The Clash at the 23rd Mile

and the winner isMarathon runners hit a wall of physical failure near the end of the race. The will may be strong, but the human body has limits, and one of them arises at about 23 miles of constant forward movement. Issues with glucose and other chemicals I don’t know the names of shut the legs off, make the arms refuse, turn the trunk to oatmeal.

I don’t know if it’s that my allergies are especially bad (curse you, California plant life!) or the broader concept of approaching the senior discount at the movie theater, but I’m tired. We have 2,152 miles to get home, and I’m tired. Today we drive from Newport Beach to Surprise, Arizona. Not a bad day for us. Six hours door to door. We’ve done 16 at times. But I’m tired. I’d stay right here except that I’m 2,152 miles from home. I keep hearing The Clash doing Should I Stay or Should I Go? except the answer is obvious.

Nearing the end. That’s one of the times Resistance is strongest. Three chapters, three paragraphs from the end of your story, you’ll hit a wall. Not physical, as it is with marathoners, but emotional. You’ll find eleventy-leven reasons to stop, eleventy-leven distractions, eleventy-leven flaws that make the worthless drivel you’ve spewed a waste of ink to finish.

But you’re not home, and you can’t stay there. Eventually, you have to put those last few words on the page, or some bit of you will hover eternally in the place that is “not home” and you will feel it.

Here’s a tip from the logic pool: if you can write the first 98.6% of something, if it was worth writing the first 98.6% of something, write the rest. Don’t second-guess or rethink it. Decide later whether it’s trash or treasure. But finish it.

You have to make it home. Sure, it’s not a quest if it doesn’t cost your life. But you’re the hero of your life, and in the very best stories, the hero, against logic and the will of the scriptwriters, makes it home alive.

I’m spent, but somehow, I’ll make it home. I might even meet some of you along the way.

And who knows? Tomorrow, I might be younger than I am today. I know I’ll be better looking. And probably smarter.

Let’s go home, eh?

4 thoughts on “The Clash at the 23rd Mile

  1. “Decide later whether it’s trash or treasure. But finish it.” Good stuff, Joel. I’m sure you started out the day younger, smarter and better looking than yesterday. (Even two out of three ain’t bad.)

    Travel well, and bring those heroes home.

  2. Gave my hair a teensy trim which did wonders for the appearance. Spent the whole day with a couple good looking women whose average age was about half mine. Clearly, it worked.

    I am on a mission to cancel projects before I start rather than 98.6% of the way in. Painful lesson learned.

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