There are a whole lot of other things I wanted to write about today, but I kept running into the same problem: basically, I kept freaking out.
It’s the same thing that’s been happening to me with writing fiction lately. I’ve sort of talked about it before. I’ll sit down to work on this one interminable chapter, and immediately start attacking the words I already have, attacking any new words I try to put down–it’s not good. It’s not fun. It leads to a kind of dread, where I don’t want to work on this chapter anymore because every time I try, it’s awful.
I actually did make what I hope is some progress on that chapter yesterday, so you might think I have a solution. But no, not really. All I can say is that I think sometimes we put imaginary pressure on ourselves. In the case of this chapter, I was pressuring myself to make it perfect–it’s a rewrite, not a first draft, so I should be allowed to expect instant perfection, right? (No.) And with this post, I was pressuring myself to come up with something coherent about books and reading, and that pressure was making it impossible for me to come up with anything coherent at all.
The thing is, the only person holding me to either of these expectations was myself. (Well, maybe some of you are expecting books/reading stuff on Mondays. I don’t know. Sorry about that, if that’s the case.) And I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect things of ourselves. Setting standards and goals is a good thing. It can be a good thing. All I’m saying is that there’s a difference between the kind of pressure that brings out the best in people, and the kind of pressure that’s so intense that it completely immobilizes you.
I’m still working on how to handle that line. Right now, it involves lots of deep breaths, drinking water, journaling, and some prayer. (I know faith may not be part of everyone’s life, but it’s part of mine, so it’s part of my process.) And reminding myself to do things like find the fun in the project, the thing that made me love it in the first place; and also to focus on the small steps in front of me, instead of the giant ones that often freak me out.
It’s not exactly new advice. Maybe because it works? But the good news, anyway: I did have some fun working on that chapter last night. So it is possible to find your way back to that. And if you’re reading this, I managed to finish a post, so there’s that, too.
With that in mind: on to today’s adventures with The Chapter. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.