March 17, 2015 by Ray Yanek
So the weather is changing. The breezes are warming and the sun has decided to come back from its too long hiatus. Naturally, people want to get outside and I’ve been no different. Despite the plantar fasciitis thing I went through over the fall and winter, I thought I would give running outside another shot. I managed, so far, to get in a couple of 5k runs. My times were nothing impressive, but neither did my hamstrings explode out the back of my legs like confetti out of a champagne popper, so I’m counting those as runs as successes.
I still felt the effects in my knees and ankles and feet though, and I’m fairly certain my days of the long run are over.
I’m sad about that–not because of the physical benefits running provides (as I’ve written before, I feel like Crossfit is working extremely well for me) but because of the more spiritual and intellectual benefits that came along with it.
As strange as this sounds, last summer when I was trying to train for a half-marathon, I found an interesting correlation with that I was doing on the road and what I was trying to do in front of the computer. Running, I found, wasn’t much different from writing. Actually, it wasn’t much different from just trying to live.
I thought I would share some of those thoughts and correlations here over the next week in a series called, “7 I Learned about Writing and Living through Running”–creative, huh?
Thing #1: You have to just start.
When I set out to run, I had a definite mileage goal in mind and often, I felt myself overcome with anticipation anxiety. I was warming up longer and longer. I would dally, and look for things to steal my attention with the unconscious hope that something would come up and keep me from the challenge and inevitable discomfort running would cause. The longer the run; the worse this became. I’m proud to say however, that never once did I end up not running.
And you know what happened?
That run sucked just as badly as I thought it would.
For a little while anyway–
Usually, it was always the first mile that was the hardest. My hamstrings felt overly tight, my ankles didn’t want to bend the right way, my breathing was off, my mind was filled with expletives, the urge to kill people traveling in motorized vehicles increased, etc. But I pushed through it. After that first mile, things started to flow and I seriously started to understand what people meant when they referred to athletes falling into the ‘zone’ or when normal people reach the ‘flow state.’
I started to actually live for that state-of-being. My body seemed fluid and I was
running faster. I felt this charge inside, those endorphins surging and making everything feel okay and running seemed like second nature. I felt like that picture of a dogs running headlong and free after the gate was left open.
A lot of times, I actually had to force myself to stop because the urge to keep going, the pleasure of being in that zone, was that strong.
The same is true for writing or for any creative endeavor. We all know the intimidation of the blank page. We all know how incapacitating that word goal can be, which is why writers and creative types are often the biggest procrastinators.
To create something out of nothing is terrifying. Intimidating.
Like running though, you just need to start, take one step then another, write one word then another.
That first page will be brutal, probably the second as well, but eventually if you stick with it and have faith in the process the words will come. The words will roll and the pages will glide by and you will forget what you are actually doing. The story will take over and all distractions, all of the aching mental hamstrings and burning lungs, will vanish, although the ringing phones and sirens outside will too distant to be of any concern. Some days it will take longer to slip into that flow; but it will come.
You’ll find the flow, the zone, and before you know it, you find you passed that page count 20 minutes previous.
You just have to start… put one foot in front of the other…write one word and then one more word.