I am, as I may have mentioned a bazillion times before , not the fastest runner. I’m not even the second, third, or fourth fastest. And yet, when I’m out running and I come across another runner heading in the same direction, I get this insane urge to try and keep pace with them, to not fall behind.
Last year, I trailed behind this guy who must have been an extra from X-Men, with mutant speedy powers, because he flew ahead of me for MILES. I kept working and working to keep him in sight, and wound up with a stitch in my side and out of breath. He kicked to a fast finish and gave me a friendly nod and wave as he turned to walk and cool down. He was done, and I’d wasted my energy with three miles left to go.
This past Sunday I set out in the afternoon and in less than a mile, at the stop sign where I turn, I caught sight of a woman about my age jogging in my direction. I had to struggle to remind myself that her pace, no matter what it was, wasn’t mine. I listened for her footsteps behind me as I ran the next leg of my route, and when I crossed the road, I risked a look back.
She was gone, finished and headed into her house or running down some side street I’d passed. Our routes had never really been the same after all, aside from that brief moment. And yet I’d concentrated on hearing her footsteps instead of my own.
In writing, it’s the same. It’s easy sometimes to focus on what others have accomplished instead of on your own journey, and hard to watch as others speed by to land agents, book deals, movie rights. But your story is unique and there’s no timeline, no correct pace for success. All you can do is control what you can — your writing — and remember to breathe. The rest will come on its own.