor, so true. Sometimes I feel like I'm running with sandbags tied around my ankles!

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  4. Hi Julie,
    I wrote a similar post last week comparing my writing journey to my daughter's track career:

    http://writersdolaundrytoo.blogspot.com/2012/03/not-fast-enough.html

    In my daughter's case, she is one of the fastest. Yet she is enrolled in speed school because she doesn't think she is fast enough. She is not measuring herself against her fellow athletes but is aspiring toward her personal best.

    I guess I needed another reminder of this today.

    Thanks! :)

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    1. Linda, your daughter must be darn good! That's amazing. I'll go check out your post. Thanks.

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  5. Comparing ourselves to others is a sure way to feel discouraged. We should be our only competition.

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    1. Alex, so true. I must remind myself of this ALL the time!

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  6. Awesome post! I don't think we can help watching and sharing with others since this community is so close. But as long as we keep it in perspective and remind ourselves of this rule it shouldn't be a problem!

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    1. Perspective...that's the key. Thanks, Lisa!

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  7. Yep, we can only improve upon ourselves. Sometimes it's hard to remember that when reading a Really Amazing Book. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Jaye, when I read something amazing, I'm excited and depressed at the same time :/

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  8. Julie, what a great post and thank you for that tip. Seriously as a writer but more importantly what a great message to pass on to my son....

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    1. Tracy, my pleasure. I learned a lot from it too!

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  9. Very inspirational. This is something we should all remember no matter what we are trying to accomplish. It always seems that if it isn't one thing trying to distract us then it is another. However, trying to compare ourselves to those around us seems to emerge as the most self-defeating action of them all. Thank you for this post today. It was very encouraging.

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    1. Comparing myself to others is never a good thing! But when I remind myself to focus on my own race, it all feels much better :)

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  10. Perfect advice! Knowing your own pace and your own journey are so important. I've never going to be the rabbit - but I'm in the race! :)

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    1. We're in the race, that's right! Thanks, Jemi

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  11. Very good analogy! As a former high school runner, I remember exactly how great it feels to beat a personal best - even if it's by .01 seconds!! Every little bit of improvement counts!
    erica

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    1. Exactly! That's how my son feels. And it reminds me to be thankful for those little improvements, even if it's by .01 seconds :)

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  12. Sometimes I compare myself with others and their progress, but I have to curtail that or I wouldn't write at all. I'm a work in process, learning as I go. What I do see is vast improvement in how I portray my story, and I'm learning a lot from others. Have a blessed day.

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    1. Heather, I know what you mean about learning from others. I learn from our fellow bloggers, and I learn a ton from my beta readers.

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  13. Although we do have such a supportive community of writers, it's hard not to compare our rate of progress w/another's. But it's true, we just have to keep moving forward, at our own pace. It might be a book every two months, it might be a book every two years, but we have to keep running this race!

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    1. Heather, I love what you said "but we have to keep running this race!" So true. Even if we're slow, or even everyone passes us by. Thank you!

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  14. Beautiful thought. I love sharing the journey, but I agree that we have to stay focused on our personal momentum.

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    1. Speaking of learning from others...I learn so much from YOU!

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  15. Wonderful post, Julie. I also loved that post by Jody.

    My writing journey is my own. I love to watch those around me...especially when someone jumps a hurdle. I love when we win, and I'm there to help console when we lose. And I just "keep running this race."

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  16. What fabulous advice! We all need to learn to run our own race, and be proud that we did. Your son has excellent coaches... at track and at home.

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  17. Have you ever seen special olympics competitors? They are over-the-top thrilled when they complete the race. Doesn't matter who's first so much as the overwhelming thrill of actually sticking with it long enough to cross the finish line. That's pretty close to how I feel about writing. I don't see my fellow writers as competitors, and am happy for them ... and for me ... as long as we finish the race. It doesn't really matter who gets there first.

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  18. Wow! Great post, Julie. Yes, I have been distracted by the success of others. Thanks for reminding me that I ought to be concerned only with getting better and telling the stories that I need to tell-as well as I possibly can.
    Thank your son and his coach for me. ;)

    -Jimmy

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  19. I think that's something that's unique to writing, that our community is so supportive of each even though we are competing in the next lane. I've learned to keep my eye on the prize, no matter what. I put on blinders so I'm not distracted. But knowing others are achieving what I've set out to do for myself is somehow inspiring, like all the hard work actually IS worth it, it CAN pay off. And for me, it finally has! I just placed in the finals!

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  20. I love the coach's advice and it's comparison in that we're all in this race together, we just run at our own pace. We will finish, we will beat our personal best, we just have to keep at it. Thanks for the reminder!!

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  21. Guys, thanks so much for your lovely comments. YOU are an inspiration!

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  22. Great post and best advice- race against your own personal best and beat it.

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  23. As I'm still at the beginning of my journey, I'm only ever racing against myself :-)

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  24. Of course I get distracted by all the good news sometimes but I try my hardest not too!

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  25. Such a great lesson to bear in mind during those writing drought times.

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  26. This is a fantastic reminder, Julie! My oldest has been taking swimming, and she's a great swimmer. But she never wins relays. She decided she was going to quit, but we talked about it. I told her what a great, lifetime sport it is, etc., and then I told her how I run, but I'll never win a race. It's good exercise, and I enjoy it!

    Man. I need to take my own (and your son's coach's) advice some times! :D <3 THANKS~

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  27. Very wise words and I honestly believe this mindset is the ONLY WAY to survive in this industry for any length of time. You have to support each other and reach your personal goals.

    Great post, Julie!

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  28. This is great advice and so so apt for the world of writing! Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just keep at it.

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  29. This is good advice, but sometimes it's hard to know when you're improving.

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  30. I am hosting a Giveaway for beginning chapter book for ages 7-10.

    I would love it if you could drop by and participate:
    http://b00kr3vi3ws.blogspot.in/2012/03/lionels-grand-adventure-book-review.html

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  31. Hi Julie! I have to remind myself this all the time. It's not a race, it's a journey. Sometimes it's hard. But I love the way you've compared it here. It really hits home.
    BTW thanks so much for your kind words on Dianne's blog the other day on my first page. I've been meaning to get over here sooner to tell you that, but time got away from me. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

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  32. Awesome advice! I'll have to remember this as my sons get older (as well as on my own writing journey). Thanks.

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