40 weeks of writing, running a marathon, and being in a long distance relationship

This week marks some very large milestones in my life. I’ve consistently written and published posts on this blog for the past 40 weeks (and see no signs of stopping,) tomorrow marks my two year anniversary with my girlfriend, and on Saturday morning I’ll be running my first marathon at the NAIA National Championships. Although these three milestones may appear random at first, they’re all stories of patience and perseverance, and have all provided for endless lessons learned. This post will explore the key points of what I’ve learned and how they have enabled me to grow. While each bullet point is elaborated on in the context of each section—writing, running, and being in a relationship—the concept of each one is applicable to all creative careers. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

40 Weeks of Writing

I’m quickly approaching one year of writing, and at times it feels as though I’ve been writing for ages; other times I could swear that I just started this a few week ago. Needless to say, it has become not only a part of my routine but also a part of my life. I’ve always been interested in writing, but never fully engaged myself in it under the excuse that I wasn’t good and had nothing to say.

I had the same fears and excuses even when I first started this blog, but I went into it with the intentions of: I want to learn how to enjoy writing and get better at it, and I want to write a book one day. With those two goals in mind, I decided to take a jump, although it felt like a jump at the time I can look back and realize that it was actually just putting one foot in front of the other to actually start moving. Writing will open you up to so many amazing things, and will help you better understand yourself and your thoughts. Here’s what writing has taught me:

  • The writing doesn’t change
    Since I’ve started, the process is still the same, and I’ve become much more comfortable and confident within that process. I quickly learned that inspiration doesn’t come out of nowhere—it comes from writing, and the more you write the easier writing gets and the more inspired you get to write.
  • You’ll become a better speaker
    I’ve always been moved by the spoken word, and intrigued by the weight of someone’s voice as they deliver a speech. However, like most others, I found myself terrified by the act of voicing my thoughts and opinions to other people. Over the years I’ve actively worked to become more comfortable with speaking to others, but writing publically has helped me the most in developing my voice. I’ve not only become more comfortable with my words, but also more confident. Above all, writing continues to push my ability to articulate my thoughts which helps me to quickly and clearly express myself when I’m in conversation.
  • Blank Screen Paralysis
    When you first open up a new document to start writing and all you see is the blinking cursor, it suddenly becomes extremely difficult to write. It’s easy to sit there trying to formulate sentences in your head, but for myself, nothing ever seems good enough to actually write down and so I get no where. I get over this by writing down anything that comes to mind which typically starts with headline ideas or the general essence of what I want to talk about, and then I begin jotting down my thoughts in the forms of notes. Writing down quick notes gets past the idea of writing perfect sentences. Think out loud (meaning type as you think), then revisit those thoughts later to better articulate them.
  • Have an auto responder
    At the very least, write an email to every new subscriber. I don’t have an auto responder in place and I’m still kicking myself in the ass about it. Most of my subscribers never received an introductory email and instead just had my newsletter being sent to them. Neglecting to ease people into the newsletter meant I was missing the opportunity to build trust, start a lasting relationship, learn why they subscribed in the first place, and to learn what they’re struggling with.
  • Have conversations with your readers
    Just as I didn’t reach out to my subscribers when they first joined, I haven’t engaged in conversations with them since then. Again, I just send out my newsletter each week and hope that they’re enjoying it, and by doing so I’m doing a disservice to not only the readers, but also future readers as well as the actual content of my posts.
  • It’s not about numbers
    22 people are subscribed to this blog: 2 are my own emails that I use to make sure everything sent fine, 1 is my brother, another is my girlfriend, and another is her mom. We’re in an age of being number driven especially when it comes to followers and likes on social media. It’s so easy to read about people making millions of dollars on launch days, or gaining thousands of followers in an instant, so when we don’t follow suit it’s easy to think that we aren’t cut out for it or good enough. Outside of the people I listed above, only 17 people are subscribed to my blog. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, but I’m damn proud and very content with the amount of people subscribed. Just because this hasn’t blow up and I’m not making money from it doesn’t mean I intend on slowing down. It has never been about the people for me, it has been about the people. I’m going to continue showing up week after week and providing as much value as I can to those who care enough to read about it.
  • Still promote your posts and make people aware of what you’re doing
    I’m pretty bad at this because I feel guilty about constantly sharing my posts, and for some reason I feel as though I shouldn’t. The truth is, what I’m writing is of value (I say this because people have written to me), and so sharing it isn’t a selfish act if it’s going to help someone. I have difficulty doing this, but it’s something I’m working towards changing.
  • Writing is therapeutic and helps you become a better person
    The more I write the more articulate I become, the more confident I become, the more I learn, and the more curious I become. Writing has become an integral part of my life—it has helped me find direction.

Tybee Critz Half Marathon

Tybee Half Marathon | Photo: Tracy Koch

Running a marathon

When this goes out and as I write this, I still have yet to run a marathon, but for the past 6 months I’ve been training for it. Since December, I’ve logged nearly 1800 miles, but I’m still experiencing mixed emotions of fear and excitement. You’re probably wondering how running is relevant to design or writing, but as I stated in the introduction, it’s about patience and perseverance. Last year I was in the same position, I lined up to race the marathon but mentally gave up around 14 miles and then actually dropped out at mile 17. I’m not upset with how it panned out last year because I strongly believe I made the right decision. With the marathon just days away, I can say with confidence that I am beyond ready. With that being said, here’s what the past 6 months have taught me:

  • Time flies so get working
    It honestly feels as though my training just started a few months ago, but the reality is that I’ve been at this for about 6 months. If you don’t get working now, then half a year will pass by and you won’t know where it went.
  • Don’t be lucky, be prepared
    There’s no way that I could just half-ass my training and expect to do well at the national championships or even finish a marathon for that matter. You need to be consistently putting in the work if you want to see any progress.
  • This is a long term game
    Continuing off of the last point, success doesn’t happen overnight, in a week, in a month, or even in 6 months. Although my training for the marathon began back in December, my history with running over the past 5 years is what has made this moment possible. The goals you work towards and the decisions you are making today may lead to something magical down the road, something you never anticipated. You may not know what your choices for today will lead to 5 years from now, but I challenge you to ask yourself, “What doors could this open for me 5 years from now?” Consider the people you’ll meet. Consider the things you learn. Consider how you may change as a person. Consider the impossible because, heck, it may just happen.
  • You are capable of more than you think
    Throughout my track season I’ve continually surprised myself and had to reconsider what I’m actually capable of. If I look back at my running career I would have never thought that I would be where I am right now—ranked amongst some of the top distance runners in the NAIA. It’s incredible how far you can go with a just little bit of belief in yourself and the stubbornness to never quit.

Brantley and I at Candlefish

Being in a long distance relationship

Friday marks my two year anniversary with my girlfriend which is easily one of my biggest accomplishments. This is the first relationship I have ever been in, but most of it has been spent hours apart from each other. We were just a few months into our relationship when I moved back to Savannah full-time for school which put 3-4 hours between us. 3-4 hours doesn’t seem like much, but it becomes a trek when we’re both living busy lives. A year after I moved, Brantley then moved up to Charleston which cut the distance to just 2 hours making it much easier for us to visit each other.

Although we take weekend trips to see each other as much as we can, we’ve never had the luxury of immediacy other than the first few months that we were dating. The distance poses a lot of problems, but we’ve managed to pull through, I love her dearly, and I’ve learned a lot from it.

  • Carve out time
    Being in two different places makes it difficult to talk especially since we’re both living very different lives. While I wake up at 5 every morning and go to bed early, Brantley is typically sleeping in and staying up late. On top of that we both have our own school schedules to deal with along with social lives which can make communication difficult. The best thing we’ve done is made each other aware of what our days are like and figuring out when is the best time(s) for us to talk.
    Also, since I love what I do it’s easy for me to get swept up in what I’m doing and wanting to work all day. By carving out time to talk, I’m able to take a much needed step away from my work to talk to the girl I love.
  • Embrace your differences
    I’ve written about this before in two very different ways. One way reads, “While [Brantley and I are] both Kanye West fans she’s more of an 808’s and Heartbreaks kind of gal while I’m more of a College Dropout kind of guy.”

    I also wrote another post about the falsehood of searching for someone just like you, the full post can be read here. The last bit of it read as follows: “The perfect gift isn’t what you want or would expect. The perfect gift is the thing you didn’t know you needed and easily reflects the other person. When you’re different from the person you are dating then everything you receive is a reflection of that person whether it be advice, gifts, questions, comments, music, or anything else. Don’t waste your time finding things that make you similar, and instead celebrate what makes you different.”

  • Handmade is always better
    Everytime I want to give Brantley a gift, it’s either entirely handmade or at the very least I incorporate something handmade with it. You may be thinking, I have an unfair advantage because of my artistic background but I can 100% tell you that it does not matter. Brantley struggles with buying me gifts, and she wouldn’t call herself artistic, but anytime she makes me something herself it without fail makes me happy. Most of my favorite gifts from her are handmade. The point isn’t to make a masterpiece, it’s to make something of meaning and of expression.
  • Figure out how to express yourself
    Perhaps this isn’t a problem for everyone, but it sure is for me. Just the other day I was watching the documentary Miss Representation, during which they bring up the issue of men being overly masculinized from a young age causing them to be emotionally illiterate. I’m far from being overly masculine, but when they brought this up I realized that I’m kind of emotionally illiterate. I have difficulties expressing myself and my emotions which can really hurt me and the people around me. Brantley and I have talked about this before, and it has been a mission of mine to figure out how to best express myself because it doesn’t come naturally in our conversation. For me, the easiest way has been to write. I don’t write her letters enough, but I try to as much as I can and that has been the best outlet for expressing my feelings as of recently.

  • Talk to someone with an entirely outside perspective
    Just as you may expect from the last point, I experience difficulties talking to people when I’m having troubles. I’m not even good at talking to my brother who sits across the desk from me that I spend most of my time with about my relationship problems or even what I’m stressed about. One person I have been able to talk to though is my coach who I see not only a great friend but also as a mentor. Talking to someone who can provide an outside perspective because they’re not involved in my everyday personal life has been extremely helpful because it forces me to think through my problems and relay them to someone who doesn’t know what’s going on but is willing to understand them and help me.
  • Remember why you’re in this
    When you’re so far apart from someone all of the time it’s easy to magnify the little annoyances, but you have to always remind yourself of why you’re in this. Every time I see Brantley, I’m instantly reminded of why we’re sticking this through. In order to make this work, I’ve got to constantly remind myself of those joyful moments because those are what make everything worth it. This heavily applies to everything in life, remember why you’re in it. It’s easy to be swept up in the monotony of the day to day tasks, but remember that you’re working towards something bigger.

Writing about all of this may seem sporadic or as though I’m pointing out my accomplishments to brag, but I wholeheartedly believe in living a holistic life in which anything we learn in any given aspect of our life can then be applied to another. I wrote of these three milestones to reveal the underlying truth that having patience and a vision can bring you further than you may think.