Truth: I avoid doing the things I believe I am not good at. I don’t sing in public. I enjoy dancing around my living room belting out ‘because I’m happy’ along with Pharrell but the music needs to be loud. I don’t expect myself to be a great singer and this isn’t a quality I strive to improve and so I’m okay not singing Karaoke, ever.
As a child, my visions of my future ran the gamut from saving every homeless pet in the world to learning America Sign Language and teaching deaf children. Learning a new language was hard and my passion waned even for an extra language credit in college. My expectations were akin to learning by osmosis. I didn’t want to put the effort in. My first job as an almost adult was for our local Humane Society; reality was a harsh, harsh lesson. I saved one. Then another. Saving one a day equaled saving the world. Again, I chose the expectation of donning an oversized cape and leaping from tall buildings. The storyline began: I found fault with me not my expectations.
Throughout my childhood one activity where I had zero expectations of myself was writing stories. I wrote in middle school from the perspective of a condemned man on death row. I read one of my stories in class and a classmate accused me of plagiarism—I had to look it up in a dictionary. I wrote a story and read it aloud to a board of directors to save a dog’s life. My audience wiped at their eyes and cleared their throat and voted yes unanimously. I didn’t expect myself to create these situations—I had experienced the power of the written word. Anything was possible in a story. And it came naturally to me and I hadn’t yet learned to judge myself and so I wrote all the time.
I may have been a natural writer but what makes a great writer? Writing. A lot. And as an adult I have allowed my personal story to become one of lack and less than. Expectations of perfect grammar, punctuation, and spelling deflated my enthusiasm letter by letter. Expectations of writing like my favorite authors instilled self-doubt in my fledgling abilities to string words together intelligibly. I wrote less. And less.
Although today I journal more than ever. I write emails, blog posts, marketing copy. Not stories. Yet I have a partially written novel on my laptop. I dabble. A scene here, funny dialogue there. Even though it has potential; an engaging story-line with well-developed characters. I’m not a writer I just write now and then. Fear keeps me from the page. In equal measure fear of failure or fear of success. Both paralyze. The keyboard is a rattlesnake. Why? Because I can’t get past my unrealistic expectations of being good at a thing without practicing it.
How did it not click that everything I have learned and become good at was because I kept doing it. Riding a bike, riding a horse, working with the public, communicating, relationships, self-care, owning a business, life. It didn’t translate to writing. Practice writing? Write badly, boldly, babbly. A writing practice is by definition something you DO (borrowed in part from film The Family Man).
Unlike my singing ability, I desire to improve my writing and complete my novel this year. (There. I said it.) What’s that look like? Creating a writing practice that works for me. That I will perform. Consistently. Baby step one: ask for help; encouragement from friends and family. Baby step two: working with a creativity coach to put action steps in place–the inspirational Jamie Ridler. Baby step three: Sit. Write. Baby step four: my 2017 word is ‘PRACTICE’. Baby step five: notice when I am under the influence of expectations—release quickly into the wild if possible.
“Expectations are resentments under construction.” ― Anne Lamott