Have you ever needed to make a decision where none of the options were necessarily ones you really wanted?
I have one of those decisions to make right now. It includes a bit of a confession and I’m not too thrilled about it. I’m embarrassed and a bit sad, but I know it’s the right decision for me for now.
The thing is that I’ve been working on a book for years now. More years than I’d care to admit, because if I’m being truthful, I’d have to fess up to more time spent not working on my book than actually writing it.
It turns out that writing a book is not an easy endeavour. Who knew? Evidently not me. Not only are you writing an entire book, which is an awful lot of ideas, along with an awful lot of finding the right (perfect?) words to express those ideas, but also a whole bunch of other work that is less obvious.
The secret side hustle of writing a book that no one talks about — at least, in my experience — includes a hefty amount of the following:
- Grappling with old, annoyingly familiar but no less effective limiting beliefs about my talent, skill and capacity.
- Crippling self doubt, self criticism and self loathing (is my book garbage? am I garbage?).
- Guilt (I didn’t do what I said I’d do when I said I’d do it).
- Shame (I help others with this stuff all the time, so I’m a total hypocrite).
- Wrestling with imposter syndrome (who the hell do I think I am to write this? I don’t have a PhD, so I have no right to share my ideas).
- Fears and survival mechanisms: patterned actions that I habitually fall into whenever I’m doing anything outside of my comfort zone.
- Procrastination (doing anything but the thing I said I’d do).
- Losing faith and trust in myself in myself (because of the procrastination).
- Avoidance, distraction and diversion.
All of these are relevant obstacles in my experience, but the thing I need to talk about today is that last point: avoidance, distraction and diversion.
Now, because of my incredible skill at putting off what I said I’d do (I put the “pro” in procrastination), I’ve broken pretty much every deadline I’ve set for myself. Most of the ways I’ve sabotaged my book, as well as my faith and trust in myself, has been in not creating adequate structure with adequate accountability.
What I have done, though, is religiously write a new blog post every week for about four years, give or take a couple of weeks when I’ve actually empowered going on vacation and taking a break. I’ve sent out a weekly newsletter since the pandemic began.
Please now this: I really enjoy writing my posts and sending my newsletters. I like sharing my thoughts and ideas and I love hearing back from people who find what I share to be useful.
The thing is, though, that I’m using my weekly blog posts and newsletters to scratch the itch of meeting a deadline and get the instant gratification of completing something and having it be out there and getting feedback and acknowledgment from you, my reader.
They are currently serving as avoidance tactics, distractions and diversions from writing my book.
Don’t get me wrong: I procrastinate on my blog posts and newsletters, too. I truly put the “pro” in procrastination, across the board. But I always get them done, even if it means I don’t get other things done, like, oh, say, my book.
My confession is that I’ve been using my weekly writing to get out of working on my book and avoid actually getting it done and published. In a way, I’ve been making you — my readers — complicit in my survival mechanism’s cunning plan to keep me from finishing my book and letting it go out and be A Thing In The World.
Having my book be A Real Thing Out In The World is a dream of mine, yes, but it’s also very intimidating. You know what happens when you make art for other people to see? They see it. Ack! And they might like it (oh please I hope you like it), but they might not, and that’s scary. Honestly, it’s scary all around.
And so, I’m fessing up and making a new commitment, which is a little daunting for me. This is because commitment always requires some kind of exchange and, in this case, the exchange is that I’m taking a break from my weekly blog and newsletter schedule until I’m done this book, or done enough that I can manage and honour both commitments.
To create something I’ve never created, I’m going to need to do something I’ve never done. I’m admitting that I can’t keep doing it all, or, more accurately, pretending I’m doing it all when, in fact, I’m absolutely not.
There is a sacrifice to be made here, just for a little while, that I’ve been unwilling to make until now. I’ve finally reached my limit for not completing this project, though.
To bring myself and my projects and my commitments into integrity (when my thoughts, words and actions are aligned), I’m going to have to risk letting others down and losing some readers due to my absence. I hope you’re all here when I come back, which should only be a few months from now. I’m afraid you won’t be, that I’ll lose you in my absence.
But it’s a risk I’m willing to take, because I’m unwilling to continue lying to myself and then beating myself up for not setting myself up to win a game I’m only talking about playing (as opposed to actually playing for realsies).
I’ll be writing newsletters once per month instead of weekly, and sharing older posts that I think are worth reading again. I may write a post once a month, but truly, my commitment is to my book first and foremost, before creating any new content.
Ironically, the experience of writing this book has very much matched the experience of being driven I talk about in the book I’ve been avoiding finishing.
Thanks for staying with me on this ride so far. Thanks for reading my writing. Thanks for reaching out to let me know when what I’ve written has helped you or resonated with you. You, my reader, mean more to me that you’ll ever know.
And I hope you’ll be patient with me, like I’m learning to be with myself, so we can continue this journey in the not-so-distant future, on the other side of me doing what I said I’d do.