Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I get it now.

I have spent the last two weekends in Jersey, which means I planned my workouts for the week and took off on Saturday and Sunday. But both weekends, the same thing happened Sunday night. With two days off, I was nervous about my Monday morning workout.

Especially this past Sunday. I was planning to go running the park Monday morning--the first time since my really bad run a few weeks ago. And I was just dreading it.

It's funny. If you told me to list some of my favorite things to do, I would definitely say running in the park. But nearly every morning that I get up to do it, I feel a tinge of dread. Because even though I like it, running is hard. Some days are amazing, some days are average, and some days are hard and horrible. So this Monday, with two days off plus the anxiety of the last run still in my head, the dread was really bad. I actually had dreams about it, and when my alarm went off, I jolted out of my sleep, trying to calm my frantic mind.

Mostly, I was worried about that hill. The big hill where I lost my footing, twisted my ankle, had to stop and walk. To make me feel better, I told myself I would avoid that hill today. Small sigh of relief.

I headed to the park, the weather perfect for running. Warm enough to wear shorts but cool enough to feel the air brushing against my thighs. The leaves of Spring were now in full bloom and the birds were chirping pleasantly. As soon as I started my jog, I felt great, no pain in the shin, strong in heart and legs and spirit, and within minutes the dread disappeared. I am doing that hill, I told myself. And I did. And I made it to the top without walking. And it was grand.

And that is when it all made complete sense to me.

Momentum. It's real.

On my day off on Friday, I set some time to write. Even though I sat in front of my computer for an hour or so, got some words down, it wasn't the most pleasant experience. It was hard. I couldn't get into a groove. My mind was wandering, and I was looking at the clock. While there was a part of me that was happy to get the hour in, a part of me felt disappointed.

But as I was running yesterday, thinking about momentum, I thought back to one of the first runs I did after coming home from Poland. And how awful it was. I was tired, my feet dragging. I was counting the seconds for it to be over. I was rusty.

It dawned on me: it's the same thing. There's a reason why writing is hard now. I am rusty.

Running got easier for me with March Madness because I made a decision to get disciplined. Now I have more good runs than bad. And doing some kind of physical activity nearly every day of the week makes me stronger and more prepared for the next run.

Well--no wonder my writing feels so stagnant. Writing once in a while, it's so stop and go. The way I am doing it now, it's like going on a run every few weeks. There is no momentum to move me along, nothing to build on since I am always starting at Square 1.

But there is another thing: When it comes to running, I don't expect to be the greatest runner of all time. I already know that I am not. I have a horrible form (my legs swing out in my stride) and I am slow. And I am okay with that. What gives me pleasure if the small improvements I make on a personal level--the fact that I made it up that hill--that is the real reward, and no one really cares about that except me.

So why do I expect myself to be the best writer ever? Why can't I just write to get better and to please myself?

Holy crap. Breakthrough.

Physically and mentally, my five-mile run yesterday was one of the best I've had. I finally realized what Steven Pressfield was saying in The War of Art, and I fully understand what I need to do to excel at my chosen craft.

As Madonna said once: "There are no tricks. Tricks don't work. Discipline does."

And momentum.

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