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Just Put on the Shoes

Writer’s Digest
November 2003

Writer’s Yearbook Presents:
Start Writing Now
Your Introduction to the Writing Life

I hate jogging. I want to stay in shape. I need to jog to stay in shape. After I jog, I feel better. Jogging is like writing. I hate jogging.

I open my eyes and I think about it immediately: I don’t want to do it, I dread it, I just want it to be over so that I can say to myself that I did it and I can move on with my day. Until I do it, I think about doing it and it builds up and just makes it worse. If I can distract myself from reminding myself that I have to do it, I can sometimes forget that I should be doing it–for a while.

A voice whispers to me, “Just put on the shoes.” Get out the door, get moving–that’s how easy it is.

You don’t need to be a sprinter, you don’t need to break any records, you just need to get out the door. Walking is good, it’s a good start, in fact, walking is fine. Get out there and see what you’ve been missing, just take a few steps out the door, beyond where you are now. You don’t know what will happen if you go out the door. You know exactly what will happen if you don’t go: nothing.

Do a little today and tomorrow will be easier. Do it three or four days and it will become a habit that you won?t have to kill yourself over every time. A habit you don’t have to remind yourself about–that’s why they call it a habit.

The hardest part is just putting on the shoes. It’ll be painful at first, those first steps, just a few words onto a blank page, maybe the first sweat, a little out of breath, even embarrassed at how hard you’re breathing, how much you’re sweating. Stop if you want to, walk a while. But you’re out there. You’ve begun.

Everyday it gets easier and possibly even pleasant. Imagine! After a while, you can feel when you’re getting into a rhythm and you forget you’re jogging, or walking, or writing, it’s just natural, it’s just what you do. In fact, you’re not really “doing” anything, it’s just happening to you. You get better and you can feel it–you’re getting into shape.

Your feet move and you look at them and there they go, one in front of the other. It’s almost magical. You can do it anywhere, anytime: vacation, visiting family, busy at work, just take a few minutes to walk, just a few steps, just a few words. You don’t need fancy, expensive equipment, you don’t need much of anything–your feet, your mind, and your shoes. You don’t even need pen and paper, you can write on the walls of your mind. But however you do it–slowly, sprinting, uphill, on the beach–you have to do it regularly, even if it’s just a short time, you have to stay in shape. Only you know if you’re in shape, you can cheat others, but you can’t cheat yourself. The more you do it, the better you get. You’ll feel it. In your legs. In your words. Everyday, just put on the shoes. Any shoes will do.

Afterwards, you know that you’ve accomplished something. Maybe it wasn’t a four-minute mile, maybe it was only around the block, but you got out there. It’s so easy. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier, how you got yourself so frustrated over something so simple with such rewards. Rewards both expected and unexpected. When you’re in shape, when you’re in a rhythm, you can go places that you’ve never been before, places that you can’t get to when you’re not in shape. You can rise to new levels, levels previously unknown to you. That’s when it gets exciting, that’s when you know why you put on the shoes. The next time before you put on the shoes, you’ll remember where they took you last time and you want to get there again–and further. It all starts when you get things moving. Usually when you get things moving, things get moving.

Just put on the shoes.

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