Done is Better than Good

It’s been a while since I wrote – and that’s because there have been some significant interruptions to my running and writing life lately.

After thirteen years of raising my four children – naps, nappies, bibs, pushchairs, Play Doh and finger paint – I sent the last of them into full time education this month. I’ve been anticipating the moment for a while, supposedly preparing myself for a major life transition. I knew it would be emotional; I just didn’t count on quite how much emotion we were talking about. There’s a poignancy to getting older – beginnings and endings are rarely simple, and closing this chapter of my life has been bittersweet. I’ve been fulfilled, challenged, developed and delighted more in this last almost one and a half decades than ever, ever before. The rising tide of my children growing older and more independent is unstoppable. Beautiful, and right, and inexorable.

So the new beginning for me is that now I work from home. Wait, wasn’t I already doing that?? Well, yes, but it fitted in around the pulls and pushes of children and homework, laundry, playing, shopping, swimming lessons, cooking, music practice… Every answered email or sketched out article was a bonus. Now? It’s bread and butter.

Alongside the seismic shifts of family life, my running world also experienced a bit of a tremor: over the summer during a not particularly demanding run, I started having pain in my knee. Despite lots of rest and strength training, it’s not going away. I’ve had to bail on the half marathon I was training for in mid-October. I have physio coming up and it doesn’t look like anything really serious – but it’s taken me off the road. Suddenly four runs a week has turned into an occasional experimental mile here and there (followed by icepacks and frustration).

So in the absence of a schedule, I have to create new structures for myself. Fortify myself with faith that I can do this. Understand that the anxiety of transition doesn’t last for ever, and one day I’ll look back on this and see normal life. As well as yet another solid bit of wisdom on this from James Clear’s latest article, I’ve recently listened to some excellent TED talks which pick up a few of these themes, in particular the TED Radio Hour on creativity. Elizabeth Gilbert is brilliant in her calm, pragmatic advice to simply show up. Don’t allow fear of failure to paralyse you; just turn up, sit down, and start working. She remembers her mother’s adage “Done is better than good”, the simple exhortation to get it done. It may be less than brilliant – but it’s better than a blank screen. And it’s something you can work on.

So when I go for that pitiful 10 minute jog, slower and shorter than any run I’ve done in years, it’s the same process. It’s not a PB at Boston (ha!) – it’s not even a PB round the block – but it’s showing up. Doing another Pilates class, or lifting 30kg on the adductor machine is less exhilarating and life affirming than a ten miler at dawn, watching the sun rise through the mist, far away from home. It doesn’t feel as good. But it’s turning up, and it’s getting the work done. Done is better than good.

Elizabeth Gilbert


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