You can’t meet new people in America without someone asking, “so what do you do?” What do you do, as in: what do you do for work, what’s your job, how do you make money?
(Debating what this says about our culture and society is an entirely different conversation.)
I used to hate this question, because I hated my job and felt stuck in it. I also felt extremely disconnected from it — it had nothing to do with who I was as a person. But now I’m happy to answer this question. When people ask, I say, “I’m a writer.”
I’m a writer. It’s who I am. And some days I’m even pretty good at it.
I wish I understood this sooner. I took far too long to own who I am and what I do. In fact, I actively avoided saying, thinking, or believing “I’m a writer.” Continue reading
The last month flew by in a whirlwind of activity, travel, and work. After a summer of intense but positive change, ending the season this way feels appropriate — but I am ready to settle in to my new life that I love and focus on my priorities.
I started this week with a two-day road trip from Charlotte, North Carolina to my home in Boston. With pit stops included, I spent 14 hours on the road. I dreaded making this trip before I left. 14 hours of driving by yourself is not something I’d normally think of as a good time.
But after an overwhelming week of conferences and non-stop people-time in Charlotte, two days to sit in complete silence by myself was glorious. I thought about things. A lot of things.
And one thought I circled back to over and over again was how often I felt totally elated and inspired when I walked around the streets of my new city. Every day I get up and feel excited about where I am and what I do. I’ve never felt so energized, inspired, motivated, capable of creating a meaningful experience for myself and others.
This all sounds great — it is great — but the reason I kept circling back to this thought on my drive is that these feelings didn’t directly translate into something tangible. I’ve never felt so energized and inspired, yet in the last month I’ve fizzled out instead of igniting the spark.
This stumped me. Why was this happening? How could I have all this great mental and emotional space and fail to create anything within it? Continue reading
Insecurity cripples us from doing our best creative work. We’ve all experienced the sudden jolt of uncertainty that leaves us feeling wary about what we’re making or doing.
Is your work good enough? Is this idea really as great as you originally thought it was? Does anyone care about what you’re doing — and more importantly, is it affecting them in a positive, meaningful way?
When you start questioning and doubting yourself, it’s like running downhill. Those little whispers of uncertainty, the stirrings of insecurity — they start coming faster and faster and with more urgency and negativity. And at the bottom of that hill is one very ugly thought indeed:
Why am I doing this? I’m not getting anywhere or achieving anything. I feel like giving up.
If you’re there now, let me be the first person to tell you that you absolutely cannot think about giving up. You must keep trying, keep going, keep doing.
Why? Continue reading
I’ve wasted far too much time and an embarrassing amount of paper writing and rewriting words that will only be crossed out, scribbled over, or thrown away within days. If I made a grocery list or wrote out a note for myself and flubbed a word or made a mistake, I threw the paper in the trash and started a whole new list or note.
Letting go and focusing on what really mattered — like actually getting to the grocery store or capturing that fleeting idea I had — didn’t seem like an option. Perfectionism was the only choice, and it was so easy to agonize over every little detail that didn’t measure up.
When you feel as if the only solution to imperfection is to scrap what you have and start all over again, completing day-to-day tasks becomes challenging. In fact, completing anything becomes an ordeal — so much so that inaction is often the result.
After all, not doing anything means you can’t screw it up. When you can’t let go of perfectionism, that seems better than trying something and getting the job done but making a mess in the process.
It’s a shame, because getting messy provides you with valuable opportunities. You’ll make mistakes, backtrack, ask questions, and test ideas. You’ll cross things out and redo things and get excited about thoughts that only come to you after understanding there’s no such thing as flawless. Continue reading
People usually don’t need help in knowing what to do. We know.
We know that to do better with money, we need to spend less and save more. We know that to lose weight and get fit, we need to eat healthy and exercise. We know that if we want to get better or develop a skill, we need to practice.
Giving someone the knowledge to complete this task or that project doesn’t solve the problem, because a lack of knowing how is rarely the root of the issue for motivated makers and doers.
If you’re hung up and feeling creatively blocked, seeking answers won’t move you past feeling uncertain of what’s next. You don’t need more information in your head. You just need to know how to ask the right questions.