In Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing,” King compares the process of crafting long works of fiction to “crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub.” Easy for him to say, considering his bathtub is equipped with a high-performance engine. To most people, however — myself included — even the thought of completing a single manuscript is a far-fetched dream. And that’s a far cry from 55 novels.
Still, this seemingly obscure King analogy can be applied to the persistence of novelists and mere mortals alike.
We all have our own “Atlantic Oceans” — those obstacles we hope to one day traverse, but feel directionless as we work toward them. The new year seems like the perfect time to give these tasks a shot. But more often than not, we fail.
For most of my life, I felt like I was paddling with my fingers across the Strait of Physical Activity — miles and miles away from the Ocean of Accomplished Athletes. My 2014 resolution was to finally pick up the pace and make exercise a regular activity.
My inherent lack of athletic ability became obvious years ago. After trying field hockey my freshman year, I earned a reputation as “the girl who ran the wrong direction on the field.” One morning, my P.E. teacher, upon observing how none of my badminton whacks flew even remotely in the direction of the net, approached me with a look of concern, asking, “Are you sure you’re on the field hockey team?”
Fast-forward a year later. My new P.E. teacher was far less amused by my spaghetti arms — this time, in my attempts at serving a volleyball. The only high school class I legitimately feared failing was 10th grade P.E., since my teacher thought it was fair to grade aimless 10th-graders based on the quality of their athletic performance rather than the brunt of their effort. Needless to say, it was torture.
It was hard enough trying not to flinch at the burn of my bruised forearms whenever a volleyball was pelted in my direction. During my final evaluative test, the pain was only exacerbated as I was made a laughing stock in front of all my classmates. Red-faced and bleary-eyed, I gave it my best effort, but ended up scoring below a 50 percent.
Years later, in college, I found myself signing up to take a weight training class.
Though my friends were shocked, I would never have been able to accomplish my fitness goal if I hadn’t signed up for this class. I tried to self-motivate during the previous spring semester, but I grew frustrated when I made no progress. I realized my resolution was too broad, and could only be reached by taking careful baby steps a day at a time.
Ultimately, I did not force myself out of bed at 7 a.m. for three months straight because it suited me. I did not struggle for weeks to learn proper bench press technique because I dreamed of entering a lifting competition. I did not complete my weight training class because I was driven by a passion for exercise. I did it because it was the only way I could rev up my bathtub.
Throughout the semester, I have accrued more stamina and become much stronger than I would have ever imagined myself to be. What once seemed like an unobtainable goal is now something I have control over. The key to reaching this point was not setting long-term goals or counting how many more miles of ocean lay ahead of me, but having discipline.
A lack of immediate gratification had been standing in my way of getting in shape, so to compensate for that I searched for alternative forms of positive reinforcement through my class. Encouraged along the way, my baby steps were validated and I grew more inclined to keep pushing on — or until I actually started to enjoy myself.
If the girl who almost failed P.E. class in high school now religiously makes time to go to the gym, what resolution can’t be accomplished?