Blog Post Draft #13: Editing My Life

canstockphoto3792922This is it. Number 13. I will post this draft. I will, I will, I will.

She was most prolific unpublished writer in history. Besides that one creepy guy who left behind trunks of manuscripts in his attic, as well as an extensive collection of single socks.

Something happened to my brain over the last few weeks. As president of the parent teacher organization at my daughter’s school, the devil has been in the details. Get it done. Do it right. Do it on time. Look at every angle. Communicate, blah, blah, blah.

As an introvert, it knocked the wind right out of me. Fortunately, this is my second and last year doing intense volunteering. There was nothing left for me at the end of the day. Nothing to write about and when I did write, it was with painful constraint. So painful, that I’ve written 12 drafts that have been gathering dust. It has made me very, very unhappy.

It’s in this moment, when I am reminded once again, you know what makes you happy, why aren’t you doing it?

This is all to say that what I’m good at, this juggling of minutiae, is not what is good for me as a human. For many years, I’ve been tapping out my creative skills on kid birthday parties, workarounds at jobs, and volunteering. While I like being creative and solving problems, I’m the overkill queen – obsessing over details no one in their right mind would ever bother with – and I know how to tie a perfect bow.

In the 47th year of my life, I’ve realized that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I have already begun to daydream about what life will be like in a year. It won’t be easy to let go, this compulsion to say “I can do it, no problem”.

Yesterday, I took a call from my old job regarding some insurance and payroll questions. Then I filled out an assisted living application for my mother-in-law. I ran to the school to meet with our book fair rep. I made calls, appointments, answered emails, cleaned the house. I dropped off and picked up my child from school. I trimmed hockey skate guards and the cats’ front nails. Dishes. Laundry. Litter boxes. Garbage. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

I’ve spent all my editorial skills critiquing and measuring and marginalizing my writing, when what I should be doing is editing my life. Instead of saying “yes” to everything else, I need to use a red pen on my schedule.

Writing needs to be a priority. I feel like I’m where I belong when I’m fussing with words or making myself laugh with some absurd piece of writing. It’s a palliative for all the mundane bullshit that can wear a person down. To recognize that something makes one happy and then not do it seems self-destructive. Why?

Writer is as writer does. Time to use the red pen.

34 Comments on “Blog Post Draft #13: Editing My Life

  1. As introverts, we tend to expend all our energy on what we think we have to do, instead of what will make us happy. I know. We have limited energy so prioritize for everyone else’s stuff, leaving ours at the bottom of the list. Definitely time for the red pen!

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    • I’ve finally come to the realization that contrary to how I’ve been operating, I do not have an unlimited amount of energy. It occurred to me that if I’m going to keep juggling, the very least I can do is make room for something that keeps me sane and occasionally happy. It’s common sense, I know, but it’s one of those lessons I just don’t seem to be getting.

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    • It would require each person to tell me how the mediocrity of my uncreative life is making them feel…and then leaving so I could write in peace. Maybe they don’t even have to talk – they can just stare at me balefully and leave the room in a huff.

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  2. The power of saying “No!” I’ve been trying it out and while it is scary at first, I am happier once I’ve said it. Good luck!

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  3. I hear you!

    Starting my blog was my first step toward reclaiming writing time and channeling some energy into words-related creativity. I’ve recently realized that it’s time for another step, but am still spinning around dealing with busy-work and bullshit. So I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I’m working hard at getting a bunch of stuff done and out of the way before the end of October, and in November I hope / plan to focus on generating a complete first draft of a novel. It’s just a bit of fluffery, not great art, but I’ve been thinking of writing it for several YEARS and I do think it could be fun both to write and to read.

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    • I’m likely to do NaNoWriMo as well, if only to force myself to write and ignore the rest of my life. We can be writing buddies, if you like. I did it a couple of years ago and came down with a horrible flu that had me writing my last several thousand words over the course of a couple of days. Still, it was something and gave me a bit of a push.

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        • When you set up your NaNoWriMo account, you can set up your writing buddies. I can’t remember how it’s done, but we’ll figure it out before November starts. You can see where they’re at on the word count and encourage them throughout the month. Or spend all your time feeling alternately behind or smug by comparison. I tended to lag behind most of my buddies, but I still got it done.

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    • I took out a line in there referencing Voldemort – the story being that he became a mewling unformed thing at King’s Cross after splitting his soul into too many pieces. But that might be too nerdy a reference even for me!

      It is a challenge to learn how to stop regarding some habits as necessity. I could run with the editing analogy – just as we scratch out extraneous adjectives, so must we do with the things that drain away our time and our energy. It’s a true challenge and I’m still trying to see the trees for the forest!

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  4. “… making myself laugh with some absurd piece of writing.” What a great line. I too have come to appreciate the incredible power of the audience of one.

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    • Those are some of my happiest moments and they really restore my personal reserves. If I imagine getting a little of that time each day, it feels like a luxury and I’m beginning to think it shouldn’t be.

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  5. Brilliant. I hope that when you figure out how to do it, you can replicate it and feed it to the rest of us. I’m not as compulsive (or as busy as you), but I haven’t been getting anything written. It could be that I have a puppy … Yeah. I’ll blame him.

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  6. NaNoWriMo is a great “medicine”….gives a permission to write and not do much else at all. I’m likely to do it again this year…such an incentive/intense concentration works for me when nothing else does. Writing makes a writer happy…and one needs to learn to say no, or enough, to stuff that comes in the way. Great post, Michelle!

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    • Thanks, Helen.
      Maybe that’s what it is, permission…I can’t shower now, I’ve got to get 1500 words done today to catch up on my word count. I did enjoy that, as well as goofing off writing blog posts about writing – that was fun for me as well. I think I could do with some fun these days. I am able to say “no” quite a bit, but I think it’s come down to heavy pruning now.

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  7. To approach your question of why something that makes you happy and then not doing it is self-destructive. I don’t know about you, but my grandmother implanted the idea in me that we have to do things which make us unhappy because that is how we learn and learning is the primary purpose of life. However, after much thinking I take issue with that line of thought for many reasons. Where it gets to your point is IF you believe that then you will continue to do things that make you unhappy and self-destructive because you think you are “learning,” which may be counter-productive to the real truth. So has been my thought about my life. May have nothing to do with yours.

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    • I think I was raised with the idea that life is just about surviving, which is true at a base level. But just surviving meant crawling through all the bad things, even those that were self-inflicted. Once I stopped being self-destructive, I found it was a challenge to learn that it was okay to be happy. I still have a bizarre sense of survivor’s guilt at times, but I’m learning that it serves no purpose. It’s still a challenge to embrace happiness. But learning to be happy is a damn sight better than “surviving” unhappiness!

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  8. I am so exactly in this same place. My own particular tic is to dramatically remove big commitments from my life so I can focus on my writing and re-energizing time . . . only to replace it with another big commitment. For two years I’ve been editing a book written by a weekly writing group I facilitate of men and women who’ve known homelessness; this culminated in the book release last week. Right now, worn out as I am, I can say with conviction, I WILL NOT replace this with anything other than my own writing and replenishment time. And by writing I mean writing – not the “business” end of writing. If it helps you with your intention, consider me staring at you balefully and quietly leaving.

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    • I like that you describe your proclivity towards outside projects as a tic. I never thought of volunteering as a tic, but truly it is. If it were more an intentional altruistic action as opposed to a knee-jerk “Yes, I can do that”, it would seem a little more noble.
      I left a job last year and that space filled up immediately with new tasks. I’m reminded of the expression “Nature abhors a vacuum”. One’s life, without a deliberate commitment to a specific task, can easily fill up with non-essentials.
      Congrats on completing your project and best wishes with your writing! I’m staring balefully back at you.

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  9. “I’ve realized that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” I’m fifty-two and right there with you. Thanks for this thoughtful post, Michelle. Peace and best, John

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    • Thanks, John. I have a feeling it will take me another decade to get that lesson down pat, but awareness is the first step, right? Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s always nice to hear from you!

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