Yesterday, I was the only person at spin class. It's certainly not because we suddenly have gorgeous weather and everyone wants to be outside. No, our weather has turned tropical again, with temps in the mid 80's even before the sun rises. Happily, the spin instructor conducted class just for me. Very motivating, to be the only student. I don't think I've ever worked out quite that hard for such a sustained period of time.
One of the songs we cycled to was that song from Rocky 3, "Eye of the Tiger." I have a special fondness for that movie and that song. The night before I ran my best 10K of all time, I watched that movie. The next day, I blazed my way through the course of the Pumpkin Run in Knoxville, Tennessee. All during the run, I kept thinking of those scenes from the movie which I only hazily remember now. Rocky is supposed to channel fierceness by thinking about the eye of the tiger? I just remember the trainer saying, "Eye of the tiger, Rocky, eye of the tiger!" I'm here to tell you that it works. My all time best 10K time happened with that motivational mantra in my head.
I'm a slow runner. I can run for hours, but I'll never go very fast. But that day, I zoomed away. And because of my accomplishment that day, I continued training and had some very good showings (for me) in road races throughout the spring: the Expo run, the Avon run, the Dogwood run. Ah, the good old days, when the local YMCA put together these races and a ragtag bunch showed up. Ah, the good old days, when even a national run, like the Avon run, only cost a few bucks in entry fees (our local runs now can cost $50!!)
There's a larger lesson here than just nostalgia. My experience taught me that you can keep plugging away for years thinking you're making no progress, and suddenly, everything will click. It also taught me the value of showing up, day after day.
I'm not a big believer in talent. I've seen plenty of people with talent who never show up to use that talent. Meanwhile, I've seen people of modest ability who blaze a trail because of their habits of endurance.
In my life, I've accomplished a lot that I thought I couldn't do because I could force myself to do a little bit, each and every day. I wrote my dissertation that way. I could face my anxiety for an hour or two every day. And bit by bit, that dissertation grew.
A writing career, any creative career really, is much the same way. We show up each day, often with only our own encouragement in our ears. We must believe in ourselves, even if the larger world doesn't. We lay groundwork for the success which will come, if we keep working. That success may not look like what we imagined or what we hoped for. It might be even better. We can't really know.
I always tell myself that even if I never have another thing published, that creative work is enriching in and of itself. What else would I be doing with my free time? Probably something fairly useless, like watching television. No thanks. I'd rather be logging long training distances with my purple legal pad full of poem ideas.