The idea was simple. Two tasks—write and run—every day, for 31 days.
I made it 20 days.
The idea was simple. Two tasks—write and run—every day, for 31 days.
I made it 20 days.
Taking the New Year’s resolution idea to another level, the two have established an effort for those looking to make some changes for the better in the year ahead. Which I am — and, specifically, I’m looking to write more and run more. These are two things I’ve admittedly put off time again out of my own anxieties (which, as I elaborate on here, are what I feel cause for so many in life to hold back on doing what they love).
I have frequented Matt’s site and blog since I started running nearly two years ago, and loved his book, No Meat Athlete; while Matt certainly focuses many of his efforts on plant-based eating, he’s also got some great thoughts and tips when it comes to running and changing one’s habits for the better.
And so, enter the #WriteandRun31 challenge.
I stopped short when I saw Matt’s e-newsletter announcing this; it was exactly what I’d been craving. While I write and edit frequently as part of my day job, I’m actually talking here about writing creatively, that is anything in the form of fiction, creative nonfiction (be it blog posts, essays, etc.) and poetry. I personally strive to write more in all of those areas, though primarily fiction and poetry.
Running is something I’ve loved for quite a while, but it took me a long time to give it a serious commitment. I’ve tapered back a bit on it recently, so getting back into it in full form is a welcome challenge. When I started running regularly in the spring of 2013, I kicked things off with the renowned Couch-to-5K plan, and that led me to eventually taking part in three 5Ks, a 4-mile race and a 5-mile race, all within the span of a year (this is not meant as a boast; rather I only mean to tell that small beginning efforts can lead to great things).
If you’re new to running and aren’t sure how to get started, I couldn’t recommend the C25K plan enough. It’s ideal for beginners. And while I’m looking to run a marathon at some point down the road, I know I’m far off from that goal, so I figured this new challenge would be a great start to getting back into the habit; this year I’m hoping to stretch forward into the 10K and possibly half-marathon arenas.
So, I filled out Matt & Christine’s commitment sheet, focusing on completing the following tasks every day for 31 days, starting Saturday, Jan. 3 (I’m a couple days late to the game, but anyone can start anytime; the final day being Monday, Feb. 2):
If I can do more of that, great, but with a full-time job and family responsibilities, I’m also realistic. My hope with this is not to just do this for a month and stop, but to spawn a snowball effort of good habits, and after Feb. 2 I may look to tweak my running plan and writing practice. I’ve also learned that once you stop, it’s harder to get back in the game, whatever that game is.
I think this is a great project Matt and his sister have established and I’m glad to be apart of it. I’ll be tracking my progress daily on my Twitter feed @MattBPerk, and encourage anyone looking to make some changes in their lives to take part. As Matt clarifies, this does not have to focus on writing and running specifically, so you are clear to make any substitutes you wish.
Here’s to good habits in 2015. Cheers.
Given that we’ve just begun a new year, and many are focused on making changes and/or adhering (or not) to newfound resolutions, I figured it would be a good time to post some thoughts on the topic. I should note that I started writing this post back in November and due to my own ambivalence on whether I wanted to continue writing about it, I held back. But after reading a number of related stories, books and blog posts since then, all of which I’ve found to be inspiring, I thought it would be good to pass along for anyone else who might benefit.
Leo Babauta, the mastermind behind Zen Habits, makes the claim that fear is at the root of most problems. He goes on to list specific problems that I’ve certainly had issues with (not enough time to exercise, not enough time to write, etc.). I really encourage everyone to check out Babauta’s thoughts, and wholeheartedly agree with what he’s getting at here.
Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete, who at the turn of the calendar launched the #WriteandRun31 project with his sister, recently shared a really strong and humbling post regarding fear, comparing the illusion of it all to pro wrestling. It’s an interesting take, but one that’s worth looking at.
One thing I’ve found helpful in dealing with such anxieties is taking a look at them from a different perspective than when I had growing up. I’ve been exploring meditation and mindfulness for a few years, since about 2006, when I first stumbled into the whole aspect while reading Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, a book that had a profound impact on me and how I look at the world, but it was really only the starting point for what has become a pretty interesting journey.
I should clarify that I’ve been horribly inconsistent when it comes to meditation, but I’ve also seen that meditation comes in many forms, and even in the small time I’ve devoted to it, it’s made a massive difference in my life. I just finished Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm (read an excerpt here), and if you’re looking to be more at peace and enjoy your life every day without battling regular anxieties that pop up, this one’s a must-read. Thay is one of many who have inspired me to take on my meditation, and so far I love everything I’ve read by him.
Now what, you may ask, do I — or you, or they, or he, or she, or we — have to be afraid of? Pick any reason you like, there are plenty to go around. I sure as hell have a number of things that cause a well of fear and anxiety to bubble up on a frequent basis. Who doesn’t? And yes, writing, for me, is one of them, as is running — both of which I’m aiming to do on a daily or near-daily basis in the month ahead (for more on my efforts with the #WriteandRun31 Challenge, click here.).
So why do something if you’re afraid of it? Why bother writing if I’m afraid of failing, of not reaching publication, of not being good, or, oddly, of being good? Fantasy writer Ksenia Anske goes into the fear of writing well a bit here, and quite wonderfully (I just discovered this post the other day; it’s a great read). Why bother trying to run if there are elements I hate about it (such as waking pre-dawn to push through the morning ice-filled air, or worrying about whether to wave to a passerby)?
The short answer is that while there are elements about these things I find difficult or in some ways off-putting, there are also elements I love, elements that push me to this strange little area filled with tranquility, a lucid form of creativity. But you only reach that point after pushing through and past the difficult elements, and they are absolutely worth it.
I’m in my 30s and I’ve only really just begun to work on facing my own fears, trying to understand them. I could certainly say I would have done a few things differently in my youth, but I followed the anxieties that typically come with adolescence and didn’t listen to what was really calling me. I’ve started listening since then, so my efforts in creativity have been slow-going, as you may have noticed from the gaps in regularity on this little blog. But it’s all about progress, the small victories, that make a difference in the end.
More to the point, I’ve learned time and again that “conquering” your fears is a bit of an illusion, and avoiding them is like avoiding a fresh leg wound – regardless of whether you want to look at it, the fact of the matter is you’re bleeding, and, yes, you need to take care of that thing for it to heal.
Here’s to hoping we can all take a look at what sparks the fear, how we can face it and, eventually, live in such a way that it does not hold us back from doing what we love.
Upward and onward.
In the early part of 2014 I aimed to read a book a week for the entire year. That didn’t happen, which of course doesn’t surprise me. I let a few things get in the way of me accomplishing that goal, mostly my own procrastination.
The “book-a-week” effort is nothing new, but it’s the first time I gave it a go.
In total, I read 30 books, a number I’m still pleased with (though one of them was a re-read, so 29 new books). I’m hoping to up that number to 40 in 2015 if possible (I’m playing it realistic this round).
Here’s the recap of what I read in 2014:
The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other Stories — Jack London
In Defense of Food — Michael Pollan
ChiRunning — Danny Dreyer
The Hermit’s Story — Rick Bass
Running With the Mind of Meditation — Sakyong Mipham
What I Talk About When I talk About Running — Haruki Murakami (re-read)
Catcher in the Rye — JD Salinger
Lord of the Flies — William Golding
The Book of Secrets — Deepak Chopra
Tortilla Flat — John Steinbeck
Animal Farm — George Orwell
The Illustrated Man — Ray Bradbury
Tristessa — Jack Kerouac
The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire — Deepak Chopra
The World Without Us — Alan Weisman
N0S4A2 — Joe Hill
The Black Echo — Michael Connolly
Running and Being — Dr. George Sheehan
A Clash of Kings — George RR Martin
Salem’s Lot — Stephen King
No Meat Athlete — Matt Frazier
How to Sit — Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Eat — Thich Nhat Hanh
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Buddha Walks Into the Office — Lodro Rinzler
Dandelion Wine — Ray Bradbury
10 Years in the Tub: A Decade of Soaking in Great Books — Nick Hornby
1984 — George Orwell
Tell to Win — Peter Guber
Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm — Thich Nhat Hanh
I’m a big fan of the publishing house McSweeney’s, and love The Believer. There’s really no magazine out there quite like it. A regular feature of the pub is “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” — musings by author Nick Hornby on just that, what he’s been reading.
While I hadn’t previously had the chance to dig deep into his columns, I was compelled to find a decade worth of them in one collection dubbed “Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books.”
Hornby’s flat-out hilarious in his writing, and I loved every page of this. For each column you’ll find a list of his most recent book purchases and then a list of what he’s actually read in the previous month. And his choices run wide, covering fiction and nonfiction alike.
It was a refreshing treat to devour this one. It’s also interesting to see how one relates to what one reads or hears or sees. My recommendation is, if you have any kind of passion for reading books on a regular basis, pick up a copy and give it a look.