The true test of a [person’s] character is what [they do] when no one is watching.—John Wooden
If there was no one to share your art with would you still make art? Would you still workout consistently if there was no one to witness your workouts? How much do you rely on external validation to fuel your efforts?
Over the last few months, I haven’t been sharing as much via my blog, medium, or social media because I’ve been focusing more on longer form, heavily researched content, and fun little creative projects for myself. The type of writing I want to do now is changing from the past few years. Instagram is where I have the biggest audience, albeit still a small one, but a tricky platform to share my creative work because I can’t fully express my thoughts. I’m restricted by the 2,200 character limits. My daily endurance for quality writing is short-lived (I can only write for 1-2 hours max per day) so I’ve been focusing on what I feel is most important right now.
Not sharing publicly as often, has made me feel weird. When I signed up for my 120-miler, I announced that I would share most of my workouts, the low and high points in my training, and the full race experience. Habitually sharing on social media provided a strong, but addictive dopamine rush. Since I completed the race, I’ve gone back to my regular workout routine which consists of daily 5-milers with some sporadic long runs here and there. I don’t have any races in the foreseeable future. It’s my off season, so when it comes to fitness content, I don’t have much to share right now. Sure, I can force myself to write on topics related to running or fitness, but I don’t really feel like it. I want to go deeper with my writing and explore new topics I haven’t written about before. I need more of a challenge which is why I’ve decided to focus my efforts on my second book.
However, by not publishing as much, I’m not being as publicly creative, which makes me feel uncreative. It’s messing with my head. Scaling back on my other commitments like blog writing and social media posts to focus on one big priority (the new book) has been a struggle.
What I’m grappling with is being content with being quietly creative; living in my own head for a while, engaging with the research, forging a relationship with just me and the page, and enjoying the act of writing itself; l’art pour l’art. As Rick Rubin says, “we tend to think of the artist’s work as the output. The real work of the artist is a way of being in the world.” I’m trying to use my writing skills for other means like writing and mailing love letters to my partner, working on my commonplace book, journaling, doing some introspective work on myself while in therapy. Creativity is not just about shipping out polished art—we can be creative in a multitude of ways.
While I think sharing knowledge, insights, and life experiences is highly rewarding and truthfully, one of the best parts of writing, being quietly creative or quietly athletic is okay too. Who we are is not our public persona—how we present ourselves on social media—but rather, what we do behind the scenes. The periods of time when we’re backstage, consistently going through the monotonous motions, showing up to our practices whether we feel like it or not, without anyone watching what we’re doing, is, what John Wooden says, is the true test of character.
While I love sharing my journey, sometimes I need to write, process, and experience life for myself—remembering that I am still an artist and an athlete even if I’m not as public about it. Quiet creativity is still creativity.