Monthly Archives: February 2012

Good Enough

When is good enough ok? When can you give yourself permission to settle for something that isn’t your absolute best? I read a comment in another post today that reflected on seeing oneself as the eternal student; always open to learning, new experiences and growth. This means that there is always knowledge to be gained that will make you better.

So when is good enough ok? Not when it means always settling for mediocrity without aspirations of greatness. Ultimately, your goal is to become and to create your best.

Good enough is enough when you become so burdened by the process, that you lose site of your ultimate goal.

I recently found myself consumed by the technicalities of a couple of projects. I was buried under minutia and for a while, I had no idea that I was drowning. Except, I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t happy or enjoying the process of writing. In fact, I was writing less and less as I got more involved in the intricacies of what I was trying to accomplish.

So I finally said, ENOUGH!

I realized that my attention and finest efforts needed to be reserved for the creative aspects of my writing. The rest would have to be good enough the way it was. For now.

Good enough is enough when the process is as important as the end product. Committed to the role of the eternal student, and still early in my learning, I have accepted that some of my early creative efforts have not been masterpieces. But, I am learning valuable skills about the craft of writing that will make future endeavors better.

Some of my stories are good enough for me, but probably not good enough to get published. (OK, definitely not good enough to get published.)

So what does this mean? Well, when I entered my medical residency, my skills were good enough for me to see patients under the supervision of a more experienced attending physician. My skills were good enough for me, as a trainee, but not good enough to run a clinical service on my own. Now, I have been seeing patients in my own practice for years and I feel very confident in my skills to provide good care to my patients. And I am still learning.

Being good enough in the moment acknowledges that getting better is part of the process, which means you have to know when you are not ready for Prime Time. In fact, not recognizing that you are not ready can be a dangerous risk.

So sometimes I write just for me. I write to exercise those mental muscles that will help me to become a stronger writer. I write so that at some point, the stars will align, I will know that I have created something good. And I will be right.

Good enough is enough when you get to that point when you lose perspective on what you are creating and are unable to let go. Some people make the mistake of never believing that they or what they create is good enough. Becoming mired in doubt and second-guessing yourself can be the greatest obstacle to your success. This is different from recognizing the need to revise and working with a piece until it is the best that you can make it.

At some point, you have to trust that you will create something that is ready to be shared. You have to reconcile with the fact that perfection is a myth and not worth chasing. At some point in the creative process you have to stop.

Let go. It’s good enough, and maybe it is great.

How does failing to recognize good enough limit you from becoming great?

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Who are Your People?

And suddenly, like light in darkness, the real truth broke in upon me; the simple fact of Man, which I had forgotten, which had lain deep buried and out of sight; the idea of community, of unity.Ernst Toller

Today at work, a discussion ensued about relocating some of the employees to another location to free up some space. We have outgrown our office. My stomach churned and my clothes felt too tight as I sat there resolute that I wasn’t going anywhere. That was my gut response, to dig in my heels and refuse to budge.

I wasn’t trying to be difficult. To be honest, I was worried. I really like my colleagues and didn’t want to consider that our group might be dismantled. Part of the joy of going to work is the collaboration and shared experiences with my colleagues. It’s reassuring to know that I am not in the trenches alone.

Writing can leave the writers feeling like they’re in the trenches alone without another soul in sight. The very act of writing is solitary and often it is hindered, rather than helped, by interference from the outside world. When you sit at your computer, ready to give your life to your story, you are there alone.

Luckily, there is a vast community of writers out there. These folks populate blogs, Twitter and fill the seats at conferences and in classrooms. Some have books that line the shelves in stores and libraries. Others keep their masterpieces tucked away hoping for just the right opportunity to introduce their work to the world. When your comrades share their struggles and wisdom, they remind you that your experiences are universal. This little fact is easy to forget when you are staring at a blank screen with a cursor that is blinking and taunting you to create.

These are comforting thoughts. With the availability of a global community at my fingertips, I imagine a world where I can seek like minded people who have gone through, are going through, or plan to go through the very successes and challenges that I experience daily.

When I started writing in earnest, I planned to spend day after day at my computer until I created something great. I found myself frustrated and disconnected until I realized that there is a whole community of writers out there. This promise of community has been my buoy when I have felt weighed down by self-criticism and doubt.

So, what step can you take to grow your community today?

 

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Explore, Dream, Discover

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

So what risky thing have you done today? Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Don’t worry if something didn’t immediately spring to mind. The First Lady was advising that we take a very active approach to risk taking in our lives. Push your self a little bit beyond merely standing up to challenges as they come to you.

Even if actively seeking out a risky endeavor everyday seems like too big of a bite, there is a lot to be said for putting yourself through this exercise on a regular basis. If you don’t put yourself out there, there is a good chance that you are not going to get much back from the world. Only you know what sends your heart racing. What makes your belly flip-flop and sweat trickle down your brow?

One of the biggest risks that I have taken recently was to start this blog. I am an intensely private person and the idea that I would put my experiences as a new writer into the public forum was terrifying. For the longest time, my writing has been just for me. But now, I am putting bits and pieces out into the vast world that is the web.

So, to move forward and grow, we must put ourselves out there. Since I made the commitment to a writing lifestyle a little over a year ago, I have continuously looked for ways to “sail away from the safe harbor” as Twain put it. I have started following and commenting on other blogs, taken writing courses and had my work “graded”, entered writing contests and joined a critique group. All of these things are the first steps of putting myself out there and transforming from recreational writing to a writing career.

Each of these steps always brings that internal commentary. What if someone doesn’t like my work? What if my work just isn’t good? What if something I write gets rejected? What If a giant piece of space debris smashes into my bedroom while I’m asleep? (OK, it can get a little ridiculous, right?) And you know what? All of that has happened (except, the space debris), and I am still here, and a little bit better. I would even dare to say that in the last year, I have become a lot better.

As a writer, there are so many points in the process that feel risky. Maybe it’s mobilizing yourself to get those first words out of your head, onto paper (or screen) and out into the real world. Perhaps even the notion of owning the title of writer feels foreign and intimidating. However, we owe it to ourselves to see what will happen, because we will get better when we take risks. It will hurt and there may be tears and a little bloodshed, but this is the path to greatness.

What was the last thing you did to put yourself out there?

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The Only Thing We Have to Fear is…Oh You Know the Rest

I am sitting here with a little nervous twinge in my belly. You know the feeling that I’m talking about. It’s that fluttery feeling that if kept under control serves as a warning, but when unleashed, can send you to a corner cowering in fear. I am not the type of person that generally lives in fear, but as I sit here tonight, there is that little twinge in my belly. I am attending a writing conference this weekend and have signed up to have one of my stories professionally critiqued. I have attended one other writers’ conference, but that was just a test drive. I was just a spectator checking out what happened at these things. This time, I am a fully exposed participant. And I am a little nervous.

This fear, though, is a good thing. This twinge is well under control. In fact, it is keeping me alert, excited and on my toes. Has anxiety ever served to push you to a better place, a higher peak? It has a powerful way of doing that. When the fear response was not sending our Neanderthal ancestors running into the cave from the snarling saber-toothed tiger, it was pushing them to prepare and fight. I am not looking for a fight this weekend, but I am looking to push myself and confront my shortcomings. Because, that is one way that fear serves us today, isn’t it? It signals to our brains that we are about to confront something that is going to unveil our limitations and weaknesses. We can remain paralyzed, frozen in place and miss an opportunity, or we can take control. At this point in my writing journey, I certainly have a lot to learn. So, of course, a critique of my writing is certain to reveal a lot of my creative shortcomings.

Here is the best part; at the other side of this tunnel is growth. As a writer, I can only mature and improve from this. When we realize that we have a lifetime of learning to do, it can change our whole perspective. We can embrace our fear as a surmountable challenge and welcome our own evolution.

I have no doubt that I will be anxious as I hear the truth about my creative efforts. There may even be some sweating and cringing involved. However, I will learn how to become a better writer and in the process, acquiesce to this life long process of shaping my character.

So, how has fear pushed you to be better in your life?

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Writing From Scratch

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. –Steve Jobs

Are you at the beginning of a new journey in your life right now? Maybe you’re taking a new direction in a journey that you have been on for a while. It’s really not a bad place to be. The beginning holds so much promise. The beginning is where I am in my writing career. I started this blog to help me connect with a community of writers, new and seasoned. In the past couple of years, I have started writing children’s non-fiction, but my focus right now is picture books. When I contemplated this journey in writing, I worried about starting from scratch at this point in my life. What had I missed with all of those years spent traveling down other paths?

If I focus on what I have gained up to this point in my life instead of what I have missed, then it’s a whole different story. Then, I can look at how my experiences up to this point can enrich and inform my writing. This can only add to the depth and meaning behind what I create. Have you looked back at your life and appreciated the richness exists in it?

The writing world has an infinite pantry of ingredients that I can’t wait to dive into. The possible end results are as numerous and varied as one can imagine. Are you feeling pressured to commit to a cuisine? Don’t. If you are new to the craft like I am, take a moment to appreciate all of the options writing has to offer. I fully committed to this journey a little less than a year ago, and already I have sampled children’s picture books, short stories, novel writing and even a little taste of non-fiction writing. I am relishing in the infinite choices of what I ultimately can do with this growing interest.

If you are new to writing, you really are in an enviable position. The new writer can step back and appreciate the immensity of what this craft has to offer without yet having become fully immersed. So explore this world with all five senses and see where this journey takes you. Let the colors of a classic picture book dazzle your eyes. Read prose aloud to yourself and let the words drip off your tongue and dance in your ears. Appreciate the ache in your fingers as they clutch a pen or pound away at your keyboard. Get lost in nostalgia when the smell of a well read library book drifts into your nose when you first crack it open. And as for my personal favorite sense, taste, grab a warm mug of something luxurious, sit down with a good read and study what those before you have produced.

So roll up your sleeves and let’s jump in and write something grand. This is just the beginning of this blog, so I’m just getting started over here. I hope you will stick with me as this blog grows and hopefully supports you in your writing journey.

So, where are you in your journey?

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