At 5:30 a.m. the sky is a diffuse peaches and cream color, with the sun still shrouded behind the craggy horizon. I’ve been awake just long enough to throw on workout shorts and a tee-shirt and drag myself across the street to the park. It’s Wednesday, so that means interval training—something I enjoy about as much soggy toast. The organizers of our semiweekly Meetup are chipper, bouncing on their heels in anticipation of the run. I slump against a light post and dig the sleep out of my eyes.
Quoting Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, one of the organizers announces to the group, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
I snicker and think, “What gift? Has he seen me run?”
It’s true. Running is not my forte. But as I turtle-jog over to the track, the profoundness of what he’s said sinks in. I’ll never be an Olympian, but that’s not the point. Sage advice is fluid. Those lean, gazelle-like athletes zipping past me are channeling Prefontaine’s words with every stride.
Me? I’m thinking about my novel.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been stuck revising the first eight chapters. Something is amiss. Something significant. But I can’t quite pinpoint what it is. I read and re-read. Work and rework. But like a runner struggling against a strong wind, I don’t seem to make much progress.
And I’m tempted to give up. To let okay be good enough.
But slogging around the track, my chest heaving, sweat pooling above my eyebrows, I realize okay is NOT good enough. I do have a gift and my gift is writing. And however large or small that gift may be, I owe it to my readers to squeeze everything I can from it. My story and those it honors deserve nothing but my best.
It’s 6:30 now. The sun is bright and the sky a canopy of vivid blue. In all, I’ve run four miles—some fast, some slow—but I finished. The group grabs a cup of coffee and we talk about the upcoming day. Steven Prefontaine’s words still hang in my mind. I’m going home to wrestle with my writing and I’m not going to quit until I’ve given it my best.