Am I Willing to Sweat?
I’m in the kitchen. I take a slow, deep breath. I do some self talk: some It’s okay’s and You can do it’s. I sit down to tie my shoes with care, as if moving too fast will scare away my skittish will power.
“Are you going?” my husband calls from the living room. I can hear the slightest scrape of impatience in his voice. Our day is full. There’s a schedule. In order for both of us to get our outside runs in, I need to get going. But I’m dragging my feet.
“Mmm-hmmm,” I answer.
He walks into the kitchen. I’m sitting on a bench, dressed and ready. “What are you doing?” he asks. “Just go,” he says.
As if it’s that simple.
I don’t want to just go. I want to just stay.
He looks at me with a What is your problem? kind of face. “I don’t like to sweat,” I say.
My husband is a white wall of objectivity. “So just walk.”
“But I don’t want to walk. I want to run.” I sound like a child and I know it.
“You need to get going,” he says right before turning his back to me, letting me decide what happens next.
This is not an essay about running, bear with me.
We belong to a neighborhood pool in the summer. My kids swim for the team and I volunteer at their meets as a timer. One sunny Saturday morning, I stood with my friend–a fellow timer—at the end of lane six while staring across the pool. Off-handedly, I said, “I need to do more Yoga.”
My friend, looking in the same direction, didn’t miss a beat, “Yep. Me too.”
A mom we didn't know, waiting to cheer on her child, stood on the other side of the water near the sliding board. Exactly where we were staring. She—unmistakably—did yoga. Posture straight, tight core. Sculpted arms under a tiny maroon t-shirt. Her butt high and tight in the kind of athletic pants that would make my backside look like a giant pancake griddle.
We asked a timer next to us, one from the other team, just to make sure. “Oh yeah, she’s done yoga for years. She teaches at the place up on Main Street.”
Of course she does.
I open the door and step outside. I walk down the street and onto our neighborhood trail. When I cross a small bridge, I decide to slowly run. At the halfway mark, I turn and head back home. Again, at the bridge, something happens and I push my pace. Not for long. I don’t have the stamina—20 seconds maybe. I slow back down and jog. Then return to a walk. Nearing my home, I wipe sweat out of my eyes.
I’m not really concerned about sweating, or running, or yoga. Not really.
I’m concerned about what it will take to be the person I’d like to be. To be the writer I’d like to be. I’m concerned with finding the answer to the question: What am I willing to sweat for?
See, I want to look like a runner, but without doing all the running.
I want the yoga body, without all the hours of practice.
I want to be a great writer, but without spending too much time on my words.
I get that almost everyone has to work hard to run five miles, be able to do a peacock pose, or write an essay that pierces hearts. But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a shortcut? If you could do it without breaking a sweat? Getting discouraged? Or being scared?
In truth, I’d rather talk about writing than get in my chair to write. I’d rather sit on a bench in my kitchen dressed in spandex than get outside and start moving.
I want the achievement, without the exertion.
The ability, without the commitment.
The benefits, without the perseverance.
I want results, without effort.
The reward, without the work.
I want to publish meaningful words, without first writing some phenomenally crap sentences that no one will see, paragraphs I’ll delete, and full essays I’ll never make public.
I walk in the door. “You ran,” Chris says. It wasn’t a question. He could tell: He saw the sweat on my face.
- Identify the hardest part of your creative process. (Starting, editing, hitting publish or submit? A combination of these?) Why do you think this is? What messages have you listened to or tell yourself that make this step difficult?
- In your creative life, who (or what type of artist) do you want to look like? What work did that person, or type of person, put in to be where they are?
- What steps do you need to take or what work do you need to do to get closer to that ideal? (Time, study, classes?) Depending on your personality, this may look like getting your butt into the chair and writing. For others, this might be to getting out of the chair to let your words and ideas rest. Both can be a struggle.
Parallel an activity from your life with how you think or feel about your creative work.