Running rocks and the merciless blank page
The blank page can be merciless. One of my favorite writers on creativity and performance is Todd Henry, author of Die Empty. In his blog, Todd writes about cultivating the practice of being alone with your thoughts every day.
About fifteen years ago, I heard a friend say that the best practice he’d ever developed was plopping down in a chair first thing in the morning with a notebook and staring at the wall. I thought he was out of his mind until I started doing the same thing. It’s amazing how many thoughts pass through your mind, slipping just beneath the level of your consciousness simply because you aren’t listening for them.
But what do you do when you sit with your thoughts and, well, you don’t have any? What if you reach and There’s. Just. Nothing. There.
Very tempting to give up, to give in to the demands of the day’s busy-ness. For some, mornings are not a quiet, tranquil time to gather thoughts and begin again. They bring anxiety and the bustle of activity, getting kids off to school and not being late for work and remembering the mountain of undone tasks and unmet deadlines.
Celebrate the Habit
One key to making it work is to learn how to enjoy and even celebrate that daily process, regardless of the outcome. Because building the habit itself is useful.
Over time, habit trumps the "monkey mind", creates the structure and space for productive work. A lot of times you can’t see the change. But it’s happening.
Starting a run is a blank page. It can be merciless. There are lots of crappy, just ok, not inspiring at all runs. But they all count. So if you can find a way to enjoy, savor or celebrate each one you will build a habit, and it will stick.
When my teenage son wanted to take up running, I encouraged him to pick up a rock at the end of each run. The rock represented his run for the day. They went into a flower pot on our porch so he could see, over time, the pile growing.
With his usual creativity, he soon took to picking his running rock very seriously – on good days the rocks were smooth and shiny, others were jagged and heavy. It wasn’t too long before he could see a pretty good pile of rocks in the pot. And when the time came for his first 5K, he was ready.
Learn to enjoy the habit, and the habit will become its own reward. The goal isn’t some distant achievement, but the process itself. - Leo Babauta, Zen Habits