6 Creativity Lessons From Cross-Country Skiing

6 Creativity Lessons From Cross-Country Skiing | Wild Words

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, the New York Times ran a series of profiles on under-appreciated sports like speed skating and cross-country skiing. I’m no elite athlete, but I appreciated learning the nuances that go into both training and competing, and discovered that creative parallels abound.

Take these six lessons from the wilderness:

  • You must strap on a helmet and tackle the snow head-on

  • There is purity and sanctity in the slog

  • The grind is absolute and nonnegotiable  

  • Every mile per hour must be earned

  • Your arms and legs pump against endless and relentless resistance

  • Steep inclines are embraced (no ski lift rides, thanks)

6 Creativity Lessons From Cross-Country Skiing | via Wild Words

This might be a list of everything you might encounter in a two-hour race, but it sounds a lot like the creative life to me, especially that bit about how…

Cross-country skiing expresses something deep about the human condition: the absolute, nonnegotiable necessity of the grind.

I don’t normally like the word grind (which reminds me too much of hustle), and I don’t use it when describing my writing life to anyone. In this case, though, I’m taking a cue from the dictionary:

6 Creativity Lessons from Cross-Country Skiing


to wear, smooth, or sharpen by abrasion or friction

The longer we write and the more time we dedicate to the craft, the smoother our sentences become. Both our words and spirits are sharpened by the friction of everything else—having to make time, navigating the everyday, encountering both rejection and acceptance, and surrounding ourselves with others on the journey.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be watching the cross-country ski competitions with rapt attention from now on.