When I was fifteen I had a crush on a boy. He happened to be my best friend at the time (I don’t make them easily). We spent a lot of time together including participating regularly at local rodeos. He was great with horses, where I felt—less than adequate. I remember one weekend we were driving to Sayer Oklahoma. It’s a long drive from where we grew up. We had a 23-year-old with us, who wanted to go so she could travel up there with her sister the next time we competed. (Yes, I agree that’s a lame excuse, and so did our parents.) But half way there we had to stop for gas, and my friend, and his mother insisted I sit between them the rest of the way. Why? Because my friend was a year younger than me and the woman in question kept trying to get cozy.
I obliged and bore the brunt of the woman’s considerable scorn. She insisted she sit in the middle. I stated I needed to see where we were going because it was likely the next year that I would have to drive us up there. After a few pointed remarks on our parts (of which our mothers were both snickering in the front seat) I was informed that I was a pessimist. I replied, “No, I’m just the dose of reality that you need.”
I bring this up because it wasn’t the first time over the years that it’s been brought to my attention that I’m either a pessimist or very negative— and ya know what? It’s true. Yes, I said it. It’s very true. Over the years, that statement I snapped back at the 23-year-old would be sicko still holds true, at least in my mind. When I think I’m being realistic about things it’s usually just my brain deciding that for whatever reason the situation is probably not going to go down like anyone involved hopes it will. Part of that is past experience, but mostly it’s my coping mechanism. It’s not a healthy one.
Often I feel like I’m a failure. I have this picture of myself that I strive to get to. Someone who's “with it”, meaning well put together, has their ducks in a nice little row and knows what she wants, or better yet just exactly how to get there. That’s not life. I know this, and yet I still feel bad every once in a while for not being that person. That’s not to say I don’t have most of my ducks in their nice little rows, it’s just easy to forget that when doubt sneaks up and smack you upside the head at 10PM on a Saturday night.
My way of coping with those feelings is to reach out to friends. Hopefully to try talking my way out of them, but often it results in my negativity leaching through the conversation. The horror doesn’t stop there. It’s hard NOT to be negative about a wide range of things. Sometimes, it even affects my creativity, but especially my writing.
I recently got back a form letter that said thanks for submitting to such and such, and we’ve announced the winners, better luck next year. This short was one of the better things I’ve written lately, but it wasn’t good enough, and the part that it wasn’t good enough is ok. I’m not upset. But what’s happened is that I’ve let myself get fixated on how I can make it better, instead of plotting, and actually writing, which isn’t good. So how do you break habits?
First, I believe you HAVE to acknowledge them. This is me doing that. I have a bad habit of being negative about my writing, and letting my negativity affect my creativity, and I realize I have to stop doing that. I have to keep working and let it go. It’s a stepping stone for becoming the best writer I can be, and nothing more.
Second, hold yourself accountable to your goals. If you feel like you’re letting your expectations of yourself, or what others expect from you down, stop. Realize that the only thing you're accountable for is not finishing or seeing through your goal. It doesn’t matter how you get there, or how long it takes you to get to that point in your journey, what matters is that you do get there.
I know it’s easier said than done, most things are—but I feel like it’s worth the effort to try. How do you cope with the parts of yourself that hinder your progress?
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