Tag: not listening to shoulds

Shoulds Do Not Become Us

seam ripper

All this year the writing for book 2 of Cricket and Grey has been crawling at a disgruntled pace with only a few moments of illumination and sprints of inspiration.  Otherwise I have become a dimwit plodding along with mud caked on my shoes so thick I’m not sure where the ground ends and my feet begin.  I do not generally let shoulds have any say in my life or my goals but somehow I have let them loose with regards to my writing.  I decided that writing the second book in my series should be easier than writing the first  because I have already mapped so many characters and landscapes out that I should be able to write this one in one year instead of two.

My sense of urgency is understandable but misplaced.  I keep telling myself that I should be able to write a book a year if I want a real career as a novelist.  I keep telling myself that since I’m not writing Pulitzer material there’s no excuse to take years to write a single book.  I’ve become infected with the shoulds and the thing about them is that they lie, they are corrosive and unproductive, and they are so often pulled out of our asses as a way to self flagellate without admitting that’s what we’re doing.  Unless you’re into S&M there’s no good that can come of hurling the shoulds at our own heads.

The truth is that I can’t write a book carelessly.  I may not be writing Pulitzer material but I hold myself to a high standard of quality with my writing.  No one will ever be able to say that I didn’t do enough research for my books or that I was so in love with my own voice that I wasn’t willing to change prose to suit the story and the reader.  There will always be people who don’t like a writer’s books, that’s a fact, but no one will be able to say that my books were slapped together sloppily.  It will always take me just as long as it takes me to write a book well.  Comparing myself to the pace at which other authors write is useless.  Comparing this book to the last is useless.  It will take as long as it takes.

I have given in to the shoulds so much that I didn’t even notice it myself.  My sister is the one who pointed it out.  I was a little shocked to discover how much I’d invested in them without noticing they’d slipped by me in the first place.  Sometimes it’s good to have family point you in your own bullshit direction.

I have shown the shoulds the door because they don’t become me.

They don’t become you either so if, like me, you’ve let them through a side gate and they are camped out in your self esteem or are stabbing you in the eyes til you’re blind with the million ways you don’t measure up or can’t see your next step – you have got to kick them to the curb.  Find yourself saying you should be at some point in your life right now because other people are?  Kick that thought out right now.  Find yourself making pencil marks on the wall of shame you’ve built around other people’s achievements against which you measure yourself?  Knock that fucking wall down because you aren’t other people and their wall isn’t yours.

Unless you enjoy torture.  In which case – carry on.

Establishing writing discipline is important for me but I can’t hold myself to unrealistic expectations about the quality of my daily writes.  The quality comes with rewrites.  The quality comes with showing up to work every day and putting in the hours.  The quality comes between reams of complete shit.

In other news – I have lost another pound for a total of 21 pounds lost.  But I just saw a picture of myself taken yesterday of me holding up my friend Chelsea’s quilt and it’s insane how enormous I look even after getting myself 20lbs down.  It’s depressing and demoralizing that that’s what I look like right now.  This minute.  The self loathing is difficult to deny, to push aside.  I hear in my head all those voices saying to use those feelings for motivation.  I get it but I can’t quite turn it that way.  My soul is retching with such glimpses at what I look like to other people.  As much as I feel huge and awful – I seem to be gentler on myself than I often realize because I don’t see myself as being THAT huge.  Yet I am.  It’s classic to see yourself as being uglier or bigger or generally worse than anyone else sees you.  I think I see myself realistically until I see those kinds of pictures.  Then I realize I have been much too kind to myself.  I’m a regular sized person in a fat body not letting myself see just how disgusting I’ve become.  Reality is less kind than I am to myself.

At least I know that on some level I am caring for myself and protecting myself in ways that I didn’t realize.  For all my usual urges to and tendency to self-harm I seem to have drawn the line in limited ways.

One thing I can promise is that my desire to lose weight is not about shoulds telling me what my body needs to look like.  This isn’t about anyone else’s judgement of me.  This is about what is and isn’t healthy for ME.  The last time I looked at an image of myself and my full body without being horrified was so long ago and so many pounds ago it’s not even worth counting backwards.

So.  One more pound down.  A billion to go.  No one is allowed to take pictures of me until I say so.  I can’t let myself get caught unawares again.  It’s too shocking and makes me suspect that there’s no way in hell I’ll ever meet my goals.  That this place I’m in is a purgatory I’ve done something terrible to deserve.  My bones hurt, my muscles hurt, and my self esteem is only okay when I forget I’ve got a corporeal form that takes up a considerable amount of space.

If I forget I have a body I feel pretty good about myself.  About where I am in my life.  About my marriage and my child.  About my writing achievements and the million little things I do that satiate my curiosity and keep me engaged in the world and the people around me.  I live a good life.  A really good life.  All I need is to have a healthy body again.  I need to have patience with the process of getting it back just as I need to have patience with the process of writing my second book.  I set the goals.  I make the rules.  I decide what I need and what I want.

One last thing for today: I think part of my problem with writing is lack of alcohol.  Not that I need alcohol to write well.  I don’t.  But I do know that when I’ve had a certain amount of alcohol I strip away all the nonsense around me and access something that is usually protected.  It backfires too, but I know that it helps me get to the words.  Since I don’t plan to go back to drinking like I used to this isn’t something that will be solved by drinking again.  I just have to get used to finding ways without alcohol to open the doors to where the words live.  I have to find ways to do that sober.  I’m just bringing this up because I realized that this is something that used to come a lot more easily to me.

The air today is so soft and warm it feels like early summer.  Time to open all the windows and let the fresh air inside!