For a long time; many, many years, I’ve dreamed of and expected to become a successful writer. The kind of writer that has the freedom to do what they want when they want. I never wanted or needed to be a famous #1 bestseller, just successful enough to be very, very comfortable. So far those dreams haven’t come true. Not even close (of course to make those dreams come true, you have to work at them, but that’s another post).
There’s nothing wrong with having a dream like that. In fact it’s good to have dreams and goals that are hard to achieve. As Robert Browning said ‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’ My problem is that I spend so much time fixating on the dream to point that it stresses me out that I’m not achieving it. Which leads to me spending time reliving the past, thinking of all the times I should have been writing but didn’t (it adds up to thousands of hours over the last 20 years). Then I berate myself for not writing as much as I could have and get further distracted thinking of how much different and better life could be if I had done it.
That, in turn, leads me to feeling like a failure for not having done what I should have, so many times. Which finally leaves me depressed about being a failure and makes it harder and harder for me to feel up to writing.
To sum up, not having written enough in the past makes it harder for me to write now.
Yes, I’m messed up, but I’m trying to come to grips with it.
I’ve tried dealing with it by making a writing plan and setting daily, weekly and monthly goals. That works, for a few days, maybe even a week or two once, but then life intrudes. I get busy at work, or the kids and wife get even busier at home. Or some of us get sick. There’s always a good reason for me to not write. Too many of them in fact.
Time to make a change and try something new. It may sound a bit sappy, but here goes.
I’ve decided that I need to take joy in the simple act of writing. In the doing of everything that has to do with writing. I have lots of ideas and lots of stories to tell. That means lots of writing to do. So instead of tying my happiness and self worth to a goal that may never happen I need to be happy just doing it.
I need to take joy in writing down the ideas, to take joy in the creation of the rough draft. That part is easy. I usually do that already. But I also need to learn to take joy in the shaping and molding of those ideas and rough drafts into a fine readable edit. In the characters, the dialogue, the setting and plot. Even to take joy in getting the grammar and punctuation right (and yes, I understand that punctuation is a part of grammar).
That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the dream, we all need to have dreams. But it means setting the expectations to a level where I don’t get stuck in the same self-defeating loop.
Saying it doesn’t make it so. It doesn’t make it easy either. It also doesn’t mean I’m giving up. I’ll probably be working on it, taking joy in the doing, for a long time. I don’t know how long it will take but I hope it will help.
Here goes nothing!