This morning is the end of daylight savings, when we as a society collectively tamper with the temporal integrity of nature's time, something I dislike. I wish the whole country could be like Arizona, and leave Time alone. Therefore this blog will be a literary Arizona, and instead of back-dated entries, I will share some of those earlier thoughts as quoted entries.
July 3, 2013:
Go write something.
That was how Eleanor ended the email I read at 5:30 this morning. I had emailed her last night about a book I had recently finished, The ONE Thing, which made me realize that writing was my ONE Thing, but for years I had done nothing to make that desire a reality. She drew attention to my having written, “Of course a working mother can’t focus on just ONE thing,” pointing out that whenever we say “can’t” and “of course” together, we are limiting our thinking, usually out of fear and demons at work. And so instead of getting on the elliptical, I sat down at the computer.
One of the things that book said, which I already knew, was that it isn’t discipline or willpower that makes people get things done, but habit. I know that. The reason I was up at 5:30 and about to work out is that getting up early and working out has become a habit. The importance of habit hit me yesterday at the office when everyone gathered in the kitchen for cake to celebrate a coworker's birthdays. I didn’t have any, because not having cake has become a habit. I join the crowd to socialize and don’t give the cake much thought.
If writing is important to me, I need to develop the habit of writing, so that I write as automatically as I get up to exercise or forego cake. Until a little over three years ago, writing was just such a habit. I wrote every day, in several venues, including what I hoped were final revisions of a book for which I had a publisher – not some vanity publisher or fly by night publisher but a real publisher that had published real books sold in real bookstores. An editor liked the sample chapters I had sent, and wanted to see the rest. I was working on getting it ready – getting it just right, getting it perfect, even – when I took my eyes off that ONE Thing, and let the brass ring slip out of my hand.
In retrospect, it is as clear as day to me that I should have just sent the damn manuscript as it was. It wasn’t perfect. What is? I could have continued to work on the rough patches under the guidance of a professional editor at the publishing company. But it wasn’t quite perfect….and it had to be perfect. Once again, as I had done so many times in the past, I had let fear, manifesting itself as perfectionism, keep me from following my dreams.
Eleanor had reminded me in her email of something I already knew well, that we so often let our demons limit our thinking, keep us from doing the things we most want to do. Fear and perfectionism were two of my demons. They have been for as long as I can remember. When I think of all the things over the years I have not done because of one or the other, I could cry.
Another demon in my personal pantheon of demons (pantheon is the wrong word, of course, but I am thumbing my nose at perfectionism by leaving it there and pressing on with my story) is what I will call, for want of a better term (see, I’m doing it again….God, this is exhilarating!) aspirational ADD. Like so many of my generation, I continue dithering well into my forties about what I want to be when I grow up.
I want to be a writer. Yes. Okay. More than three years ago, I had a complete manuscript and a publisher waiting for it. I was working on a final revision and shouldn’t have been doing anything else except the bare minimum required to care for my home and children until I got that package in the mail. But I did do something else. I let myself be talked into a major undertaking that kept me from finishing the book. You think I’m insane. You’re right. Only all of us are kind of insane when it comes to letting our demons get in the way of our dreams, aren’t we? If we weren’t, we’d all be where we wanted to be instead of where we are, right?