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The more adamant I get about sticking to a routine, the more I start to feel chained to my own aspirations.
I understand that this is all part of the process in getting yourself to accomplish goals, but I don’t think it’s very beneficial to see yourself building a resentment towards the thing you were once so excited about when you started.
It’s similar to feeling smothered by an overbearing friend or codependent romantic partner. You know you love them, and you’ve never had anything bad to say about them before, but after never feeling as if you have time to yourself because this person just won’t leave you alone, you start to resent the fact that they don’t seem to have anything better to do than to constantly be in your face, never giving you the chance to catch your breath.
You might not be able to stop yourself from looking at that person with a tinge of disdain for never leaving you alone. You won’t want to think about them like that, but those thoughts might pop up despite how you wish you felt about it.
This happens to me constantly while trying to keep up a routine of writing. I set writing goals for myself (Not very difficult goals either, I might add. Something like “write 3 articles a week” or “Try to think of 3–5 new ideas every day to flesh out later”) and when the time comes to sit and work on whatever it happens to be, I can’t help but occasionally feel resentment at the fact that I’m being forced into doing something I don’t want to do (in that moment).
I think, for me, this stems from always having a problem with authority and not wanting to do what I’ve been told to do just because I was told to do it, or wanting to do the exact opposite just to prove that I can. It’s like I need to prove to myself that I still have autonomy by willingly not doing what is expected of me, regardless of if the order came from a parent, teacher, law enforcement, or my own creative expectations. It’s pretty similar to, and just as childish as, a parent jokingly telling their toddler, “Don’t you touch that! Don’t you do it!” and then the child smiles and touches the thing and everyone makes a big fuss and tickles the kid and makes them laugh or whatever. Everyone has fun and the giggling child starts to unconsciously think that “Don’t” means “Do”, and “No” means “Yes” because they seemed to get such a positive reaction when they did the opposite of what they were told. (That statement obviously has other weighted implications that this isn’t about and that we’re not getting into here. I’m just talking about how my particular mind works when it comes to sticking to self-made plans.)
This may not be the case for you, and if not, more power to you. I wish that my goals didn’t make me feel like a disgruntled employee looking for any reason to slack off, but here we are…
Anyone who’s trying to make daily progress in their chosen field can tell you, after the initial momentum dies down and the gas that was fueling that first flame starts to run low, it’s easy to become frustrated that you can’t seem to make your pilot light any bigger just by willing it to be.
Trying to develop a writing habit and attempting to keep up with a schedule you set for yourself is a lot like being in a relationship.
Only, instead of sitting around anxiously wondering if your partner is ever going to text back, you sit around anxiously wondering if you’re ever going to be inspired enough to write something worth half a shit.
In the same way a prosperous relationship with a separate person who has their own thoughts and feelings involves healthy communication, similar sensibilities, and a respect for each other’s personal space and time, your relationship with your writing needs these same ingredients for it to blossom into the healthy hobby, career, or artform that you wish it to be instead of something you grow to resent.
Developing a healthy communication with yourself and what your realistic hopes and expectations are when it comes to your work is absolutely vital to making meaningful progress. If you’re not meeting your own expectations with your work, or you’re falling short of your potential, you need to have a heart to heart with yourself about what you really think is wrong and what you could do to change things for the better.
I have to have this conversation with myself constantly because I never seem to learn. I keep setting goals for myself and after I write them down, I close my little notepad and completely ignore everything I just laid out. It’s as if the writing down of goals was the goal and therefore no more action need be taken.
I do this all the time. Have you ever gotten that jolt of inspiration to start things fresh and were all of a sudden driven to go out and buy a brand new fancy notebook to crack open and begin your Page One journey into the Land of the Productive? Did you ever actually fill the notebook? Did you even open it?
Maybe you did and that’s seriously great. Maybe you, like me and countless others, actually did fill a few pages but set it down to let it gather dust while you fell right back into your old habits. That’s probably because the purchasing of the notebook let off its own signal in your brain that you did something and therefore you don’t need to work on anything more because you’re already, somehow, “done.” You never needed the new notebook. You needed an actual shift in how you approach what you actually want to get done.
Being able to properly articulate these feelings to yourself will save you a ton of time in how you normally get started and a ton of money on all the fresh, untouched notebooks you have piling up around you slowly constructing the castle walls that give you the illusion of safety from judgment and keep you guarded from your guilt.
We’ve heard that opposites attract so often that it’s become a cliché. While it still may be true for some couples out there, I’m willing to bet that 90% of the relationships you witness in your own life are made up of two people who share a similar sensibilities and worldviews.
If you’re going to treat your writing in the same way you would a healthy relationship, look at what you’re actually writing and how you’re writing it. Does it actually sound like you? If someone read your work, would they be able to tell who it came from by syntax alone? Can they hear your voice in it, or does it sound like you’re trying too hard to sound like someone else?
Sharing a sensibility with your own work seems like an obvious and almost redundant thing to say, but it’s really not.
There are plenty of people out there who find themselves writing in styles that they don’t relate to at all. They write for years not realizing that the voice they’re writing in isn’t even their own and that while they may have started their journey with all the best intentions, in the process of trying to become something they weren’t, they turned into something that they aren’t.
Understand not only what makes you tick, but how you tick in general, so you don’t fall into the trap of only creating what you think other people want to hear. Don’t force yourself to sound like someone you read once because they seem to be better off than you. Most people who succeed in achieving recognition and admiration did so by staying true to who they were in the face of relentless influence and opposition. If you do the same and stay faithful to your authentic and original sensibilities, you’ll reach the same level those other people have in your own way in your own time and you’ll feel so much more thankful that you chose your own path instead of following in the exact footsteps of someone else.
Respecting time and space
I wish I was talking about something a little more celestially cerebral when I mention “Time and Space,” but alas, our focus today lies in the reality of our own shortcomings and not the starry-eyed adventures of a Doctor in a Blue Box. This is a laptop, not a T.A.R.D.I.S.
…for now, anyway.
When I relate the respect a person must have for their partner’s time and space to the perspective one must adopt towards their own writing, there are virtually no differences in the approach.
I started this article by talking about how I begin to resent my work after I start to feel trapped by my commitment to it. The same can be said for a lot of people in relationships who begin to resent their partners for not giving them enough space or time alone. In the same way many of us would begin to feel suffocated by an overly clingy partner, we’ll end up feeling a similar way about the work we’ve committed to that doesn’t seem to let go of our attention and makes us feel guilty for not thinking about it constantly.
Sometimes, all that’s needed to save the flame of a relationship is a little time apart to be alone and a little space to breathe on your own. Distance from your work recreates a growing need to return inspired in the same way that distance in a relationship recreates the initial longing for closeness and affection that brings two people together in the first place.
Everyone knows that if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your work, you should take a break and step away. What they don’t talk about is how even allowing yourself an allotted “break time” sometimes doesn’t do the trick. Sometimes, what you need is just the knowledge that you don’t have to shackle yourself to your work, that your habits and routines don’t reign supreme.
You don’t have to allow yourself to feel like a slave to your schedule if that means sacrificing the drive that got you to sit in front of a screen in the first place. For people like me, and possibly you, sometimes I just need to know that I can say “No” when things don’t feel right or I’m feeling smothered by constantly trying to protect my sense of self or identity as a “writer.”
Summing it up
When you can combine these three things and balance them accordingly, your perspective on our writing, and your writing itself, will start to become something that you take pride in as you continue to grow as a person and creator.
Treat your writing like a healthy relationship in which you’re able to communicate with yourself effectively, you aren’t betraying your natural sensibilities by trying to be something that you’re not, and giving yourself the time and space you occasionally need to step away from your work entirely and get your bearings on what honestly inspires you and how you truly want to approach this path you’ve chosen.
Do this and your relationship with your writing will flourish.