“The race doesn't go to the swift..” as Solomon reminds us from biblical times. This is true in creativity, just as much as in preparing to run a marathon.
When I find myself wishing I was further along on my creative journey, or envying my neighbor’s progress, I have to remind myself that it’s not a race - it's a marathon.
For most of my life I didn’t consider myself a runner. In high school I struggled just to keep up with my team mates in soccer practice.
Finding Your Why in Creativity
So, what compelled me to run a marathon, you may ask. And you would be right in asking this.
Maybe it was the end of ten years in career of bittersweet memories.. maybe it was a desire to finish with the bang of the starter’s gun.. maybe it was wanting to launch into my new life as a civilian with gusto.
There I was facing my mile 18, wondering what I was doing - yet, like so many other times in my life, you get to a point where it’s easier to keep going rather than stop.
How Much to Push Ourselves in Growing Creatively
Just a few weeks before I thought I’d blown weeks - months of preparation when I pushed myself just a little too hard. I thought that someone else knew better how far I could stretch myself. Of course, that was wrong.
Luckily, a little extra rest and care did wonders. I had learned that the process of preparing yourself to run 26.2 miles - something your body wasn’t naturally designed to do - required breaking down and rebuilding yourself.. becoming the “you” who can run a marathon.
Your Hero's Journey in Creativity
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how the hero’s journey holds the key to just about anything we want to achieve in life and creativity - running a marathon, writing a book, making a film..
Let’s break down Joseph Campbell’s monomyth in these terms. You start off in your ordinary world. Something inspires you to face a challenge. The natural reaction (especially from our protective ego) is to resist - this may take many shapes.. procrastination, excuses, listening to naysayers..
But at some point if your “why” is powerful enough, you persist. You answer the call to adventure - friends and possibly mentors appear almost as if by magic.
A book that has just what you needed to read appears. A flyer for just the workshop to teach you that skill shows up. A friend tells you that you have to talk with her pal who happens to help DIY’ers.
Here’s where most of us give up. At some point things get hard. More often than not it’s not a fire-breathing dragon that stands in the way of your creativity journey. Heck, it may not even be a sprained ankle just before race day.
No, most of the time fear is sneaky and disguises itself as boredom.. or uneasiness..
If you’re like me, this is often harder to face than a 50’ diving board.. just “being” - just accepting that may be nothing to do but persisting.. to “hang in there.”
Learning to be comfortable with this discomfort in creativity is essential to the process. Often it’s this tension where the “magic” happens. It’s this stretching where real growth happens.
And that’s the key. Running the marathon wasn’t really just about 26.2 miles.. or the many miles along the way.. it was becoming the person that could overcome the limits he set for himself.
Ultimately, your creative journey is about becoming the person you’re meant to be - one step after the other.