Samoa Perimeter Relay

How to Become a Writer.

As a writer who writes too many different things all the time – I am often asked: “Where do you find the time and the drive to write? How do you overcome writer’s ‘block’?” Such questions are a puzzle to me and so my answer is 105km and 14 hrs long…

A few years ago, I had a crazy idea. I wanted to put together a women’s team and run in a 105km relay that went around the main island of Samoa. It was crazy because at the time I couldn’t even run around the parking lot without stopping to gasp for breath. But I was determined. I convinced some other moms to be crazy with me and we started training.

For 5 days a week over three months, we would meet at the crack of dawn to go for a 5k run. I use the term ‘run’ very loosely since, at first, we did more of a shuffle, which then accelerated to become a waddle, which then after a few weeks, became a jiggly, joggly sort of jog. Did I enjoy it? Hell no. I hated every minute of it. Many times, I only went because it was my turn to drive and pick the team up. Other times, I only went because the rest of the team was honking their car horn outside, waiting to pick me up.

But after 6 weeks, something strange happened. (No, I didn’t transform into a stunning athletic muscle machine. I wish.) I found myself waking up early on Saturday mornings…wanting to go for a run, itching and edgy for a run. Huh? By Wk 9, I was going for a run TWICE A DAY. And when I got the flu and couldn’t train for a week? I was raving mad. As if someone had bought all the Diet Coke on the island, leaving me with nothing but coconuts to drink. By the time the Perimeter Relay came around, I was running twice a day, sometimes 6 days a week. But more significantly, the running had become as essential to me as eating. Sleeping. Brushing my teeth. I wouldn’t dream of going a work-day without it. It took our team 14 hours to complete the relay, running from 2am to 5pm the next afternoon. Many times during that relay, I wanted to puke and die. But many times, I was also running on an exhilarating high as I gloried in feeling like – I could run forever and never stop.

Writing is just like that. If you want to BE a writer, you don’t ‘find time’ in your busy schedule to write. You make time. You start with a goal. A crazy dream. ‘I want to write a romance. A best-selling thriller. A children’s book. A memoir about my grandmother…’ You set aside a time and a place every day that you are going to write. You start off small. Shuffling, waddling baby steps to get you building the consistent writing habit. You write anything and everything. Start a journal. A family newsletter. Write down those bedtime stories you tell your kids. Record your family history. Write long, chatty letters to friends. Start a blog AND THEN STICK TO IT. The best thing I ever did for my writing career was to start a blog – it forced me to assert and accept responsibility for my writing. Your blog readers can be like that relay team of runners who force you to stick to your crazy dream by bugging you every day for your latest piece of writing. At first, it will be hard. You will probably hate it. Complain. Whinge and whine looking for excuses NOT to write. But if you keep at it, doggedly, persistently – you will hit that point where you can’t imagine a day, a moment, without writing. When you’re not writing, you will be thinking about it. If you have an unruly mob of children like me, you will dread the weekends because it means less writing time. ( And don’t even get me started on the horror of school holidays…aaargh!) You will write because you feel like you will die if you don’t. You will write because you are a writer. And that’s what writers do.

My 105km relay showed me that crazy, impossible dreams are possible.

A Very Sad Footnote to this Writing Story: Since the relay, my first book of narrative non-fiction, funded by the Australian government, ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ was launched in 2010. I published four books in my Young Adult series, Telesa.  My collection of short fiction won the USP Press Fiction Prize. My story ‘The Beast that Came from the Sea’ was professionally recorded for radio by the Commonwealth Foundation and broadcast in 54 countries. I have written numerous children’s stories that are published in the NZ School Reading Curriculum. All while being the slave mother to five fabulous children. However, I have not been running anywhere. Not even in the parking lot. And it shows…



Children are Dream-Killers

One woman. Running over 104km of scorching road…over jagged mountains and through expansive rainforest…can she endure? Can she summon the strength and will to battle onward?  (cue kickbutt powerful theme music here)

Can you see it? Can you hear it? Wouldn’t it be awesome?!

Last weekend, I went to support a friend of ours as he dared the impossible and ran 104km from one side of the main island in Samoa, to the other. Usually, the Samoa Perimeter Relay involves a team effort of six runners who pass a baton and take turns to traverse the full distance, each running 5k, four times. I’ve done the relay twice in my life and each time, as I have hobbled and staggered up Le Mafa Pass and been chased by rabid dogs,  I have cursed the idiot who organized our team and conned five other women into thinking, “Wouldn’t this be soooo much fun?!”  (That idiots name is Lani. Stupid woman…)

So I know how loooong that distance can be and how hot the Samoan sun can get when you’ve been on the road for far too long. Which is why I was in awe of Aunese Cureen (Setefano Mika) as he ran the entire distance solo. It took him 14 hours. At the finish line, he was greeted by 60+ year old Mark Moors who had succeeded in doing the same feat a year previously. It was an awe-inspiring sight to see these two warriors together.

Which got me thinking…WOULDNT IT BE SOOOO COOL IF A SAMOAN WOMAN DID THE 104KM SOLO? Like, super so cool? And like…(you just know where I’m going with this, don’t you?!)

Wouldn’t it be extra super so cool if that woman was ME? And heck, maybe I could even con persuade some fabulous woman warriors to do the entire distance with me? And it could be this this amazingly fabulous Woman Warrior thang?

I’m not stupid though, I didn’t think I would RUN the whole thing. No, I was much more sensible and imagined I would WALK the whole thing. Based on my estimations, it would take me a hairs-breadth under 24 hours to do it. I would walk from sun-down to the next day’s sun-down. What a glorious adventure it would be!

It was an exhilarating vision. I could hear the thundering theme music playing to a crescendo. (Maybe Chariots of Fire? Or the Star Wars theme song?) I could see me nobly traversing the isolated road…all trim and toned with rippling sweaty musculature ( because of course, I would train heaps beforehand and transform into this stunning athletic vision of fitness) I would listen to audio books on my iPod as I power walked…nothing trashy like paranormal romance set in Samoa, heck no. I would intone recitals of Shakespearean rhapsody. And Homer’s Illiad. In Latin. (Or Greek. Whatever the damn Iliad is written in.) When I reached the highest point of Le Mafa Pass, I would pause to survey the vista of wild beauty before me, I would be at one with nature. And the universe. And the stars. I am the road, the air, the earth…and the earth is me.

Oh yes, it was a stirring, awe-inspiring vision indeed.

And then I told my family.

The Hot Man loved me enough to make encouraging noises. “Ummm…anything is possible. Umm…I’m sure if you train hard enough, you can do it.”

But Big Son said, “Are you crazy? You’re going to die.”

And Big Daughter said, “But mum, you don’t even walk to the grocery store up the road, how are you supposed to walk for 104km?”

Then the Hot Man changed his tune. He called on his vast athlete experience to suggest that I try for ‘something less impossible…something more in your reach.”

Like what?

“Do a 5k fun-run,” they said.

“But I don’t want to do itsy-bitsy things that every body does!” I whined. “I want to do the IMPOSSIBLE. With the Star Wars soundtrack. A pathetic little 5k is only worthy of a Wiggles song.”

The family didn’t share my resounding vision of earth-shattering achievement. No, they just kept going, killing my dreams. Ripping them to shreds. “You sit at your desk allll day and only walk to the fridge for food. You cant just up and decide you want to run 104km. Or even walk 104km…You’re going to collapse and die out there. We’re not going to support this. You’re our mum and we don’t want you to DIE on the road in a sweaty, convulsing heap…That’s the stupidest thing we’ve ever heard, it’s like a person who’s never even climbed 30min hike to RLS grave before, but you want to start your climbing career by going up Mt Everest. So stupid!!!”

It didn’t matter that I was being sensible and only wanted to WALK 104km. It didn’t matter that I have one year to prepare. Or that I was going to find some other brave, Star Wars theme music warrior women to do it with me. Nope. My children remained unconvinced.

I can’t believe I gave these people LIFE and here they are stabbing and killing my dreams like this…

Horrible hateful dream-killer children.

So this is me – reporting that I will NOT be attempting to do the 104km next year. No. I am now going to walk to the fridge and get me some chocolate pudding to drown my sorrows in.