The timeline of exertion

Weight training can get sadistic. I remember doing a session—programmed by a good friend, who is also a good coach—that involved kettlebell swings. The notation next to it contained the words, “Can’t or won’t”. That meant I had to swing the kettlebell until one of two things occurred: I was physically unable or mentally unwilling to swing it. They aren’t the same thing. As I discovered, my physiological limits and my psychological limits don’t always exist at the same point on the timeline of exertion. Sometimes, the body breaks before the mind does. Mostly, it’s the reverse.

Reflecting on this hard-earned insight revealed something else: creative pursuits have a similar structure. If I sit down to write and don’t set an end-time upon my session, then the session is of a “can’t or won’t” nature. And rarely do I stop because I physically cannot write anymore. No, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it is for psychological reasons that I bring a writing session to a close.

I don’t think this is completely bad. I suspect that it is, in fact, necessary if I’m going to try and write every single day. However, I find it useful to strip away the delusion I was labouring under: that when I stop it’s because I can’t do anymore. No, when I stop, it’s because I won’t do anymore. These are not the same thing.