Posted on November 1 2019 in for readers, for writers
The weather has changed and it's officially Slipper Season where I live. How about a cozy chat to catch up? Grab a cup of tea and a warm blanket and settle in. :)
Photo: My mom sent me a colorful pair of slippers about a month ago, just in time for Slipper Season! They have cute little elephants on them and look suuuuuper cool when I tuck in my yoga pants. ;) Thanks, Mom. <3
Can I tell you something?
It is SO hard for me to blog without Trying To Achieve Something; without teaching you something, suggesting a book, recommending a tool or resource, that kind of thing. Do any of my fellow bloggers struggle with that?
But here’s why I’m trying: after taking time off this past year — a much-needed rest and reset instigated by my body saying, “OK LADY THAT’S ENOUGH TIME TO CHILL” (my body felt the need to say it in all caps, no punctuation. To make a point, obvs.) — I realized a number of things in the deep quiet and space created by not working, not feeding my brain constantly with books, social media, looking at my phone, planning adventures, etc. etc. etc.
One of those things?
I missed blogging and writing just to write. Not to teach something. Just to share. To ramble. Maybe share a recipe, just because I enjoy doing so.
It’s also what I started looking for as a reader. I found myself seeking out books by writers who explored the things I was working through — how to care for yourself as a creative person, how to explore and cultivate spirituality in our go, go, go power- and money- and image-obsessed society.
Do you remember blogging before Pinterest?
When bloggers shared rambling posts with thoughts and stories and not always with a point?
This was before the big glossy images in every post (man, I love making those!), before the SEO-everything, before making sure you ticked all the share-worthy boxes when writing blog posts?
And yes, I say this as someone who has taught a course on blogging, highlighting those very techniques… Which are great techniques if your goal is to increase site traffic. Less great if your goal is to care for your creative self, connect on a deeper level with other lovely humans, and follow your heart (versus that image of success you’re chasing based on things other people said you should want).
Again. I’m guilty of all the things.
I thought I wanted a really popular blog. That it would lead to (in no particular order)(and tbh, I was hoping for all the above):
- ALL THE TRAFFIC
- An agent and/or a book deal
- Book sales
- Blog posts that go viral
- Soul mate writing friends
- Oprah might call me
- Financial success (i.e. making a living off my blog and books)
- World Peace
And then, once I started getting site traffic, I wanted to teach others how to do the same. So I did. Only, the more I followed that path, the further I felt from the writer I wanted to be, from the person I wanted to be. I got so focused on numbers and likes and shares that I exhausted myself. I stopped writing what felt fun or fulfilling and forced myself to focus on what I thought I should write.
Looking back, I know I was doing my best. I was trying to make a living as a writer by following the advice I found from other writers. Well, at least writers who were/are online.
The thing that never occurred to me: There are writers who aren’t active online but who are successful.
And I don’t mean “successful” as in J.K. Rowling. (But her too, maybe.) When I say success here, I mean that they are happy.
Happy with however much or little they make. Happy with the amount of time they spend writing. Happy with the state of their health. Happy with the state of their relationships.
What changed for me last year is that, after a foghorn-style wakeup call, I realized that I wasn’t defining success based on what felt right to me, but based on what other people had said.
You should write 2k a day!
You should own a fancy [FILL IN THE BLANK]!
You’re a romance author, you should wear makeup!
You’re a YA author, you should dye your hair a cool color!
You should publish three/four/ten books a year!
You should put more sex in your books!
You should put less sex in your books!
You should go to [FILL IN THE BLANK] conference!
You should post regularly on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/etc. etc.!
You should shave your legs for #SockSunday photos!
You should buy all the new releases and take photos of them in front of your enormous and very clean bookshelf!
You should want to get X agent and make X dollars on your next book deal!
You should feel bad for not writing/posting/sharing/selling more!
Ugh. Even writing that, I can remember feeling so torn because I thought I should want those things, but they simply didn’t feel right for me. Writing every day isn’t good for me. I don’t like to write quickly (and I can tell my writing quality takes a nosedive when I do). I don’t wear makeup (it’s cool if you do, I just … don’t). Posting on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter is draining and not my jam. I don’t like buying lots of books (instead I request them through my local library!) or spending lots of money in general. I could go on. And on.
So… What does make me happy?
- Hanging out with our chickens
- Drinking tea
- Making things with my hands
- Walking in the dessert
- Going for bike rides
- Spending time in the wilderness
- A phone chat with a dear friend or family member, the kind that makes me smile so much my face hurts
- Learning how to grow food
- Writing letters
- Painting cards for people
- Writing when it feels good to write, writing what is on my heart
- Waking up next to my husband, knowing I have been given the gift of 24 more beautiful hours with him in my life
It occurred to me at some point that I’m already wildly successful. I have a full, beautiful life. I have my health. I can breathe in and out, go for walks, feel the warm sun on my skin, and enjoy the freedom and privileges that come from a myriad of causes and conditions.
When you realize you have everything you need to be happy/successful, then what?
Well, for me it looks like this. Writing sometimes. Not all the time. Blogging to blog when it feels right. Writing not to race to a finish line or meet an arbitrary deadline, goal, or marketing strategy, but to learn, to explore, to do my best. And above all, to care for my beautiful self. To ask what would be best for my health and happiness, not what I think I should do.
Honestly? I have no idea how this will go or what it will look like. (When will I publish a new book? Will I publish a new book? How does blogging fit in? What about social media? Answer: I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know. And that’s OK.)
I’ve been practicing checking in with myself before I do things. Do you do that? I ask that deep, quiet part of me that knows what’s good for her/us (bear with me) before I start something new. Just listening to that voice instead of telling myself to do X, Y, or Z because that’s what I’m supposed to be doing, or acting based on habit has been so powerful.
For example… (dramatized for funzies)
Me: Does it feel right to post something on Instagram?
Little voice: NO. NONONONOOOOOOO
Me: Okay, no Instagram… How about posting something on the blog?
Little voice: YAY! YES! I want to write about this, and this and this and this and let’s share recipes again! And and and—
This might sound woo woo or out there, but it’s been an important practice for me. I rarely checked in with myself before committing to jobs, projects, deadlines, and more in the past and it created a lot of suffering for myself and the people around me. Like a weak muscle, I’ve worked on strengthening this little check-in, starting with simple things (am I actually hungry, or am I eating because I think I’m supposed to?) and working up to bigger things.
Still, not knowing exactly what I’m doing is equally thrilling and scary (coming from someone who used to depend on spreadsheets, productivity trackers, and quarterly goals), but I’m delighted to be where I am right now. Exploring. Asking some hard questions. Figuring it out one day at a time, one moment at a time.
Now dear friend, if you made it this far (AMAZING!), I would love to hear from you - in the comments or feel free to email me directly if you prefer! (It may take me a long time to respond to emails, but I will respond.)
Have you experienced something similar? Do you struggle with expectations (at work, in our society, in your life or relationships) and feeling like the outcomes aren’t right for you?
What makes you really and truly deeply happy? And this could be today, right now, or big-picture kind of happiness. Whatever you want to share.
Thank you so much for reading, and for sticking with me while I explore a new path. :)
Sending a hug to you wherever you are. You are beautiful, deserving of love and happiness, and I’m so grateful you took the time to read this post. <3