Me and my novel, on a writing vacation: guest post by Cinthia Ritchie


I run up Flattop with my dog, late in the evening when the sun is setting and the air is filled with that mystery that comes right before dusk. Running up the steep little incline to Blueberry Hill, around the bend and over to the trail leading up to the saddle. The wind so strong I can barely stay on the trail.

At the top the wind is so fierce and loud that I struggle to remain upright. Running back down in the near-darkness, I feel strong and rugged and completely invincible.

Two hours later I’m squatting in the dry bathtub sobbing over my novel. I can’t get the tone right, or the dialogue or the pacing, for that matter. Nothing works. The book is a mess. I am a complete and total failure.


Early afternoon, I tie on my running shoes and hit the trails, running through woods path and over tree roots and through mud and finally, up the long and torturous hill, my body leaning forward, my breath gasping, my legs screaming. When I get back to the trailhead 10 miles later, I am sweaty and muddy. I can’t stop smiling.

“My life is perfect,” I sing out to the dog on the way home.

Two hours later, Chapter Three has me reduced to sputtering sissy girl. I eat chocolate and weep into a dirty dishtowel. I weep and write, weep and write until I settle into a rhythm: Type, type, type, wipe my nose. Type, type, type, wipe my nose. This continues until I collapse in exhausted heap in the middle of the living room floor right before daylight.


Today’s run doesn’t go well. I cover part of the upcoming half-marathon route. I hate running pavement, and my MP3 player shorts out from the rain and plays the same song, over and over. I slog through seven miles and call it a day.

Later, I breeze through the rest of Chapter Three’s edits and rewrite three scenes. My fingers fly, my mind soars. By 3 a.m., I’m dancing around the living room with the cat clawing my chest. I am gloriously and completely happy.

“I’m going to make it,” I sing as the cat scratches my face. “I’m truly and seriously going to make it.”

I fall asleep with my head plopped on my keyboard. During my sleep I somehow write: hhhhkkkoooooooooooounkhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I peer at this in the semi-light wondering what it means, this spontaneous message from my dream self.


Running rest day! I write all day, from morning through most of the night.


I weep. I dance. I curse. I write. I read in the bathtub. I take a short nap. I cry again. Laugh. Oh, I am so clever!

It is an almost perfect day.


I write all day and meet up with my running group late afternoon for seven slow miles. I’m stuck in my novel again and wear a shirt I particularly hate, an orange color that gives my skin the pallor of a prisoner. The pace is light and I let my head float and follow the legs of these women while the dogs charge the creek and the trees flash past and we stop to eat raspberries.

Home again, I sit down in my sweaty clothes and write for hours. By midnight, I’m almost finished with Chapter Four. I’m on a roll, I can’t stop. I fall asleep a few hours later in the bathtub, wake to tepid water and panic: What if I had drowned before my novel was published?”
I dry off, sink down between dirty sheets. Tomorrow I’ll do laundry. The dishes, the vacuuming, pay the bills. I’ll run five miles, maybe buy new shorts for the half-marathon. I close my eyes, imagining myself racing, almost two hours of pain but oh, so many words flying through my head to fill up the time.

Cinthia Ritchie, our August featured guest-blogger, is madly struggling to finish the rewrites on her first novel, “The Dirty Diaries,” due out from Grand Central Books early next year. The worse she writes, the more she runs. She is presently training for a marathon.

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