Friday, August 17, 2012

The Burn

You're almost done...
Jersey Town Crit 09 (97)
By Jersey Tourism
[CC-BY-2.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

You set out your workout goal -- twenty miles on the bike. You've never done twenty. But las time you got to seventeen. What's three more?

You pass your previous mark of seventeen and something happens. Your legs gain forty pounds in a matter of seconds. You begin to slow. Each breath you take hurts a bit more. You begin to doubt and the wind suddenly picks up--slamming you in the face.

You look at your distance watch... 17.2 Miles. It's impossible. You'll never make it. And then, the fire starts. The burn. That sensation that is universally understood but also misunderstood.

The breakthrough is on the other side of that burn. That burn is your body telling you to stop. That you've done enough. You're fine. Just stop.

But if you continue, if you press on, if you push through the tears, your body transforms. And so do you.

Anyone can exercise, just like anyone can write. But only those who stick through the hard times, the doubts, the BURN, will they come out better.

Only the author knows if they took a shortcut. If they stopped before the magic happened. Next time your inner voice tells you to stop, that the sentence is good enough, that the motivation is good, that the scene is memorable enough, stop for a moment. Do you feel that burn? Do you see the fear that stops you?

If something feels wrong, or weak, or incomplete, I can guarantee that you are right. Push through that burn. What comes out on the other side will be worth the pain. Feel the burn. It means something magical is about to happen.

Have you ever fought through and discovered something new about your story? About yourself?

Fight the good fight!


  1. I love this metaphor, Ara. I can't think of a specific example with my writing right now, but I've definitely experienced this with exercise. Especially when I tried my first triathlon.

    Hope you're doing well!

    1. I can barely spell triathlon, much less imagine participating in one! Good to have you back. And I am so happy for you on the release of your "Scrivener for Dummies."

  2. What a fantastic metaphor, Ara. Like Gwen, I can't think of a specific example at the moment, but you're absolutely right about pushing yourself. More times than not, the best gems come out of work that you completed on the other side of the burn.

    1. Thanks, Ava! I am told that unimaginable pressure creates the diamond. It seems to me that "good" is a red flag for a writer. Pushing ones limits, redefining new limits, and then breaking those are the recipe for great.

  3. All so true, Ara. And one of the hardest parts of being in the burn times is sometimes knowing that you're there and exactly what's wrong. It's amazing to me how blind I can be to my own work sometimes and how time and distance are needed before I can really look at it through fresh eyes to even see and recognize the problems that I must push my way through!

    1. Fantastic point, Susan. Objectivity, though very hard to have on your own work, is a critical component. Time and distance will help you see or feel that "work" is needed. And as long as we don't settle, and work through it--feel that burn, the breakthrough is waiting to be discovered.


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