1. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Writing is starting to feel like all effort and little reward

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nightstar99, Jan 25, 2015.

    More years ago now than I care to mention I started writing a book, the idea for which struck me out of the blue. Prior to that I had written long rambling 'short' stories that went nowhere and my wife (who was my only reader) didn't like.

    I started hammering out my new book and my sole reader suddenly loved it. Then our son was born, my writing became sporadic, and suddenly he is almost 6 and my book is still not done. I work full time, where I travel overseas 15 weeks a year, and am studying for a professional qualification, but I for the last two years I am making a major effort and finding time to write somewhere in the gaps.

    God, it is slow going though with so little time and feeling utterly wiped out most days before I can even open the laptop. I hate missing out on time with my family though and could tell the missus was getting a bit fed up with never seeing me. My work had turned into a sprawling behemoth by that point and I decided there was little point trying to find a publisher for it as a first novel. So had already mentally earmarked a more first novel friendly project to begin on its completion.

    I then wrote a short story as she hadnt seen any of my work for years, and I wanted to prove to her that I could write, and wasnt just wasting my time sitting in our room alone.

    I told her about this and she advised me not to give up on my book, but I went ahead and wrote the story and she loved it.

    Being me, my 'short' story turned into 35,0000 words. It was open ended and she encouraged me to halt the book for a while and write the next part of the story. I could then turn it all into a short novel which would be more likely to find a market than my sprawline behemoth.

    Well this has turned into another effing long book itself. I am beginning to wonder if there will ever be any payoff. I can't stop writing, I just can't. If I dont finish a final draft of some sort of book by the time I am 40 (in eight months) I am going to hate myself. But good grief, the journey is hard when you don't know if there will ever be a payoff.

    Anyone else feel like this?
     
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  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a LOT of writers feel like this.

    Maybe you could redefine your definition of "payoff"? When you say "I can't stop writing, I just can't," what do you mean, exactly? You can't stop writing b/c you're determined to meet your goal, or you can't stop writing b/c there's a story in you that you need to get out?

    If it's the first? Maybe you should put the writing on hold, at least until the rest of your life calms down. You're still in pretty early stages of things, from the sound of it - working on your first draft? So there's editing after that, beta-readers and responding to their input, trying to find an agent/publisher or else going through all the effort of self-pubbing, and still there are no guaranteed rewards. Most books don't get published, and most self-published books don't sell much. It's not nice, but it's true.

    So if your definition of "payoff" means publishing a book and making money from it? It's quite possible you'll never get that.

    But if your definition of "payoff" could be adjusted to something more along the lines of having a hobby that allows you to be creative, express yourself, and that might even someday result in some extra income, then I think you could be getting your payoff already, if you let yourself relax about the end product and focus on enjoying the process.
     
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  3. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a bit confused. On one hand you say that you are churning out War and Peace sized books, and then you say it's hard. You may be trying to put too much in a single story. Have you actually visualised an ending for your book? A natural convergence point where all the major threads meet and tie up? I know some people just let the story go where it will, but in your case it seems to be more a long running soap than a self contained film.

    If you do have an end in mind, then go through what you've already written and see whether things are headed in that direction or just meandering on all over the map, growing and branching without end.
     
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  4. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    For as long as I was a kid I loved writing and thought I was going to be a writer. Suddenly I am nearly 40 and have never sent so much as one thing 'out there'. I am confident my work is good enough to be published, I dont think there is much point writing if you don't think that.

    I know thats not always enough though, so my goals aren't really financial in that sense. Its a life goal to finish something and then have a shot at marketing it. I work in marketing for my job so I am quite keen to try and sell something of my own rather than things for other people.

    I dont expect to be able to give up the day job from writing, but I do think I can supplement what I earn from it.
     
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  5. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Yes! I do have an ending in mind. Its the middles that keep expanding unfortunately.
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why do your middles keep expanding? (btw I now have the image of you getting really fat... lol)

    I have a friend who's constantly changing his plot - every other day he comes to me and tells me "I've got this great idea and it improves my book so much!" and I'm just like, when are you gonna settle and actually write, and finish it? You can't keep adding new ideas, esp ideas that don't develop from previous ones but rather they're ideas that require you to change a gazillion things.

    At some point, you have to decide what you want to tell, and what's the best way to tell it. Truth is, when an idea fits and it's totally awesome, you usually know. Keep everything you genuinely love and think is awesome, the parts that really speak to you, don't get rid of those parts whatever you do. If it takes more figuring out as to how to make it all fit, then take more time to figure it out. And everything else that don't fit within those parts you love, that don't work with it or enhance it, ditch it. Ditch them all. Just cus it's a good idea doesn't mean it's good for this particular book. You can always write another one with one of the ditched ideas.

    Ask yourself, what do you really want to tell? Why do things keep changing? Ask your wife who's read your work - does she have any suggestions that perhaps echo your own gut instincts already?
     
  7. MR.RD! Short Stories!
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    MR.RD! Short Stories! New Member

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    Tell me about it but I have been learning more about how to promote your book and site and about all the SEO stuff.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Is that your site? It needs a makeover. :)
     
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  9. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    Wow, I'm just like you only I have 3 kids 6 and under and I'm 41. I started my first story 6 years ago and later junked it after about 20,000 words. Started writing a new one, which I abandoned after about 10,000 words. Both really sucked. I returned to the first one but basically started fresh and am now at about 15,000 words.

    One thing I do is to plot out staycations where I can focus on the story, ideally when the kids are occupied. Also, I try to set aside set times to work on the story. That way I dont feel like I am infringing on family time. My progress is really slow but its the best I can do. With that in mind, get over the turning 40 deadline. Turning 40 is hard enough - I had a nasty little midlife crisis and know a few others who did as well. Dont give yourself a reason to think you are a failure. Remember its a secondary endeavor like golf is for most people. Sure you want to be great but... Thats my 2 cents. I'm interested if you have different ones.
     
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  10. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    With so many 40 year old writers with kids having a crisis I'm starting to think this a common condition!
    I'm also a 40 year old, 2 kids under 6 with a partner who believes in me and urges me to keep going, so I know what you are going through.

    Does it help to know that even when you're published this situation doesn't get any easier? Finding time for any endeavour that isn't the day-job is frustrating (cos you just know in your heart "you were meant to do this as a career") and I guess doubly frustrating if every short story becomes a novella, and every novella becomes "War and Peace". Writing stories, good stories, is like bringing up kids: totally unpredictable, sometimes infuriating, sometimes amazing, but a worthwhile endeavour. Don't worry about how long it takes to get a book written. Look at it this way; a writer might write a book a year but not get published for ten books. Or it might take you ten years to write one book that does get published, so it's worth it - that is if you measure success by being traditionally published.

    (From someone who is writing, has been published but is juggling family life, paying the bills in non-writing day-job and everything else, it's a bloody miracle that I get the time to write let alone finish anything. Just doing it, getting that time, is the reward.)

    We are writers - it's what we do. It's a privelledge to be doing it I guess, no matter how hard it is. Concentrate on just the writing, friend, and don't be distracted by the time you have or don't have. It can kill the creativity quicker than self-doubt. Neil Gaiman once told me that writers must believe in everything they do, that includes that one day they will be published no matter how obstinate that makes you.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I wonder if my friends @jannert and @EdFromNY have any encouraging words for the OP? We have some lovely and wise members on here older than all you lot, and they're still writing :)

    I myself am just about to have my first child, so I'm already wondering/worrying how I'm gonna make time for writing. I guess when the time comes, I'll just have to see what my routine is, how I settle into the rhythm of it all, and then make time for it.

    But I dunno, sometimes you gotta rethink what your priorities are, too. Yes, your writing/book is very important and definitely make time for it. But I'd venture a guess that I'd feel more of a failure if I messed up on my child's upbringing because I'm too busy writing, or like my friend who ended up with a divorce because she's too busy writing. There really are some things more valuable than your writing. It's important, but not as important as we think, perhaps. I'd admire someone far more for having been an awesome father and husband, than I would the man who neglected his family and became a bestseller.

    Either way you've got to sacrifice something, so it depends on which one you value more. As long as you keep writing, never give up and keep writing, you'll get there. It'll be slow - but if you're slow because you're sacrificing for your family, I think that's okay. Your reward, instead of a lovely book, is simply a lovely family, lovely home, a home where you feel supported and know your kids are happy and know your relationships are solid. That's pretty awesome, too, right?

    So carve out time for your writing, but don't measure your success by it. Measure your success by how well you've loved, especially when it comes to your family. And when you give up time for them, I'm sure they'd do the same for you and tell you to go buzz off into your study and get writing :p
     
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  12. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    If you always felt like a writer, it is probably what you are. I believe you can't escape your destiny.
    Keep on, be brave, be honest to yourself, and don't be a perfectionist about it. Just do your best to finish it. Having a faithful reader and someone who believes in you is more important than anything. If writing is what you're meant to do, you won't be able to escape it. You can leave it, of course, and try to forget about it, but try to imagine yourself never writing anything again. How would you feel? And don't worry about your age, and you definitely shouldn't hate yourself if you don't finish it by the time you are 40. Maybe your book takes a lifetime to write, but maybe this one book will be enough. :)
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I certainly didn't have children when I started writing (still don't!) nor was I studying for a degree and traveling the world. But I am married and was working full time when I started writing. I needed to fit writing in around my other obligations. (I was 48 years old when I started.)

    I think it's great that you're still wanting to write. I wouldn't beat myself up about your 'lack of progress' if I were you. It sounds to me as if you are making progress, albeit sporadically and not as fast as you'd like.

    What if you arranged a particular time during the week that is YOUR time to write? It doesn't have to be a long period, maybe only an hour or two. But your family needs to respect that time, and not make demands on it.

    You might find it easy to do if you make yourself get up an hour or two earlier than normal ...maybe only one day per week, or just on weekends, or whatever suits you best. If you can get up before your family does, then you won't be encroaching on your time with them, and you won't be pestered during that time either. I found getting up at around 4am worked beautifully for me. I was able to get several hours of writing in before going off to work, and I found my mind was settled and ready to be creative after a good night's sleep. Plus ...and this was a huge bonus ...nobody phoned me or pestered me during that period. It was MINE. Nice quiet house, no traffic noise, etc.

    If you set up a time that is yours, it will give you something to look forward to. You want to do this, so allow yourself to do this. You can't always put everybody else's needs before your own and constantly drop your writing time down to what's convenient for everybody else. Stake your claim on that time. It's not as if you're spending 6 hours a day every day on your writing. (However attractive that may seem!) A couple of hours a week is a perfectly reasonable request to make of your family. It will refresh you, and give you something to look forward to every week.

    The good thing is, you'll find you'll be thinking about your writing in odd moments throughout the week, and many story problems will resolve themselves before you ever sit down at the computer. Your mind will be ready for 'your time,' and you can get straight in.

    Many many many many writers balance their time between jobs, family, social obligations and writing. It's just a matter of finding a way to do this that works for you. AND THEN DON'T FEEL GUILTY about doing it!

    And good luck.

    .....................

    And regarding 'payoff?' Well that will happen eventually, as long as you keep working away with a view to finishing (however 'big' the project gets) and don't go hareing off in all directions starting new stuff and never finishing it. Once you have a finished first draft, then you can get to work on editing it for publication.

    The good news is that editing can be done in shorter bursts, and it's easier to fit it into a peripatetic schedule. Editing is a different exercise from creation. It doesn't require the same kind of immersion that the original writing did. In fact, immersion is a mistake while editing. You need to develop a critical eye, and a bit of distance helps as well. So your 'busy schedule' might be a bonus at that point.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2015
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  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This might be a YMMV situation - for me, the opposite is true.

    I suppose it may depend on the sort of editing you're doing, but anything substantive, for me, requires big blocks of time. I can sit down and scratch out 500 words in half an hour when I'm writing, but when I'm editing I need to keep a picture of the whole book in my head and understand how all the different parts fit together and how making a change in place A may affect the situation in places B and C, and... yikes. It's pretty intense.

    If the editing is just the looking-for-typos type, I totally agree that it can be done with only superficial engagement. But anything more in-depth than that, for me? WAY more immersive than writing.
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I agree with you to a certain extent. However, I'm old-fashioned enough to print off my manuscript, and I do a lot of editing in the margins. I can do this in snatches. And as far as figuring out how one situation affects another, I do that in my head. I find that achieving distance from the writing is important, actually. If I get too caught up in the story again, I find I end up not seeing the forest for the trees. Same as the first time I wrote it.
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Just out of curiosity: are you writing for the money, or because you enjoy it? Maybe you're just burnt out and need to take a long break from the writing? That happens. Seems to me you still have that passion in you, it just needs some time to sleep. And even if you never go back to writing, that's okay as well. Your family will love you whether or not you write and that is very special.

    But it looks like you just need to take a break from the writing for a bit. Put it away, it's not going anywhere. That said, everyone else pretty much covered it. :p
     
  17. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Making money off of writing isn't easy, but the thing is why are you writing if you don't enjoy it?

    I personally feel if you're writing the only person you should be writing for is yourself and if anyone else likes your writing that's great. I mean if you can't enjoy writing for yourself what's the point? If you can't enjoy your own writing then why should anyone else?
     
  18. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, we do like to make our books somewhat marketable. I mean, would you want to read a book about space-faring llamas who can control all the elements ala Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra? ;)
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    When I was in my senior year of college, I had a plan. I would go to grad school and get my doctorate and teach on the college level. I'd have plenty of time to write the epic historical novel that was already bubbling inside me. I graduated and took a job in insurance (which I hated) to pay the bills (including tuition) and got married. Got my masters and halfway through the doctorate when I realized the college faculties were downsizing. Shifted to accounting, which meant 5 more years of school. Writing would have to wait. Had two kids. Writing would have to wait. Both kids turned out to be developmentally disabled. Writing would have to be advocacy.

    But after writing a load of op-eds, letters to the editor and presentations to legislators, I started making time for what turned out to be my first novel. It started as the modern segment of my epic historical, but was soon too long to be a segment of anything. So, it took on a life of its own. When I finished, it was over 400,000 words. I edited it down until I realized that I had learned all it had to teach me. Then I started something new. Twenty years later, I have finally written a historical (not my epic historical, which is still waiting). I will be querying shortly. I will also be retiring from my tax accounting career shortly.

    So, my first question is pretty much @Link the Writer's, but I'll phrase it a bit more broadly: what's your goal in writing? One can read your question about "payoff" several ways. Is your goal publication? Is it to have something that you would like to think was publishable even if you don't actually do it? Are you writing just for your own enjoyment, but just want to improve the quality of the product? And my second question is: Are you concerned about the lack of time to devote to writing, or your perceived lack of improvement in the quality of the writing?

    Time is a problem, no question. I solved mine by going to bed later than my wife and children and staying up and writing. Also, stealing the odd hour here and there. Sometimes, I would take days off just so I could write (I once took an entire week off for writing - sheer heaven!), and since my job required me to travel a few times a year, I always took a laptop with me for writing.

    As for quality, it appears to me that you are a "pantser" - you pick a starting point and write wherever the story takes you. In this way, one can have the reader's experience of discovery as the story unfolds from your imagination. That's how I wound up with a 400,000 word first draft (well, there were other problems, too). My next three attempts were all written the same way. They were shorter, and somewhat better in quality, but I think my work took a quantum leap forward when I started with a rough outline, understood generally where I was going to end up and how I was going to get there. At the very least, I would suggest not starting out assuming you are writing a short story or even a novella. Call it what it is and go after it. Because it looks to me as if you like writing novel-length fiction. Starting out with that as your goal might help you focus your planning and your progress.

    Also, when you read, keep an eye out for how your favorite writers do things - in your case, I'd focus on structure and development of the story. Maybe even do a chapter outline a beloved novel and see how yours compares.
     
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  20. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Only if they're wearing hats :3
     
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  21. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Life will always be busy, and something will have to be sacrificed to fit in time to write, and all that's associated with it. There are writers that are far busier than me, and I teach, teach e-course work, am a member of the village council, have a family, active in my church and much more. Plus I write.

    And it's true, that in the end, there is no guarantee of success with a work (short story, novella, novel or epic) once it's finished (however you want to define success).

    You have to prioritize, where writing might not be at the top of the list, but it has to be a priority to have any hope of progress and potential success. This is where you have to weigh your obligations and desires, and find a place where you and your family can be in balance, so to speak.

    I wish you luck and hope you're able to press forward, finishing those stories and novellas and novels. When you say 35,000 words, 10 or 15 years ago, that would be doom, never finding a home for something like that (or next to impossible). Now, it's much more likely, and with the rise of self publishing, it can be published (whether it'll be read is another question--one better suited for another thread, of which there are many on the topic).
     
  22. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    No insult intended, nor do I mean to sound harsh…but welcome to the world where few make any money writing a book. Most are not of the quality needed to sell. Often first time writers have a desire to write a book, but do not spend the needed time learning how to write a story. This is not to say you should throw you work away…but, if you are going to sell your story, bring it up to par. Spend time learning how to make your story as it should be.
     
  23. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Honestly, my goal is to write a couple of books that I believe in my own heart are as good as I can make them, then give it my best shot at getting them an audience somewhere.

    That's it really. I don't have any expectations beyond that because that is all that is in my control. The thing is, achieving this - apparently humble aim - is a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be!
     
  24. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Hmm. I'm not sure. Writing is hard work, its supposed to be hard work. And not all hard work is enjoyable. If you didn't have some goal in mind why would you do it?

    My friend runs marathons and has done since he was a teenager. I have no idea why, from the outside looking in it looks like a lot of effort for no reward. But he obviously finds something at 5am before work, running in the dark and rain, whether it's actually 'enjoyment' or reaching a goal though.
     
  25. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I have been oddly preoccupied with other things rather than writing with a deadline approaching...
    I did write.. just much slower than I care to admit.
    Time to get back on the horse.
     

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