Learning to Paddle

 

postit-scrabble-to-do

I often feel like I’m playing against myself at life, trying to beat myself and emerge the winner.

I’ve always had these grand aspirations of being a good writer. I’ve always taken it for granted that I’ll be able to do it. When I used to tell people I was going to college for writing, I could never understand their quizzical looks.

“What kind of job can you get with that?” they’d ask.

“Um, lots of stuff,” I’d say.

“Are you going to teach?”

“Heck no. I’m going to publish books.”

“So you’re going to write the Great American Novel.”

Um, duh? I’d think, rather uncharitably.

(My hubris knows no bounds.)

So now I’ve graduated, and I’ve started grad school, and I’m entering the part of my life where those grand aspirations won’t come true unless I start doing something. I haven’t necessarily been a slouch these past few years, but neither have I written the Great American Novel (it’s currently under construction).

And while I’m breaking into the freelancing world little by little (for which I’m immensely grateful), I’m learning that my own worst enemy isn’t time or writer’s block or other people.

It’s myself.

But not in the way you think. While poor time management is a very common method of self-sabotage, time management is not how I’m my worst enemy.

I’m my own worst enemy when I assume I will fail.

I’ve been agitated since graduating, upset with myself for not going farther in the three months since I received my degree. I should be putting myself out there! Writing dawn til dusk! Publishing left and right! Getting a real job! But when life takes me a different, more quiet and unassuming direction, I get frustrated, because something in me fears that if I don’t paddle frantically, I’ll drown.

Trouble is, I’ve never been very good at paddling frantically. I’m just not the Type A, go-getter type. I’m naturally more deliberate and more thoughtful. I think this makes me a better writer in many ways (I notice the little things) and a worse one in others (okay, yes, time management).

But something I’ve learned is that writing is an organic thing. It lives and it grows in the way I least expect it. Sometimes I have to wait for life to happen before my writing gets better, because life marinates my writing and then writing marinates my life and they both need time to mature correctly. And I have to trust that God made me me, and He also made me a writer, and I have to work with who He made me and the life He gave me in order for anything I do to be worth a thing.

Also, I’ve learned that Comparison is a bitch. (Sorry, Comparison.) Comparison muscles preconceived notions of grandeur into places they don’t belong. Comparison is what makes me sure I’ll fail before I even try.

Comparison makes me lament the unique person, the unique writer, God made me to be. It makes me chase after some other person’s life until I feel God pulling me back to the more deliberate and thoughtful path He wants me on. I often sense Him bemusedly berating me. No, you idiot. Back here. Get back here!

(God and I have a very sassy relationship.)

I have to remember that the life I have is a good one. The life I have is the one that belongs to me. And if I live it well, if I live it gratefully, I won’t fail. Maybe it won’t look like my grand aspirations. Maybe I won’t write the Great American Novel. Maybe I’ll write the Great American Flop instead (but hey, I’d still be famous).

Goals are important. Hard work is important. But writing is also organic, just as life is organic. Sometimes relaxing my expectations is as important as making expectations in the first place.

I find peace in 1 Corinthians 7:17, which says, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” If this is my goal, I don’t have to fear mediocrity or failure. If this is my goal, failure is impossible.

(And seriously, Hannah. It’s only been three months. Give yourself a break.)

 

 

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