The Creative Life – Junk Miles
Note: Here’s something I wrote for my newsletter in 2018. Why am I mentioning when I wrote it? Because if you write something that you’re proud of, you can use it again and again and again… Interested in reprinting this article in your newsletter? Reach out. Let’s talk terms.
Years ago I walked a half-marathon. I was working with a long-distance runner at the time and I figured it would be a good challenge because it was a goal that I could not do at the moment. While researching my big goal I subscribed to Runners’ World magazine. I spent my extra moments reading article after article on line. I visualized me smiling as I crossed the finish line.
During this time I ran across the concept of junk miles. As someone training for a long-distance event, you have a day where you put in your miles which you steadily increase to train for the event. Junk miles are miles that you run (or in my case walk) because it’s on the schedule. You are not really in tune with the work out. You look at the schedule – the training schedule says 5 miles, you just put in your 5 miles without consciously working on your form or paying attention. It’s sleepwalking but getting the credit for being at the job.
What has this got to do with writing? First, a disclaimer: I love National Novel Writing Month. It was the month that eased me back into writing in a wonderful low-pressure way. Yes, I wound up sending in zombies for my first couple of years to meet the 50,000-word monthly goal. I did, however, find a writing group, learn I could write 50,000 words in a month if I needed to and nailed down some of the processes that I use today.
That said, I also learned to write junk words. The insistence on words with word wars and the reliance of word counts has not served me well. I noticed this because I have published enough stories to start to see a pattern. Not one of my published stories was written with the stream-of-conscious, just-get-the-thing-down advice of NaNoWriMo. The first drafts of the stories that eventually sold were intentional. I was fully in the story, immersed in it. I received feedback from first readers about what worked and what didn’t and made changes, but none of the stories came from a place of just getting an arbitrary word count done that day.
I have to state again, this is just what I’ve noticed for me. Your process may be different. When I put my full attention on writing, however, I have noticed the first drafts are cleaner and clearer. I may not get as many words in a writing session, but I have to edit less going on.
The consensus on junk miles, unsurprisingly, is that they’re a waste of time. When you show up to do the work, show up to do the doggone work.
Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson