always writing, Okanogan Highlands, Autumn 2015

Other than the movement of my physical body in beautiful places, the talks I give, and the meetings I have with clients, writing is my vehicle of communication both as an athlete and as a business owner. A few folks have asked where I learned to write and how I cultivate a creative practice. At risk of being too myopically focused on the practice versus the outcome (it felt a little weird to write about writing) here are my insights on writing.

 

The practice: I've always enjoyed writing but in 2015 I decided to intentionally cultivate my writing practice. By completing The Artist's Way for twelve weeks at the beginning of the year, I developed vital skills and tools for what has become a key way to work and express myself in recent time. Since 2015, I've continued to write every damn day first for myself and, if I have time, for others to consume. 

Habit vs. ritual: Present in my writing practice are both the habit, or impulse, to write and the rituals surrounding my writing. The habit consists of writing for about an hour each day longhand in my journal. Always with an extra fine blue TUL ballpoint pen in a Moleskine extra large squared soft cover 7 1/2" x 9 3/4" journal - and it all happens in this chair most summer mornings. Over the years I've tried many different combinations of writing tools, including sandbagging myself epically with the 8 1/2" x 11" squared journals, and I find that these are the tools with which I do my most fluid work. My morning pages come before my writing in this space, on social media, and my interviews with various media outlets. Without making my daily habit seem precious, I like to cultivate my writerly space by signalling to myself that it is time to write. I signal this in many ways and the rituals surrounding the practice tend to shift depending on where I'm writing (outdoors while camping, at home, or while traveling). The consistency I cultivate by using ritual to initiate my practice at the beginning of the day makes up for the often-inconsistent nature of my surroundings as I am a highly nomadic person. I find my writing practice to be the single most grounding force in my life.

Boredom: I've been thinking about boredom lately and how important it is to the writing practice I am privileged to take refuge in daily. In my past life in the fast-paced world of big-dollar global development philanthropy, your importance was tacitly equated with how busy you were at work. An employee furiously typing emails and hitting send, sweating under the stress of her heavy deadlines, and staying up until all hours managing her grants was viewed as a good worker, a team player, and received the highest performance ratings possible. Over the last two and a half years away from this un-mindful office culture, having laid down the ways of measuring value that had been imposed on me in the workplace, I have allowed myself to re-think what it means to be effective and to work well. Outright boredom allows there to be space around my thoughts and makes apparent to me the different tones of the egoic voice versus the wise voice - and I know exactly from where I want my work to come. Boredom is the creative's friend.

Monotasking: Efficiency in this new paradigm is not equal to time spent in motion but rather to the mindful way in which I spend my time at work. If it is time to write, I write. If it is time to do the dishes, I do the dishes. If it is time to play with my daughter, I play with her. If it is time to sit still and stare at the river going by, I do my best to not reach for my iPhone or to ruminate on some social interaction I had yesterday or to pick at my three day old manicure. Monotasking is a mindfulness practice, a way of life that will never be perfect; when you become distracted simply note the distraction and refocus on your task or read more here

Creativity is the residue of time wasted.
— Albert Einstein

Building the muscle: Creativity is not a gift, it is a skill. Just as I tell everyone who calls me a 'talented' or 'lucky' athlete that neither of those words are correct when applied to me as an athlete, those words are equally as inappropriate to apply to me as a writer. I was not born with a natural tendency to run ultras alone any more than I was born to write gnostic words about the time I spend in the mountains. I chose to do these things because they are activities that give my life structure and meaning and, when I'm bone dust, I want to leave behind traces of my precious practices for future humans to enjoy. I work hard to be a better writer every day, not as measured by Strunk and White or some professor or honestly even you as a reader, so that I can more clearly represent the pulsation of divine insight that flows through me while I move in the mountains - and so my favorite tool for communicating becomes ever truer to what I intend to convey.

Creative grit: When I work at times during which I am not particularly inspired, I develop my creative grit. In the past, by working only when sporadic inspiration imparted its genius, I taught myself the false lesson that I can only work well under specific conditions and at the specific times that some omniscient outside force chooses. The idea that creativity only happens when we're inspired is, of course, untrue and limiting. This grit allows me to build trust with myself that I am capable of creating every day, under all circumstances, and that my creativity is not something with a finite limit. In turn this grit has allowed me to keep creating consistently even through the first year of my daughter's life despite having many competing responsibilities and a home that was often not quiet (or orderly).

Boundaries: I never, ever share the content of my morning pages. Hard boundary. This single steadfast boundary serves me well, giving me the safe space in which to create ugly, shitty, stupid, vain, and grammatically-incorrect prose that no one will ever read. Once I sift through the often beastly thoughts clouding the choicer, coherent thoughts by resting on the page each morning the words that I speak and write come from a wiser place. Aside from the sanctity of my morning pages, I have an ever-evolving set of boundaries I keep with myself within my writing practice. These boundaries include ones regulating my use of various means of correspondence while I'm writing, making sure to get my pages out of the way before 'broadcasting' my words outside of myself, or from whom I seek feedback on the quality of my writing.

 

 

A funny aside: I wrote this article in its entirety about a week ago but lost the whole thing when I switched from online to offline. A lesson in impermanence, trust, and detachment - and not getting pissed off.

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