There’s nothing quite like spending a whole day writing, only to discover that most of what you wrote sucks. What makes it worse is when you realise it’s your own damn fault!
A few days ago I treated my inner writer to a free day to chip away at a few writing projects. Specifically, I wanted to write some targeted articles for a magazine editor that I had been selling articles to. While the topics were familiar, the articles were to be of a different style – I wanted to give her something unique.
At the end of the day, my husband (a.k.a. chief editor) came home from work to find a small pile of papers to read. With eager anticipation, I waited for the thumbs up. What did I get? “It’s not your best work.” Translation: “It barks like a dog, Wendy!”. Who would have ever thought there was a downside to having an honest husband?
As I sat there looking at the pages woofing at me, I realised what I had done. It’s something I’ve done before. It’s something most writers have done before. It’s something most writers and I will continue to do. And if you are not a writer, then you may be inadvertently doing it in some aspect of your life.
The biggest problem with creative endeavours, and life in general, is EXPECTATIONS.
Yes, I sat there trying to create a piece of writing into a particular form (funny and 600 words), and with a particular outcome (loved by the editor and maybe my own column – yippee!). And while the form is something that comes naturally to me, I tried to force it. Every other time I’ve written a funny, 600-word piece, it has come out of me spontaneously.
Another writer I know is trying to write her next novel. She has great hopes for this novel – getting a publishing deal for starters. But she has put so much expectation on the outcome of the novel that she is frozen with anxiety, circling it without ever landing, writing bits that may fit in, but never actually sitting down with that first blank page and writing that first word.
That first word is always a declaration of trust. Trust that the novel will be what it will be and that in reality, it will be better if the writer does not try to make it something it is not.
Unfortunately, we tend to create these expectations in life too. We are taught that we should set goals, then work tirelessly towards them and that this is the only way we will succeed. But despite what every self-help guru tells you, this is not true.
When we do what we love, what comes naturally, and what inspires us, it comes easily and naturally. We cannot help but succeed.
When we try to be something we are not, or try to shape the outcomes of our endeavours and our lives, then things become difficult or do not turn out well.
Imagine your life is a river and you are travelling down it in a boat. You can choose to sit quietly, enjoying the scenery and surprises that appear around each corner, and hanging on with white knuckles through the rapids. Occasionally you might stop at the side of the river, pick some flowers and take a breather. Other times you might want to grab an oar and pick up speed.
The alternative is to paddle against the current, detour up tributaries, or worse still, find yourself paddling back upstream, trying to relive and rectify your past. In extreme cases, you might take your boat out of the river and drag it half a mile through dense bush to another river – a river that your boat is not designed to navigate.
I find it endlessly worrying that so many of us are living our lives contrary to our passions and talents.
I myself have spent decades fighting the urge to write and even now I still doubt my ability to do it well. It’s as if we are so terrified to do the things we dream of on the off chance that we might not be good at it. Because if we fail at our dreams then we will then have nothing – our precious dream is gone.
If we applied the same perseverance to our dreams and passions as we do to other things in life that are not so important, then we would succeed. If we could simply overcome our fear of failure, we could blossom and make our mark on the world in our own unique way.
How do we become fearless of failure? Not by eliminating fear, but by redefining failure. By simply releasing the expectations we have of how our dreams will turn out, then there is no way to fail. There are no criteria against which we can measure our relative success or failure. Consequently, whatever we do would be a success.
A writer could simply be a writer by writing. An artist could simply be an artist by picking up a brush. A cook could simply be a cook by poaching an egg. A lover could be a lover with just a smile.
The truth is that by living our dreams, there are endless possibilities beyond anything you could ever imagine in that scared little brain of yours. By letting the river take you on your destined path, you will soon start picking up speed.
So, what are you waiting for? Throw away the map, get in your boat, push off and hang on tight. I’ll meet you where the river meets the sea and you can tell me all the wonderful things that happened…
If you enjoyed this post, then you will love my next book, Time Management for the Tired and Overwhelmed, which is due for release later this year. Please be sure to follow me on my blog, Twitter or Facebook (@WendyMWriter) so that you can receive updates.