CrossFit and the Creative Process (Part 1)
I am an athlete. I am a creative.
(There, I said it and jay-sus, it was hard! Part 3 of this series will be an in-depth look into why it’s so hard to name ourselves positively and why we need to work on that.)
For a long time, these parts of myself seemed oppositional. It felt like the energy I had to bring to these areas of my life, and the way I wanted or needed to show up to make progress, required a different set of characteristics. To an extent, this is true (and it’s a good thing, my ability to adapt to different environments is a great skill!), but what I’ve come to realise over the past year is that, at its very core, my commitment to and improvement in the areas of CrossFit and creativity depends on a set of principles that, honestly, you can apply to every single area of your life.
Today, I’m gonna share with you Steps 1-3 (stay tuned for Steps 4-6 in a few days):
1) Show Up
2) Do the Work
3) Let Go of the Outcome
1) Show Up: Sounds easy, is actually super effing hard. The tyranny of a blinking cursor on an empty page; the recording of a comedy set that leaves me feeling nauseous with anxiety; the thought of a workout that I know is going to hurt me physically and mentally. In all these scenarios, the hardest part is often the first part. Luckily it’s also the simplest.
For me, this means removing my choices around whether or not I show up. The number of times I train (whether at the box or at home) and the amount of hours I spend week to week writing, editing, creating or recording is (in a normal non school holiday week ) pretty consistent.
(Quick sidenote: I have become very good at listening to my body and feel zero guilt or shame about taking days off for extra recovery, whether it’s mental or physical. BUT BUT BUT I have also gotten very good at realising that my resistance and fear often presents itself as a need for self-care. Sneaky bastard. So it’s an ongoing dialogue and balancing act but I get better the more I practice.)
There is no “Will I? Won’t I?” when it comes to CrossFit or my work. I don’t ask myself if I feel like it (because it’s pretty fucking easy to NOT feel like doing things that are hard.) I rely on MOMENTUM, not MOTIVATION.
So I show up, over and over again, to the best of my ability.
2) Do the Work: I show up, whether it’s at the box, with a client, or at my journal or computer with:
a) the absolute commitment to do the best I can in that moment
b) an awareness and acceptance that ‘my best’ is not something that is fixed. It changes day to day and is influenced by external factors that I can’t control (how much sleep I got, how juicy or easy my creative flow feels, whether or not I’m inspired, how recovered I am from yesterday’s workout etc.)
Last year, I time capped out on a workout (it happens frequently, this example just stands out) and with the coach’s permission, went out for my last lap of Farmer’s Carries after the buzzer. On the way back, I passed another member who said “You’re like me, you’ve gotta finish the workout, huh?” But I told her later that this was a pretty new thing for me, actually. I used to be someone who checked the clock and found a way to waste time so it would wind down and I would get out of the last few reps. At some stage, I realised this didn’t make me feel proud of myself and my attitude changed.
Likewise with counting reps. It would be easy to “forget” some reps here or there but my integrity is super important to me, so I don’t. If I think I’ve miscounted, I do extra. Likewise with my creative work. If I say I’m gonna’ write for -X- number of minutes, I do, even if I’m churning out complete nonsense. I show up for my clients, wholly and with absolute presence, regardless of what’s going on in my life. I meet deadlines, or communicate clearly if there’s an issue doing so. I do the workouts, scaling when necessary, even when it’s stuff I suck at. ESPECIALLY when it’s stuff I suck at (more on that later).
3) Let Go of the Outcome: If I only wrote stuff that I thought would earn an income, or recorded comedy bits that I knew for sure were funny, or did workouts I thought I could Rx or complete in a really good time, I’d have a lot more free time because, well, I’d be doing none of the above.
It took me ages to get past this, especially in CrossFit. I am not a naturally sporty person, and athleticism wasn’t a part of me that I tried to develop much before my 30s. I have a tendency to be lazy at times and playing the long game is not my strong suit (this is where my ADHD shows up a lot. I’m an excellent starter, not so great at follow through). So to show up, do the work and chip away at something that I will never, ever, ever be the best at could be demoralising. And it was for a long time.
But somewhere along the way, I learned to let go of the results and focus on the process, both with CrossFit and with writing. It was hard and there are times I still get frustrated, but the freedom that has come with doing for the sake of doing has been truly life changing.
And when it comes to my kids, this is the area where I am most proud of the example I set. They see me slogging away and chasing my dreams. They see me celebrate my successes, for sure, but they’re also aware that the amount of effort that went into that success can’t even be measured.
It’s work, work, work, work, work…win.
In the gym, this means they see me dropping the bar and then picking it back up. Literally crawling on the floor to get back up. They see me keep going when my hands are bleeding and my eyes are closed in pain.
They see me writing when I don’t want to. Early morning. Late nights. They see me crying when I can’t find the word I need. Leaping from the bath to go write dripping wet and naked when inspiration strikes. Dealing with rejection, over and over again. Speaking aloud my fears about not being good enough.
And you know what they’ll remember? All the times I get back up and keep going, no matter how much it hurts. Not the times I failed.
(Part 2 will be out on Monday, January 20)