Monday, September 17, 2012

Contingency Plans: Playing The What If Game
By Katherine Lowry Logan

No matter how prepared I am, whether I’m wearing my writer’s hat or my runner’s hat, something often goes wrong.

 Several years ago, I made a research trip along the Oregon Trail to see firsthand what I was writing about in THE RUBY BROOCH. To get there from Lexington, KY, you take I-64 and head west. That’s exactly the direction I was going when I realized I needed to first go to Cincinnati to pick up my daughter who was traveling part of the way with me. To get to Cincinnati from Lexington you take I-75 and head north. Hmm. If I couldn’t get to the trail's jumping off point in Independence, MO, how in the world was I going to make it 2000 miles to Oregon? I wasn’t real sure. As a recent widow, this was a huge step for me, but my desire to see the trail that I had spent so many hours writing about far outweighed my fear and insecurity.

 Instead of berating myself for my stupidity in getting lost so soon after leaving home, I shrugged it off and found the right road. Part of being prepared is having a contingency plan. I didn’t have one, so I made one up on the spot. “I’ve never done this before. Whatever happens—happens.” The mantra served me well over the next nineteen days, even when I became snowbound in Cheyenne, Wyoming on the way home. 

 These days, whether it’s age or sensibility, my contingency plans are real plans. I have two 5-mile running courses mapped out. One’s flat, the other is hilly. Looking at the elevations, it doesn't look like either course is flat. Maybe I should say one is flatter than the other. I run the hilly course more often because it’s better training and preparation for races. Both courses bring me back to the corner that leads home. In the event something should happen during the first five miles, I’m close to my house. Several weeks ago, when I set out on a 10-mile run with my fuel belt loaded with water and energy gels, something happened.

 Within the first mile, my stomach started cramping and made running all but impossible. Cramps from the left side are usually digestive issues. Cramps from the right side are usually breathing and posture issues, or so I've been told. Mine were right smack in the middle, maybe due to dehydration. Anyway, I circled back to “the corner” and called it quits after 5 miles. If I’d been on a 10-mile loop, I would have had to call for a ride home.

 I suppose some would argue that having two separate courses made it easier to quit. There are some runners who would have gone the distance, sick as a dog. I’m not one of them. Well, after the last few weeks getting ready for the Air Force Marathon, maybe I am.

 When it comes to writing, I have contingency plans, too. Some are good and some are not so good, but quitting and going home because I don’t feel well, is not one of them. On those days, I read. I study other writers. Different authors do different things well. Some write descriptions that bring settings to life. Some write snappy dialogue that makes you laugh. Some write great love scenes that give you that “fly on the wall” experience. By studying another writer’s style you can draw on what you learn and apply it to your own writing, which in a way becomes a blend of all you’ve learned as a reader. 

 There are only two ways to become a better writer: write a lot and read a lot. I did a lot of both during the fifteen years it took to write, rewrite and publish THE RUBY BROOCH. And there’s only one way to become a better runner—run! And always have a contingency plan.
What's your contingency plan? Share it with us.

 Happy writing and running,

                          BIO: Katherine Lowry Logan
Katherine was born the second of five children to a Presbyterian Pastor and a stay-at-home mom. She came of age in Louisville, Kentucky, during the tumultuous 1960s. Sit-in's, bra burnings, the sexual revolution, pot, campus unrest, and the Vietnam War were brought vividly to life by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. While the rest of the world seemed to spin out of control, Katherine spun stories in her head.
College, marriage, and two daughters kept the muse simmering on the back burner. She worked as a real estate and tax paralegal in a law firm in central Kentucky, and was actively involved in the life of her community.  It wasn't until the nest was empty that she sat down to write full-time. Life, as it often does, brought tragedy and a screeching halt to her writing. Her husband, best friend, and lover died unexpectedly. Healing was a slow process, but two weddings and five grandchildren have a way of putting life into perspective. Following the birth of her second grandchild, she found her writer's voice again.

Katherine is a long distance runner and lives in Lexington, Kentucky. She is blessed with a wonderful and supportive family and circle of friends who have encouraged her and celebrated each and every step of her journey.
Contact information  for Kathy:
Website: and  Blog: Notes from Tabor Lane
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Buy her book  The Ruby Brooch at Amazon


Ruby Johnson said...

For years I didn't have a backup plan for saving my WIP. Then one day my computer crashed and I lost everything. I now have an external hard drive. Sometimes, it takes something like that to open your eyes. Thanks for a great post and for visiting our blog.

Laine said...

Nice post. I have always admired people who could run. I worked with a man who ran everyday for 5-10 miles and if he didn't get to run he was mean as a snake. Guess he didn't have that backup plan!

Katherine Lowry Logan said...

Laine, that cracked me up. No, he certainly didn't have a back up plan. I didn't start running until September 22, 2011 at age 61! In a year, I've run several 5Ks, three 10Ks, 1 half marathon, and 1 full marathon. I decided it was time to stop sitting at my desk writing for long hours every day and get up and exercise so I would live to see my grandchildren go up. I've felt better in the past year than I have felt in years.

Like Ruby, I have also lost all my data from a computer crashes (several). In July, I thought I had everything backed up, but I didn't. My writing was safe but I lost my tax return and other financial information and had to spend three full days on the phone with Dell. Yikes! It will all work out.

Thank you both for stopping by and leaving comments.


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