It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Writers, especially when they don’t see immediate success, often get told “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!” and this statement often leads to a discussion at least as heated as whether quality and speed are mutually exclusive or whether there needs to be one or two spaces after a full stop (Note: it’s ONE space, people!)

Anyway, the marathon vs sprint analogy is quite interesting.

What people often seem to *think* “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” means it that you can do things at a plodding pace and short term failures don’t really matter in the long run, and that it’s all about some nebulous future goal.

Well you know what?

These people couldn’t be more wrong!

For one, have you ever seen a marathon runner PLODDING? Sure it might look like it from the outside, but the runner is going at the maximum speed. When there is a hill, the runner will put in extra effort to keep pace, and at the end, the runner will sprint. In the long term, it matters a lot whether the runner takes the corners wide or makes them tight, or if the runner needs to go for a leak, time spent will be kept to the absolute minimum.

Marathon runners don’t plod. They don’t shuffle. They don’t look at the scenery and they don’t casually chat to other runners. They don’t think “hey, I’m tired now, let’s do the rest of this race tomorrow”.

THAT is the meaning of “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

As a writer, you keep going at a pace that you know you can sustain long-term. You speed up the hills. You go for little sprints, Tour de France-like, because there are little temporary rewards that will make you achieve your goal more quickly. And you don’t slack off and keep going until the job is done.

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