Creating Is a Marathon

Photo Credit: Charlie Llewellin

Creating Is a Marathon

Thinking back on the last few months a familiar pattern emerges with regards to my writing. I have fallen back into a sprint mentality. I start with a burst of creative output but after a few weeks I am sputtering. The Accidental Creative site raised the question, what is our creative superpower and our creative kryptonite. My kryptonite is consistency. After the burst, I allow distractions to take center stage and my output flags. After much processing, I realize that creating is a marathon.

  • Marathons require conviction. You have to be dedicated to the cause. In order to run a marathon successfully you need to train for several months. That requires getting up early, putting on your running shoes and then putting in the mileage. Even when you’re tired, or it’s raining or it’s cold, you put on your shoes and pound the pavement. And when it comes time to run the race, the dedication to the training will help carry you through. The same goes with writing. If I write a few things in a sprint, that doesn’t make me a writer, it just means I got lucky. Anyone can sprint; the whole fight or flight response, but not everyone can run a marathon. Writing a few things every few months is like putting on running shoes and walking around the block once a week.

  • You have to pace yourself. Some runs I start out and I’m feeling good and set off at a fast pace. After a few miles, I’m struggling to finish. Other days, I start off with the right pace and I feel like I could run for miles. You need to find the right pace for creating. If you try and do too much the quality of your work will suffer and you’ll be facing creative injury or burnout.

  • You have to start out small. I decided to start running about two and half years ago. I bought some shoes and went out to run two miles my first day. I hadn’t run in over 10 years. I almost passed out about a mile in. The next day I was back running, but I started small. I ran for 400m and then walk for 400m. I repeated this till I had covered three miles. I did this for a couple of weeks and then moved up to 800m intervals. A few weeks later I was going to move up to 1200m. Instead I ended up running three miles without stopping. If you want to start painting or writing you don’t start with trying to paint the next Van Gogh or write the next Hemingway novel. Start by painting some Bob Ross trees or write a one page story. As you continue you need to keep increasing the challenge. If you don’t, you’ll just continue painting happy trees and fluffy clouds but be short of a masterpiece.

  • You need variety. Some days I run intervals to break up the routine. Other days I might do some sprints after my longer run. A change of scenery always helps. You’re creativity will fluctuate so why not work that in to provide some variety. Write a movie or TV review on your low output days. If you write about business all the time, throw in some work about sports or even some fiction. Mix it up to keep it interesting.

  • Above all, just do it. I’m about two months in my marathon training. Most mornings when my alarm goes off at 5:30, I just want to pull the covers over my head. But something compels me to get out of bed and put on my running shoes. Once I’m going, I know I can finish. I just have to get started. I wish the same could be said for my creating. So I guess I need to take my own advice. Hence I’m finishing this post after letting it sit for several weeks unfinished.

In what ways do you struggle in the marathon of creating? How have you overcome those obstacles?