It’s my birthday this weekend, and here’s what I want: The ability to focus on a particular career goal. Because I’ve set a large one, at least for me.
I’d like to write a book.
Saying that out loud terrifies me and excites me and totally overwhelms me. Because, how? How will I ever get on paper all the thoughts that are in my head— thoughts that evaporate as soon as I get my face in front of that blank screen? Thoughts that get put aside each time something easier presents itself. Thoughts that are probably no good anyway and no one will want to read so why bother… at least that’s what the little voice inside my head says.
Every morning I spend a few minutes visualizing the day, and think, Write Book. And then, the “doing” starts, and by bedtime exactly nothing has happened to get my closer to Write Book. There are lots of really valid things to do instead: Spend time with my kids, my husband, my dog, my family. After those priorities, there’s a to-do list that never ends, including client deadlines, laundry, emails, blogging, travel, more emails, and trips to multiple supermarkets to get groceries (when did everything stop being at one market?).
This frenetic pace of life isn’t going anywhere. It’s the new normal, and everyone is experiencing it. I think mobile technology has made it worse, now that we carry our connection to the world at large in our pockets, and the technology itself beckons us away from our intentions, with seductive time-wasters and distractions.
What I don’t know about writing a book… could fill a book. But what I do know is this: Writing a book is going to require more than the scraps of the day I’m currently giving to it. It’s going to require some undivided attention. If I don’t start getting fierce about prioritizing it, it won’t happen.
People write books every day. I imagine them sitting at their desks, filling their laptop screens with witty, insightful, wonderful words, page after page. I imagine the whole process being pleasant, and cathartic. When I stare at my laptop, I have no idea what I’m doing. I spend endless hours flipping through other people’s books at Barnes & Noble, looking for structure, scaffolding, and story arcs, doubting I’ll be able to create something worthy of sitting next to them on the bookshelf.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m getting in my own way on purpose. If I don’t write, I won’t know that I’m a crappy writer, incapable of creating something that anyone wants to read. Maybe I’m trying to keep myself safe from criticism, the worst of which will come from myself.
I’m hoping that, by sharing this goal with you, that it will hold me accountable to maybe stop whining and make this happen. I’m hoping to hear your stories and struggles, and to incorporate them into the book, since you guys are the reason why I am writing in the first place.
Also, if you’re someone who beats themselves up for not doing what they say they want to, I feel ya.
As I bounce around Los Angeles, I speak to so many creative people: Writers, actors, musicians… and they all say the same thing. They’re terrified, all the time, that they’ll be exposed as the untalented hacks they are. Of course, when I look at them, I see creative geniuses— I think, If I could be as untalented as you, I’d take it! But hearing that even people I admire have raging insecurity and fears about creating does help ease my own anxiety. A bit.
My friend Allison Gilbert puts it another way: When embarking upon a writing project, you need to have temporary, sustained confidence. The “sustained” part seems tough, but the “temporary” part seems doable: It will be tough, but it won’t last forever. Maybe I can fake some confidence until the real stuff manifests.
Thanks to Facebook, everyone knows that my birthday is coming up, so I’ve been fielding a lot of What do you want for your birthday? questions this week.
Sustained confidence. And maybe a cashmere turtleneck for fall. But mostly the first one.
Image borrowed from Chronically Vintage.