The past few years have been a battle to keep myself healthy and running. My knees have not always cooperated and during the down times, when I am not able to log the type of miles I want to, I have tried to find other outlets. I’ve dabbled in photography. I’ve done a little bit of writing. I’ve picked up a couple of sketch books but hardly cracked them open, much less drawn anything.
In an effort to find my muse, to understand what it takes to find my voice and do the type of creative work I want to, I’ve searched out a few highly recommended books. I re-read Stephen King’s On Writing for the fourth of fifth time, as much because I am entertained by the way he tells his own story as for tips on being a productive writer. I picked up photographer/podcaster Chase Jarvis’ book “Creative Calling,” after listening to him make the rounds promoting the book. I read, and re-read Austin Kleon’s triology, “Steal Like an Artist,” “Show Your Work,” and “Keep Going.” Lastly, I just finished reading Stephen Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art,” which defines that thing that keeps most of us from doing the work, THE RESISTANCE, and tries to give us the tools to overcome it.
Interestingly enough, the things I learned have helped my fitness routine more than they have helped my creative routines. In fairness, the back cover of “The War of Art,” does ask if you ever, among other things, “wish you could start dieting or exercising today?”, “hope to run a marathon someday?” But my goal was not to find tips on how to be a better runner. My goal was simply to break out of this cycle of saying, “I want to write,” “I want to create art,” “I want to make photos,” and instead, actually do those things.
The No. 1 takeaway from all of these books is to create a routine, a habit. Jarvis writes that “creativity is not a skill, it’s a habit.” Stephen King writes about his goal of writing 2,000 words a day, and staying in his office until he has reached that goal every day. Austin Kleon talks about creating a bliss station, a place you go or a time of day (or both) you set aside to create your art. Pressfield stresses that to ignore your muse is to spite The Almighty (that seems a little drastic to me, but I get the point).
This has proven to be 100 percent applicable to running for me. Being fit, doing the things I need to do to be a good runner, is all about habit. If I stick to a routine of running at a certain time (my bliss station), do my dynamic warmup before my miles and my physical therapy, stretching and rolling immediately after, those routines become habits. I was on quite a roll with all of this too until the current situation with the coronavirus ramped up my anxiety and forced me to take a step back.
For me, getting in miles and doing the necessary things to keep myself on the roads is all about setting routines and showing up for myself, and my muse, every day. Of course, as an athlete, it’s not all about going all out all the time. I don’t think any of these creative types are encouraging that either, but as an athlete (it feels pretty arrogant to call myself that, but I have a running blog, which is kind of the height of arrogance, isn’t it?) that is something I have to remember and stick with.
Another important thing I learned in my research that applies to running is to avoid comparison. It is the thief of joy, as Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying. “Your goal should always be to become the best you, not a pretty good — or even damn good — version of someone else,” Jarvis writes. Scrolling through Strava and feeling like everyone is kicking more ass than I am is a recipe for bad things to happen. Ignore the noise, these guys say, and focus on the work you need to do.
I’m in a good stop with running right now. I’m running more and more every week and feeling better and better. I will, however, continue to explore ways to flex my creative muscles and being a better writing, artist … whatever it is that strike gets my creative juices going.
Hopefully, the things I read, watch and listen to help me become a better runner, too.