This morning I ran to the beach and back. In the interest of honesty, let me stress that although I like to think of myself running sleekly through the morning, I am a slow, slow runner. A jogger. At times, when I get unfocused, I suspect that I shuffle.
Still, it's a swifter pace than a walk, so I call it a run. My goal was to run twice a week this year for at least half an hour. This morning I ran for 45 minutes--hurrah!
I have running on the brain because I've written a post for the Living Lutheran site that considers what we can learn spiritually from our failed new year's resolutions. The same lessons also work for our creative lives.
Here's the truth I return to again and again: We need to start where we are, not where we think we should be. Far better to be the person who goes out for a gentle jog for 10 minutes, and then next week runs for 15 minutes, and throughout the year, adding five minutes each week. In horse training terms, we need to keep the jumps small and achievable. But we also need to keep challenging ourselves so that we grow.
In the spirit of full confession, let me also admit that I went a bit longer this morning than I thought I might because I'm going out with friends after work, and I wanted to get a head start at burning off some calories. I figure whatever it takes to keep up my motivation is good.
Likewise, in my creative life, I use a variety of motivations. Part of my motivation is the dream of a future where I achieve creative goals. Part of what gets me to my desk is my desire to leave a record. There's still an adolescent in me that wants literary and creative success so that everyone who ever rejected me will have regret--and if that gets me writing, that's wonderful.
But in the end, I write for the same reason I run: I feel better when I do. Long ago, when I started running in the 80's, I wanted to be Grete Waitz: that thin, that fast. I'm reconciled to the fact that barring some dreadful disease that strips me of my weight, I'm not going to be that kind of runner. But that fact doesn't need to rob me of the delight of being a neighborhood runner.
Likewise, I'd like to be the Margaret Atwood of my generation. There's still time, I guess. But even if that doesn't happen, I've enriched my life immensely by making the attempt.
And if I get off track, I can always return. Luckily, the muses of writing and exercise are always there waiting.