I signed up for life coaching after receiving some great writing coaching from Jen Laffin of TeachWrite (https://www.teachwriteacademy.com/). At the beginning, I didn’t really know how life coaching would help me, but I knew there was work I could do to become the person and writer I want to be. I was willing to try.
The last few days I started to spiral into my annual mid-summer funk. Not pleasant. Typically, my funk accelerates in July when there is more unstructured time than I am used to. I become overwhelmed with the possibilities of what I could accomplish. The long-awaited “free time” in the summer becomes a curse. There are so many possible directions that I end up sitting on the couch with a book or my ball of yarn and knitting needles. Those are not bad ways to spend time, but this is the time of year for. . .
I began to write in my journal to process some of the thoughts that kept swirling around in my head. As I wrote, I saw a familiar pattern. I was engaging in the “luxury of confusion!” If I stayed in a state of indecision, I wouldn’t have to commit to a goal or specific project.
I realized that in my coaching sessions I’d been taught some pretty powerful writing practices to work through times like this. Practices such as writing by hand without any judging or comparing to others, asking a few simple questions:
WHAT IS THE STORY I’M TELLING MYSELF? WHAT ELSE COULD BE TRUE? WHAT ADVICE WOULD I GIVE A FRIEND?
Working through thoughts has power to change feelings. I learned that there is a recursive process at work in our brains all the time. We have a thought (which may or may not be true). The thought produces a feeling which leads to an action. The actions we take lead to results. If we don’t like the results, we can work backwards. What result do I want? What actions will that require? What will it feel like? How are the thoughts different when you begin with the end in mind?
These are not new concepts, but practicing them in a focused, intentional way has brought about change. I’m now writing my way out of my mid-summer funk. I know that it will be worth it to put these few words on the page. If only to enjoy the fact of having done it.
In Jon Acuff’s book FINISH: GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF DONE, he addresses the many ways perfectionism and its accompanying reflection, procrastination, can influence our productivity and sense of well-being. He says that the most important day is the day after you have messed up or broken a streak in a habit you want to create.
The habit I’m working to improve is daily writing. For the last seven years, I have had 100% days of writing and posting a slice of life during the month of March. This is the first year in my eight years of the March SOLSC that I have neglected to write on a day in March. This year, I have already not written three times. I have to pause and ask, “Why did I let that day go by without writing?” Being away from home, playing with grandchildren, and evening fatigue all contributed to my not writing. But I think there was more.
Maybe I didn’t write because I let myself believe I didn’t have anything to say. Maybe I didn’t write because writing can bring up feelings that I’m too afraid to put in print. Maybe I didn’t write because I couldn’t be as clever, as interesting, or as spot on as my fellow slicers.
I used to think that I was the only one who ever felt this way. Now I know that all writers face these questions and challenges at some point in their writing process. What matters is how we respond.
I’m getting back up on the horse today. I’m giving myself the gift of Done and recognizing that no one is asking that I be perfect. No one is requiring that I write like Wallace Stegner or Robert Frost. It’s okay to put words on the page each day, even if they are not amazing words, because someone, somewhere may be needing my words today. Even if it’s only me that needs to write and read them.