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8 Ways Nearly Two Decades of Running Has Taught Me to Be a Better Creative

8 Ways Nearly Two Decades of Running Has Taught Me to Be a Better Creative

VJ Ortiz, Senior Copywriter

May 20, 2018

Ever see those world-class marathoners, all arms and legs and cardiovascular systems, ripping off 26 sub-five-minute miles in a row? Yeah, I’ll never be anything like those people. But I have been running recreationally for close to 20 years, and it’s helped changed my outlook on a few things. Like how to be a better creative. Let’s lace ’em up.

1. Start with what you have.

Many summers ago, the eight fastest 400-meter sprinters in Southwestern New York gathered on a track to determine who was the best. Seven sported sprinter’s spikes and settled into their starting blocks as the starter raised his pistol. One wore a pair of beaten-up road flats and, without the benefit of blocks, stood awkwardly among his crouched competitors. That night he set a meet record that stood for over a decade.

Never let how you start dictate how you finish. Timelines, budgets, unreceptive audiences – they’ll always try to elbow their way into your mind during the creative process to give you a cushy place to fall. Don’t let them. Everything you do to make your fall more comfortable also makes it more likely. Start from where you are, keep your eyes on the prize, and expect to do something special.

2. Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something.

When you’re in the thick of it, recovery days can be just as important as training days. If you feel like you’re running in place, take your mind off things for a while and come back stronger.

3. Discomfort is telling you something.

A few years back I came down with a case of plantar fasciitis – a pain in the mid-foot that made running nearly impossible. After limping into the podiatrist and dropping a few crisp hundreds on a set of orthotics, I wondered if my body and my wallet were telling me to do something differently. So I retrained myself to land on the ball of my foot instead my heel, changing how I’d run my entire life. Before I knew it, the pain was gone and the fancy orthotics were gathering dust. We all want our creative projects to be happy adventures, and that’s OK. Just remember, if your project takes you exactly where you expect, and you’re not open to stops and starts and abrupt turns, you’re not on an adventure, you’re on a commute.

4. The long run determines who’s best.

Happens every time. The masses line up for the start of the race. The gun goes off. Five minutes in a runner blazes by you at twice your speed. Ten minutes later you pass that same runner sucking wind on the side of the road. The best don’t make a big splash and rest on their laurels. The best deliver the goods day after day, month after month, year after year to build a body of work that stands the test of time.

5. Reach big goals by setting small milestones.

I never think about the total distance on a run. I find something just at the edge of my vision ahead – a stop sign, a barn, a tree, doesn’t matter what. I challenge myself to keep looking at it as long as I can, without getting distracted, until I reach it. Then I pick out something else farther ahead. Having an ultimate objective is important, but so is knowing you can’t get there all at once.

6. If you always do the same thing, you’ll get the same results.

Keep running the same type of run over the same distance on the same surface and you’ll never get much better than you always have been. Surprise yourself. Switch things up. Get out of the office or talk to someone new for a different perspective. Over time, good things happen when you’re willing to do something other than what you did yesterday.

7. Stop looking behind you.

Ain’t nothing back there for you. Don’t listen to anyone’s footsteps but your own. Fear is one of creativity’s biggest hurdles. When it’s there, acknowledge it, tell yourself it’s part of the process, then take pride in blowing past it.

8. You only run this way once.

Sometimes on a run I’ll start to struggle, get distracted, or just want to quit, and I’ll remind myself, “This is the only run you’re going to do today.” Whatever the project, however big or small, no matter whether it feels like a smashing success or a colossal failure, it’s the only one you’ll ever do at that moment in time. Make the most of it.