Five Reasons Why Writing a Book is Like Racing the Iditarod


Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight

The 42nd Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race kicked off in Willow, Alaska yesterday. I’ve always been enamored with the Last Great Race. The photos of exuberant dogs. The in-depth stories about these bold mushers, some multi-generational Iditarod racers … The repeat champions … There’s something about the dedication, the tradition, the strategy that catches my attention. What in the world compels a person to tackle this race repeatedly?

I’d rather experience natural childbirth half a dozen times before I’d sign up to race 1,ooo miles through the vast, wintery expanse of rural Alaska, just me and my best furry friends. Perhaps that’s what a dog musher thinks of someone who decides to write a book.

Hence, a blog post was born …

Five Reasons Why Writing A Book is Like Racing the Iditarod

1. Driven by an inexplicable, underlying passion: exercising one’s God-given talents and abilities is exhilarating. Look at those dog teams waiting in the chute to start the race. The only thing keeping them on the ground is the harness anchoring them to their team. They’ve trained for this event. It’s time to carry out what they were created for. Writing, in it’s finest moments, brings on the adrenaline rush that one often feels at the staring line of a huge race.

2. Buoyed by support and encouragement: I don’t know much about racing a team of dogs, but I can imagine it takes more than just the musher on the sled to make this 1,000 mile undertaking possible. Fans, family members, the kennels that raised the dogs … all are rooting for their favorite to cross the finish line in Nome, Alaska.  Writing happens as a solitary event, but it’s the encouraging words of friends, early readers, a mentor who is  a seasoned veteran in the business that keeps this rookie motivated to press on toward the goal of publication.

3. Facing insurmountable odds: frostbite, injured dogs and/or a lack of snow that creates treacherous racing conditions are just some of the odds facing a musher and the sled dog team during this epic journey. While a writer rarely battles the elements, he or she faces a much different nemesis: the one inside his or her own head. That’s right: the internal editor and World’s Largest Critic often yells the loudest. “This plot is lousy, formulaic at best. No one will ever read this, so why even bother. Nicholas Sparks probably doesn’t struggle like this.” On and on it goes, robbing the writer of the joy previously mentioned in point #1.

4. Long-distance sprints and mandatory layovers: every musher embarks on the race with a certain strategy in mind. Some push their teams in a long-distance sprint, hoping to get ahead of the pack. If there were 68 other teams of sled dogs at my back, I guess I’d be motivated to go a little harder, a little longer. Sometimes this backfires and the team fades quickly, finishing far behind the others. Every team is required to take a 24 hour rest at some point in the race. Writers have quite a few strategies for completing a novel, as well. Avoidance tactics are common.

Oh, I kid. Sort of.

Seriously, whether a writer sprints through a crummy first draft and feels the re-writing is where the magic happens, or writes a big chunk and edits the following day (my personal fave), a mandatory layover is necessary for success. Sometimes that means taking a day off, letting the ideas percolate for a bit. Taking care of ourselves nourishes our creative spirits and advances us toward the finish line.

5. The thrill of victory: while I don’t write in hopes of obtaining a brand new truck or a substantial cash prize (the prize for the Iditarod winner, in case you didn’t know), I do want the accolades and affirmation of seeing my name on the cover of a book I created. Mostly, I want to rest in the joy and satisfaction of a job well done.

So I can sit back down and do it all over again.

What in the world compels a person to tackle this race repeatedly?

For a behind-the-scenes view of this year’s Iditarod, check out this article in the Anchorage Daily News.

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