BLOGGER: MARCI SEITHER
CROSS-TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
I will never forget the day my sister talked me into signing up for the Donner Lake Sprint Triathlon. It was 13 years ago and I didn’t really take into consideration all that would be required.
I was a certified lifeguard and had taught swim lessons for several years. Confident that, despite the high elevation and frigid snow fed temperature of the lake, I would be okay with the swim part of the event.
The bike and run sections were going to be a challenge for me. A serious challenge.
After moving to the countryside when I was in 3rd grade, we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes down the thin tar and gravel road that stretched beyond our short driveway. We did a lot of other activities, but the bikes were soon stored under the deck, which is where they stayed until they became antiques.
I borrowed a bike to start training for the triathlon. It was the first time I rode anything with two wheels that didn’t have a banana seat and long handle bars.
I remember making the long climb up a hill near our home. My legs felt like Jell-O. Gasping for air, I took a long drink from my water container, only to have it come out my nose. Someone pulled to the shoulder to see if I needed medical assistance. I waved them off and, in-between gasps, reassured them I was totally fine. I wondered if I could get a refund if I backed out of the race.
A few days later, I contemplated the run and what it was going to take to actually complete the event.
I figured if I needed to “Stop-Drop-and Roll” the last half mile or so, I would still get the T-shirt, so I kept going.
I spent the summer training, getting up early in the morning before the kids got out of bed, and charting out my progress each week. Muscles I didn’t even know I had began to ache less and less.
By the middle of Summer, I was able to ride up the steep hill without stopping. My swim time increased. I felt healthy and stronger than I had in several years.
The weekend of the race came. I carefully packed my gear and headed to Donner Lake. When we arrived at the staging area, the volunteers handed us our race numbers and marked our age on the back of our calves in black permanent marker. Each age group started at different times. Some people obviously had trained for much longer and with more intensity than I had, but I was just there to prove to myself that I could make it across the finish line.
When the staring gun popped, it was time to put my training to the test. I don’t remember much about the swim, or even about the run, but the one thing I will never forget is when, after several miles of grueling straight up the mountain switchbacks, I reached the lookout where we turned around. The sight of Donner Lake below, sparkling like a million diamonds under the morning sun, was my ah-ha moment.
“If I can do this…” I felt a renewing of energy. “Who knows what else I can do.”
It wasn’t about the race, or the T-shirt, it was about challenging myself to stretch beyond my comfort zone to a place I had never imagined.
The same is true with writing. We might be equipped in one area and focus all of our energy on that one aspect of the craft, but what would happen if you cross-trained your brain?
I do it all the time and I think it has made me a better writer article writer. Taking classes on fiction, screen writing, speaking, and even writing for children have been beneficial in being able to hear, write, and market my work better than if I had only focused on my original skill.
I learned how to weave the fiction technique of “show-don’t-tell” into my articles. I learned to write with more creative imagery through poetry. I understood scenes and movement because of scriptwriting.
Because I love seeing how far I can take a project with what I have learned, I have ended up with a few published works outside of my specific focus of article writing. Does that mean I am genre jumping? No. It means that I love seeing a project through to the end and watching it take flight whether it is shared with only a few friends, or a few hundred kids.
As a Christian writer, it is a comfort, and an added discipline, to put all of our work into the Lord’s hands. For me, I think of the passage in John, where Jesus feeds the multitude. There was a boy who had a few barley loaves and a couple of fish. Not a huge lunch by any means, but he gave it to the Lord anyway. After everyone was fed, the Lord told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
I have heard people say that going to a conference without having something to pitch might be a waste of time, or that they have already taken the track in their area of interest.
“Great!” I respond. “That means you are more open to learning something new. Something that might stretch you beyond what you would normally consider and work part of your brain that hasn’t been used for a while.”
It is not genre jumping to cross-train your brain. It is taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen your writing skills. To become better at the craft and calling you have as a writer. To trust that when you take your meager offering and put it into the Lord’s hands, he will gather what is left and not allow anything to be wasted.
Cross-training your brain helps to better equip you in your area of focus. It gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you think in ways that might feel as awkward as getting back on a bike that doesn’t have a banana seat.
Like making it to the top of that mountain on that crisp morning, it might take all you have to prove to yourself that you can do the unimaginable.
Side note-I have been in the Mount Hermon gift store, they have a variety of awesome apparel. If you make it to the end of the conference, treat yourself and get the shirt.
$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!