I looked back at some of my old entries here. Actually, I did a Google search of the blog for the word "streak" and found three separate entries about the subject. I was wondering what I had thought of the concept heretofore. Turns out, as with so many other things, my ideas about streaks have changed over time. I can live with that. Since more time has passed, I'm thinking about it again and feeling just a little differently.
Two streaks are happening in my life right now. The first is a writing streak of twenty-nine days writing at 750words.com (which you should join right now). That streak has taken me out of a long period of not writing much into a current state of producing more than one thousand words pretty much every day. It's a good thing but when I was talking about it with a friend yesterday, I mentioned the key trouble that it can bring: writing for the sake of the streak. When the streak stops serving the writing and things get turned upside down, that's the time to purposely take a day off and break into the habit a different way. After all, a streak that doesn't get me doing good writing is almost as bad a habit as smoking.
The second streak is all about running. I ran the Boilermaker 15K last Sunday after a week of not running. It felt good to run the race, but it would have felt better had I been in better shape and been running a lot more. I had an hour and three-quarters to think about this as I ran the 15K and I came up with the idea of running a 5K every day. I thought that this was brilliant and even came up with a Twitter hashtag: #5KaDay. Brilliant! How could no one else have thought of this?
Of course, someone had, but that's okay too and I decided only a couple days into the streak that I wasn't going to post it on Twitter. I mean, who gives a damn other than me?
I'm on day eight of 5Ks a day, and the reason I mention it is that the streak, so far has been useful. It is helping me re-develop the habit of running. But the streak is a danger too. I've already noticed that I tend to want to quit after 5K when I used to run four or five miles each day. (A 5K is 3.1 miles, by the way.) The other danger is, of course, that I'll run for the streak instead of the higher goals I have in mind.
See, I want to run regularly to remember how much I like running, how good it feels to me to be a runner. That and I would like to feel healthier again. Those are worthy goals and the streak is simply a means to those ends.
It comes down to a question of balance. The streak is useful until it's not useful. The writing streak is still useful because it pulled me into writing these words which I'll publish on the blog (for the first time in a long while). The running streak is useful in that I went for a good run today that I wouldn't have otherwise done. I wasn't in the mood to run, was feeling like doing anything but run, but I got off the couch because I had a seven-day streak going and wanted to push it to eight.
Eventually, I'll need a rest-day and won't go out, but when I do that I'll have a long discussion with myself about what I'm doing and why. I'll have to be aware of what I'm doing instead of just going on auto-pilot. That auto-pilot would have had me sitting at home today instead of out on the roads and I'm glad I was at the controls of my life instead of watching it go by.
Reading those old essays about streaks I can see that I wasn't that far from what I'm feeling today. I'm learning to separate, as Aaron Sorkin might say it, the stuff from the stuff. It's not something I'll master and I'm okay with that. I'll screw up the lesson and I just might screw up the streak, but there is always a new streak on which to embark. I hardly remember breaking previous streaks, but I remember the feelings I had when I was really cooking because I had committed to doing something every single day. Those feelings can be boiled down into two words for me: Write on.