Ridiculous Expectations

I have a lot of expectations. Of myself, of others, of products and fictional universes–but mostly of myself. I’m perfectly willing to admit that other people are flawed, and do things that don’t make sense, and need days of rest. I’m almost as willing to admit that my favorite character isn’t perfect, or that the fictional universe doesn’t have to be what I really, really want it to be.

But myself? It’s so much harder to give up my own expectations for myself.

So many of my expectations are ones I don’t even realize I have. Like when it comes to adults: I can verbalize that adults are not perfect and do not have it all together. Really, though, I still believe that other adults are in fact perfect, or at least have this adulting thing down to an art, and I’m the only one still bumbling along, avoiding doing my taxes or taking my car to the mechanic. I have this expectation that adults doing avoid anything, ever, and certainly clean and do laundry on a regular basis and want to go to work. I’m not even sure where these expectations came from, actually, because I don’t actually know any adults who want to go to work all the time, and it’s ridiculous to think that no one ever avoids doing things or always does all of their chores. And, see, I can name that ridiculousness, but I still feel guilty thinking of the pile of laundry I need to do. 

And when it comes to writing–boy, do I have some expectations about that. I expect myself to write consistently, ideally an hour or two every morning before I go do some laundry or whatever. I expect my ideas to come regularly (but not overwhelmingly). I expect the words to come easily. I expect myself to always balance perfectly the need to write and writing for money and writing becoming addictive again and writing what I love and writing well. And then I get so frustrated when, oddly, I am not perfect. And, see, I can recognize that these expectations are ridiculous, too, but that isn’t that helpful when I’m in the midst of feeling like a worthless writer because I have no ideas or haven’t blogged in two weeks, or like a worthless human being because I’ve fallen into addictive, destructive behaviors towards stories, or like a failure because I want to write so much that I sit at my computer and watch Netflix because sometimes feelings are just too overwhelming. 

And, yes, recognizing a problem is the first step in solving it. Sure. But I’ve always struggled with this and I suspect I always will. I struggle with my ridiculous expectations, but I’ve also been doing the work to let those expectations go.

Perfect Writing

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing much lately is because I want everything to be just right. I want to feel that sweet spot of confidence and inspiration; I want to be somewhere that’s exactly the right mix of quiet, comfortable, and interesting but not distracting; I want to be sure what I’ll be writing while also knowing I’ll be flexible enough to accept if the piece doesn’t go exactly as I’d planned; I want to feel surrounded by God and loved enough that I know I’ll be able to trust myself and trust God. I want everything to be just so when I sit down to write. 

And some days, I really am not ready to write, or something else really does come up. And that’s fine.

Most days, however, when all of those factors don’t line up exactly, it’s also fine. It doesn’t feel like it; I feel unsettled enough that it’s harder to sit down to write, or I use it as an excuse for not writing. I can’t do it just so today, so I just won’t do it. I don’t feel capable of perfection, or my best, or the impossible standard that I perceive as my best, or even something that’s ‘good enough.’ 

Like I said, some days I really can’t write well. There’s nothing wrong with that. But most days when I don’t feel ‘ready’ to write, don’t feel like I’ll be good enough–it’s not true. What I write may not be perfect (well–I hate to break it to myself, but duh), but editing exists. There’s value in writing anyway, in listening to the words and to God and sitting in that space of ‘I don’t know what to write’ and ‘Can I really write?’ and ‘What am I doing?’ There’s value in writing anyway. 

Sometimes I just needed to start, just needed to reassure myself that I still remember how to write. Sometimes the words really aren’t ready, or I’m not ready to write them. Sometimes I really just wasn’t ready to write.

But there’s value in writing anyway. 

That’s what I’m learning, and relearning, and relearning, in this season.

Writing Challenge, Weeks 4 and 5

Here’s a wrap up of my November writing challenge:

Tuesday (November 22): 0 minutes

Wednesday: 35 minutes

Thursday: 0 minutes

Friday: 0 minutes

Saturday: 55 minutes

Sunday: 55 minutes

Monday: 30 minutes

Tuesday (November 29): 0 minutes

Wednesday: 0 minutes

Yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t write more (although not during Thanksgiving. I went to visit family that I hardly ever see and it was wonderful. It’s such a rare occurrence that it was worth not writing for those few days). Not being able to write consistently has been a huge theme of this challenge. 

But I’m very glad I challenged myself like this. Recording how much I’ve been writing has helped me to see what I’m doing well and what I need to improve on. The challenge has encouraged me to write more. An hour a day may be unrealistic at this point, but it’s the minimum amount of writing I’d like to work towards and eventually reach. It’s been helpful to have a goal and accountability.

I’ve continued the challenge into December with a few tweaks. These update posts seem to be popular, so I’ll keep posting them every few weeks!

Writing Challenge, Week 3

It’s time for another update! Here’s how the past week went:

Tuesday: 40 minutes

Wednesday: 0 minutes

Thursday: 15 minutes

Friday: 0 minutes

Saturday: 0 minutes

Sunday: 150 minutes

Monday: 25 minutes

As I looked over my times for this week, I was left wondering what I was really trying to accomplish with this challenge. I mean, obviously, I wanted to write more, but as I look at my results this week I remember that writing is intricately bound up with the rest of my life, at least for me. Everything I’m doing is feeling rushed and fragmented and isolated from everything else. And that made writing hard.

Why am I writing? Having a time goal alone isn’t working. It makes it easy to forget that writing feeds my soul. Words feed my soul. Writing gives me joy and life. So, yes, writing every day is a professional goal as I strive to make a part-time career in writing, but writing every day is also a personal and spiritual goal. Writing connects me to God as few other activities do. 

I want to write because writing is good for me. I want to write because it is good for my soul.

I want to write.

Writing Challenge, Week 1

Week one of my writing challenge, done. Here’s what I did:

Tuesday: 40 minutes

Wednesday: 30 minutes

Thursday: 30 minutes

Friday: 0 minutes

Saturday: 0 minutes

Sunday: 0 minutes

Monday: 30 minutes

As you can see, I didn’t fulfill my goal of writing an hour a day even one day this week–no ice cream for me. 😦 And I’m disappointed. I let myself get discouraged after Tuesday, when various important things came up and I tried to write an hour and just couldn’t do it. I let myself get discouraged after Friday, when for no good reason I didn’t write at all. I’m disappointed that I let other things get in the way of writing, from important things like meetings and bodily needs to empty things like Netflix and games on my phone. 

But it’s also been really great. I’ve finished more writing projects doing this challenge than I have in the past two months. I’ve loved the feeling of sitting down and having a goal to work towards, and having that motivate me to keep writing and keep writing. I’ve loved the feeling of having a completed article in front of me, especially one that was challenging to write. I’ve had something to work towards, and I’ve been working towards it as well as working towards redeveloping better work habits. I’ve been focusing more, and even though this wasn’t nearly the amount of writing that I wanted to accomplish, it’s more than I have been getting done. It’s definitely helped.

Here’s to another week of writing! I hope to reach my goal this week!!

How about you? How’s your writing going this month?

Writing

Writing has been hard lately–so, so difficult, like pulling weeds, like coming up against a stone wall repeatedly and unexpectedly. 

Finding words has been like looking for needles in the dark, like looking for a landmark in a thick, suffocating fog.

Nurturing ideas has been like the most delicate work with a micropipette or tweezers or a scalpel–tricky, dangerous work that’s easily destroyed by one wrong choice.

Mustering up the courage to write has been like searching for the mythic white whale or white stag or unicorn. I forget, sometimes, how very much courage it takes to write well and honestly and truly. 

I hate that writing has become a battle, with myself and with the words. 

I miss trusting the words and trusting God so effortlessly that the words flowed without stopping up, with barely a ripple.

Now I’m just glorifying the past. Writing has always been difficult. 

I expected it to become practiced, habitual, easy. I had visions of sitting in a beautiful room, at a wonderful, tidy desk, writing steadily and well for hours at a time. Someday.

Funny, the things I find when I really look at myself. I would have always said that, Of course writing will always be hard work. Of course writing well and honestly will always be difficult, because the tasks worth doing are always difficult. Of course. Funny how I expected older me to somehow have perfected the art of writing into a science. 

What is success?

As I prepare to graduate, and as I approach the date with no long-term plans for afterwards, I find myself thinking about my writing. My prospects are slim for getting a job straight out of my summer internship, and one goal I have is to make writing more than a hobby.  More than something I do in odd moments and only for myself. 

That goal feels so far away. The viewing numbers of this blog are pathetic. My novels are all half-written at best. The list of publications I’ve been paid to write for is nowhere close to becoming a double-digit number. The money I make from writing is barely a trickle. 

Yet, when I list my writing achievements to others, they are always impressed, even enthusiastic. “That’s so amazing!” they say, with utter sincerity, and “You could do far worse than the places you’ve been published in so far.” 

I have accomplished something as a writer. Sure, there’s more to do, more I’d like to do–always–but I have written pieces and reached goals that are worth celebrating. Sure,  I haven’t reached the point where I could live off of my writing, but I do make money, and I’ve worked hard and reached so many mile marks in the past year alone. Having farther I’d like to go doesn’t mean I haven’t already come far. I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far but still have more that I dream of doing.

So, that’s where I am right now: proud of what I’ve accomplished, but dreaming and planning and writing still.