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CrossFit and the Creative Process (Part 2)

In this series, I’m exploring the connections between being a CrossFitter and being a creative. You can check out Part 1 here. In Part 1, I talked about the how both CrossFit and the creative process require me to (1) Show Up, (2) Do the Work and (3) Let Go of the Outcome.

Now, I’ll be taking a look at the following:

4) Get Really Comfortable with Being Really Uncomfortable

5) Check Your Ego

6) Stay Humble, Stay Open

4) Get Really Comfortable with Being Really Uncomfortable: It’s easy to assume that the discomfort of Crossfit is physical, while the discomfort of the creative process is mental or emotional. In my own experience, however, the physical and emotional is completely tied up in both cases.

In CrossFit, as almost any athlete will attest, after the initial introductory period where the physical discomfort is front and centre, the game becomes HUGELY mental. There are workouts where it’s a constant battle to beat back the negative voice telling me you can’t, you won’t, there’s no way you can lift this much, you’re gonna drop it etc. etc. I don’t talk back to that voice, I don’t engage at all, I have to just totally ignore it and that alone requires mental effort.

And there is no denying the physical discomfort. At 40, and as an athlete who is happy to scale as much as I need to, I don’t push myself nearly as hard as some people do. I need to be able to go home and play with my kids, and show up for my clients completely focused, without the distraction of physical pain. My recovery game is on point (most of the time).

But during the workouts? I hurt. And I can also tell you that’s the feeling I’m chasing when I’m on the mat. I live for that moment when my mind is saying I can’t, I can’t, I can’t and my body takes over and says Oh yeah, watch this and it just goes. Because that moment where you push your physical and emotional capabilities just a little bit (or a lot) further than you did the day before? That moment is pure fucking gold. Those are the workouts where you leave the box stronger – both physically and emotionally – than you were when you walked in.

With the creative process the discomfort is, like, a million times worse. OK, not really but it sure as shit feels that way. That voice that says you can’t, why bother, who cares is way louder. The vulnerability hangovers, the daily resistance to start, to finish, the constant desire to procrastinate…all of it leaves me uncomfortable, on edge and, at times, exhausted. And that’s just how it is. Yes, I’ve developed tools for dealing with it, but it's still tough.

The only thing I can really do is accept that fact that when I am TRULY committed to the creative process- when I am ALL the fuck IN- I will spend a disproportionately large amount of my time feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin and escape, all in pursuit of that elusive moment where the words I am searching for appear at the perfect moment and I, to my great relief, find my voice.

5) Check Your Ego: When I walk into the box, I visualise myself leaving my Ego in the car. For me this isn’t about accepting a coach’s direction (I know my coaches know way, way more than me), it’s about stepping away from MY judgement of MYSELF.

The reason I LOVE both creating and CrossFit is this: I will never, ever be done with either. There is always room to grow, to get better. To follow new threads of inspiration. To load the bar heavier. To try new artistic mediums. To do it again, faster and with better technique.

And guess what? Those are also the reasons I also HATE both CrossFit and creating, too. For someone like me, who is Type A and loves a good tick on the to-do list, spending such huge portions of my life engaged in processes where I’m never really finishing anything is super hard. Both my athletic and artistic pursuits are endlessly evolving and while I am proud of things that I’ve accomplished, I’m never satisfied.

6) Stay Humble, Stay Open: Staying humble isn’t about being self-deprecating and staying small. I’ve learned to just say thank you and receive when someone gives me a compliment. Women especially struggle to celebrate their accomplishments, and it’s taken me a long time to be as pumped about a 0.5kg jump in a lift as a 10kg PB. Likewise, if I only celebrated when I got published or paid for my work I’d be a miserable fuck 90% of the time. I celebrate my wins –big and small- in a variety of ways, some internal and some external.

Staying humble for me isn’t about being meek. It leads me to stay open, and grateful. I am reminded of the fact that the ability to move my body is a gift, and I don’t take it for granted. When I was forced to take a few months off training last year, it became apparent to me very quickly how much I love moving my body and feeling strong, and how important it’s become as I age to maintaining mobility, healthy joint function and balance. Not to mention the impact it has on my mental health.

With my writing and coaching, my best work always feel like a gift from something much greater than myself and accepting it from a place of gratitude and openness keeps me grounded and committed. For me, staying humble as an artist is like walking the razor’s edge. Too much pride and Ego takes over, disconnecting me from source. Not enough, and the result is the same.

I draw inspiration from everyone around me. At the box, I take onboard what my coaches tell me, no arguments. I am inspired by the athletes who absolutely crush every workout, but I’m even more inspired by the mum who shows up on zero sleep, with her kids still in their jammies, and does her goddamn best. I am amazed by the artists who put their work out into the world, whether they are “successful” or not. The creative life is not for the faint of heart. It requires the ability to keep going in the face of never ending judgement, from both yourself and the world at large.

Will I ever get it right? Um, that’s a hell no. But I do know this: the more I show up and follow my own (very good, ahem) advice, the better I get. As cheesy as it sounds, it really is about the journey not the destination. Right now, I am loving the ride.

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