On most journeys, there comes a time that you’ll wish that at least some of the lessons you are learning had been taught in school. I reached this stage in the fall of 2018 when every day seemed to have some new life lesson that I had to learn but when progress on the book itself slowed down to the rate of thick, viscid honey moving uphill. No matter how much I showed up ready to work, no matter how disciplined I was, I couldn’t move the writing along. I did make progress on every other front and I want to give you a list of all that I learned that fall. All the lessons that I wish that I had learned in childhood and in school. While grammar and trigonometry and life sciences were undoubtedly useful, I wish we had classes dedicated to life lessons.
Do take yourself and your work seriously. If you don’t, no one else will. You are the starting point for how you want people to treat the work you do. This holds true for almost every area of life. Inevitably, someone will come along and say or do something that will try to minimize what you do, how you contribute, or who you are. Hold firm in your belief in yourself and refuse to be minimized. Sure, it would be nice if everyone was supportive of each other but let go of the expectation that they ought to support you.
Don’t take yourself and the work so seriously that you are afraid of making mistakes. You will make mistakes. That is a fact of life. Sure, some mistakes are colossal and others are plain silly, but the fact remains that we all make them. No surprises there. The trick I’ve learned the hard way is to move quickly out of any feelings of shame and guilt and into the process of doing again. In other words, don’t wallow for too long.
You’ll be afraid. Fear, anxiety, doubts are constant companions on any journey. It’s to be expected. In fact, you may be afraid of being seen, acknowledged, and succeeding at what you want to do. In facing my own fears, I have read a number of writers on the subject of creativity and fear and a book that I enjoyed and that makes a great gift is Meera Lee Patel’s My Friend Fear, Finding Magic In the Unknown.
So, there I was, learning and, in some cases, re-learning these life lessons and all I could think was that time was passing and the book was still largely in my head. I persisted in showing up to write because something really important happened during this time. I stopped worrying about who would read the book or even, would I be able to get it published? The story and the characters firmly had me in their thrall and all I cared about was this: would I be able to tell a good story? That remains to be seen. But somehow, all the journeys I’d taken, all the mistakes I had made, all the life lessons I had learned, and all the days that I persisted had finally brought me to this place in time where I could be fearlessly creative to my heart’s content. Where I finally let go of my worries of the outcome. Experiencing this magical place was the treasure I was seeking. I’ll see you on Day 5. (Days 1, 2, 3 )