In my quest to re-define myself as an outdoor educator and writer, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. One of the consistent themes is, to be a good writer, you simply need to write a lot. And to write a lot, you need to set aside time every day to write. I learned that It’s not always easy to set aside that time. Some of the most famous writers of our time, like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or Diane Steele, wrote in their free-time, before or after their “day-job.” At least until they become successful enough where writing was their full-time gig. For some people, that meant writing at night after work. For others that means waking up early to write before everyone else is awake.
Trying to incorporate these suggestions into my own life, I made my plan. Before going to bed I made sure my computer was ready to go. WordPress was open. All I needed to do was get out of bed, sit down at the computer, and write.
I woke early, went upstairs, sat down in front of the screen, and…nothing. The words did not come.
I was frustrated. Angry. Upset with myself. I experienced massive self-doubt. Why am I trying to make these changes? Are they even worth it? What am I doing? Why am I trying to do this? I always thought of myself as a good writer – I am a lawyer for god’s sake – we write for a living! Perhaps I’m really not cut out to write blog posts, or anything else for that matter. Perhaps I should give up my dream of running my own businesses and just go work as a corporate slave and while away my life in a cubicle until I die.
Later I spoke with a friend who reminded me that Mozart apparently said, “I show up to write at 9 every morning. My muses have learned to appear then.”
I have since had time to reflect on my moment(s) of self doubt. I recognize that I am trying to make some pretty seismic changes in my life, while still being a loving and supportive husband and a good father. I focus on spending time with my daughter, getting a better grip on what religion means to me and how it fits into mine and my family’s life, volunteer at my daughter’s school, enjoy life a little bit, and maintain a healthy exercise regimen and activity level, all while trying to start multiple new business ventures that involve changing jobs.
I don’t write any of this to say I’m better than anyone, or “I’m a martyr,” or”Look what I have going on.” Rather, as we all try and make our way in this world, trying to find things that sustain our passion, we all sometimes feel like we just want to give up, throw in the towel, and take the easy way.
But there really is no “easy way.” Any path we choose will have its ups and downs, its bumps in the road, and its own set of difficulties. Striking out on your own can (I hope) be fulfilling. But it comes with its own set of challenges. Likewise, by taking the more traditional route we make sacrifices – like a lack of family time, or a lack of control.
Ultimately, it’s important to step back, reflect, talk to people, and gain perspective. As far as writing goes – the first draft is never good. And usually, if it is, I didn’t push myself hard enough. In fact, the first few drafts are usually pretty rough. Or at least they look that way until I let them sit for a night and come back to them with fresh eyes the next morning.
Yesterday I saw a video on FaceBook. An old man was talking about the growth cycle of a lobster. The lobster grows its shell. When the lobster gets uncomfortable, it hides under a rock, sheds the old shell, and grows a new one. If not for the discomfort, the lobster would never know it’s time to change, time to shed its old shell, hide under a rock, and grow a new one. It is precisely through discomfort that the lobster is able to grow. And, like the lobster, growth is uncomfortable. But in the end, I think it’s worth it.