Over the last year, I’ve dedicated a large amount of my free time to writing and running. My jobs always required extensive writing, but now I write for myself, finding my creative voice instead of a professional one. Running, on the other hand, is a new passion, chosen because it fit my criteria for an exercise regimen (full body workout, convenient, relatively cheap). As I cultivated both activities, I began to see parallels in my fears, ability, and routine. If you’re a beginner to creative writing or running, I’d like to reflect on these mental hurdles and hopefully inspire you to stick with it!

Starting is hard. This can be said for any new task, but for people like me who care too much about what other people think, starting is a matter of being seen as a joke by the experts. When I first began running, I feared what other runners might think as they passed me. Could they tell I was a novice? Was I running like Phoebe in Friends? These types of thoughts weighed too heavily on my mind, but I had to start somewhere, just like every other runner. Writing was the same way. My fear of not being creative enough paralyzed me into procrastination. As I got to know other writers I learned they all share this fear, from novice to expert.

Both acts benefit from a warm-up. We’ve all heard warming up before cardio sessions can potentially reduce stress on our bodies. My runs certainly feel better when I ease in and out of them with a brief walk. I’ve applied a similar concept to my writing. When I start, it takes a moment to limber my thoughts, and settle into my creative stride. The first several sentences are not provocative, but they are necessary.

Capability ebbs and flows despite regular practice. I’ve certainly improved since day one, yet I have times where I struggle through a session, making me doubt my ability. Some days I am so excited to run I practically skip out the door, only to be winded two minutes in. My run is spent coaxing each step, thinking “just twenty-five more minutes… just twenty more minutes…” Other times, the runs feel easier, allowing me to push my speed or distance. In writing, there are times when so many thoughts are running through my head my fingers practically itch, yet I sit down and go blank. I force myself to write anything, fragments I’ll probably delete later, but I do it to give myself that mental check mark of accomplishment. Sometimes, the strength of the writing flow makes me struggle to put away the laptop when other responsibilities beckon. Bottom line? Show up with the intent to accomplish something, even if it’s the bare minimum. You might be surprised by the outcome.

See genuine progress through consistent practice. Overall, writing and running get easier when done on a regular basis. You cannot experience growth without diligence. It takes patience and time to see that growth. I’ve come far enough to see how my endurance and writing has improved since starting. Focusing on that improvement encourages me to stick with it.

Doing it will make you more comfortable with the title of it. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I never called myself a writer because I didn’t want people’s first response to be “Oh, what have you written?” There’s a misconception that to be a writer, you must be published. That would be a published writer. The act of writing makes you a writer. Now that I write regularly, I’m comfortable calling myself a writer and (gasp!) putting it out there for others to read. Same with running. At this point, I have no goals to run a marathon but I’m happy to keep challenging my personal best.

One foot after another, one word after another. Stay focused on tiny steps and consistency. The miles and the pages will follow.
Originally published at longevity.media