Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Shifting gears or shifting focus

Thursday, March 31, 2016

My run up to Piazzale Michelangiolo the other day was a bit challenging because I hadnít done it in a few weeks, but today it ended up being even more challenging. The other day, I had to prepare myself mentally yet today I had to push my body more. My run was going well until I reached the long stretch of stone sidewalk in the middle of the incline. It was warmer this morning and the sun was shining on the right side of my body. I looked out at the valley for a split second and thought about walking instead to take in the view. was an excuse for me because I just didnít think I was going to make it to the curve in the road much less up to the piazzale (large piazza). But, thereís one thing I learned from running and that is when the going gets tough, you either shift gears or shift focus. Me, My Heart, and I :: Shifting gears or shifting focus

Usually when I run, I have a couple of landmarks on my path that help me know how far Iíve gone and also push me to continue running. On days, like today, when my body didnít seem strong enough, I have to create other landmarks that arenít so far away. Instead of looking at the curve in the road, which was only about 50 meters away, I shifted my focus to a tree about 5 meters away. When I looked up and didnít see the curve getting any closer, I focused only a meter from my feet.

I had to keep telling myself that I could make it. I continued pushing myself to just run one more step and then another. When I finally made it to the curve, I took in a deep breath and looked up to set another short-term goal for myself. The next goal was the campeggio (campground). I knew that if I made it to that point, I could sprint the rest of the way up to the piazzale. When I finally arrived up at the piazzale, I was almost surprised because just a few minutes earlier I was going to abandon my run completely.

Running has taught me that when things get tough, I have only two options: slow down or make smaller goals. Never, ever stop because once you lose momentum, itís incredibly difficult to start up again. When I ran a half-marathon a couple of years ago, I found my rhythm and was running free. Then, my mind kicked in and said that Iíd never make it another six kilometers. I wasnít going to stop and walk six kilometers to the finish line. I knew that I had to focus on something close, like a car or even a tree, instead of the kilometer signs in the distance to build up my confidence to continue.

In both running and writing when things get challenging, I focus on a smaller goal as a step toward the ultimate goal. I do the same now with my writing. Sometimes when I donít think I can achieve the ultimate goal, like completing a writing project, I concentrate on achieving smaller goals, like pieces of the project. I keep my ultimate goal in mind, but I concentrate instead on the sentence, the paragraph, the page, or the chapter that Iím working on.

A couple of weeks ago, I printed out the first draft of my novel and began editing it. It started out easy. I gleefully jotted down a few notes and made a few edits to the first thirty pages. However, when I went back to type up my edits I felt overwhelmed. It took much more time and effort than I initially thought. I stopped working on my novel until I realized that I should try to work chapter by chapter instead of thinking I could tackle the entire novel at one go. Sometimes that works great, but I know that if I feel a little disenchanted, I shift my focus on just one scene instead.

I feel like I have a better grasp on my novel now that Iím working on one chapter at a time, or even one scene at a time. I find it easier to break it down into smaller pieces of writing when I begin losing steam. I need to feel satisfied with the smaller accomplishments I make because if I focus only on the completion of another draft of my novel, I might not feel gratified for months.

When Iím running, I know that ultimately no matter I will make it to the piazzale if I focus on going one step at a time. And when Iím writing, I know that I will complete my project if I just focus on one chapter (or even one scene) at a time. Perseverance always leads to progress.

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