Decisions, like most things in life, come down to priorities. I remember reading a post by Nathan Bransford a long time ago where he said something along the lines of, no project or goal is worth pushing aside the most important people in your life. Nathan, please forgive me for not quoting your exact words. Attempting to track down that single line in your blog would be like looking for a needle in a giant tub on needles.
Back then I was barely starting to share my writing with others and slowly making my way through the world of self-publishing. But here I am today, about two years later, still mulling over those words. As the due date for baby number three approaches (yes, I’ve been pregnant for the past nine months), hauling along all the responsibilities that come with another kid, I cannot help feeling overwhelmed.
I remember when I took my first writing course through Story Cartel, one of the questions they asked was, what is your goal? I remember thinking, I don’t know, I just want to write. I’ve never been able to answer that question fully, and what I’ve come to realize is that in order to live as a writer, which is what I want, I can’t attach myself to a finite goal. I am not a product with a label or expiration date, so why do I have to live like one?
This is a concept we all struggle with from time to time. We have all encountered the pressure of being packed into a box, in order to conform to a specific label or category. It has made me wonder, where are we, a giant grocery store for human categorization? Let me go down the writer’s aisle. Oh wait, maybe I should be in the stay-at-home-mom aisle. Hold it, I actually work from home, so where would that leave me, specialty aisle? Come on!
In truth, this approach is way too unrealistic to be effective. It leaves people feeling confused and inadequate. At least, that’s what I’ve experienced. I am not only a writer. I am a mother of two kids, soon to be three, which let’s face it, it’s like having two full-time jobs in and of itself. I am also a wife and a neighbor. I spend an exorbitant amount if time and effort growing my own tomatoes and have a completely unhealthy obsession with avocados. I also can’t sit typing away for hours on end, no matter how much I enjoy it, and neglect every other aspect of my life.
The funny thing is, in today’s publishing world, we are almost expected to do so. We have to be the writers, the marketers, the networkers, the readers, and the social media experts in order to sustain our careers. The problem arrises when we face the reality of our responsibilities, such as the job that actually pays the bills, or the three kids crying their heads off in the background.
What I’ve come to realize however, especially in the past few weeks, is that we don’t have to conform to anyone’s ideas of success. We don’t have to go through life trying to fit into a mold or conform to a specific label in order to be successful or be happy with where we are. Why do we have to put so much pressure on ourselves? Being a writer isn’t a goal. Being a writer is a lifelong pursuit. We don’t have to do and experience everything right now, or in the next moth, or the next year. We can take our time and actually enjoy the process, along with every other evolving aspect of our lives.
So often we get caught up in the running and juggling of things, or worse, the busyness of achieving a goal, that we forget our priorities. But the minute we stop and think about it, everything comes into focus. We don’t have to publish every single book or story we have inside our heads this year. We don’t have to read all those books on publishing this week. We don’t have to micromanage every minute of the day around social media efforts. The world won’t end tomorrow, hopefully, (and if it does, then our efforts will be useless anyway, so why bother, right?) The point is, we have time to grow. We have time to develop as writers, while at the same time relishing everything else we love about our lives. Like Nathan said, or like I think he said, no project or goal is worth pushing aside the most important people in your life.
Writing is about living, not about numbers or popularity. We need to come to terms with this reality and decide to live life without stressing over the details. We need to set our priorities straight and decide to enjoy every stage and aspect of our own personal growth without the pressure of being perfect. Our experiences are unique to us, and so our journeys will be unique, too. Writing is not about conforming to others’ ideas. It is about staying true to ourselves.
How do you stay true to yourself? What can you do today to let go of the pressure and start living?