Slow Down, Child, You’re Not Ready Yet

Running womanImagine you’re training for a marathon. You start off strong: you’re highly motivated, and you’re sticking to an ambitious training schedule. Everything is going as planned.

Then, one day, you twist your knee. You’re forced to rest, to take a break. This is frustrating, but you know it’s necessary. You wait.

Several days go by, and you start to feel better. You’re itching to start training again, so the very first day you feel ready, you go out to run. You feel pumped. You want to make up for lost time. So you go for a long, intense run, throwing caution to the proverbial wind.

But you fall on your face. You re-injure yourself. As you lie on your couch later that day, you tell yourself, “I guess I wasn’t ready. But I so WANTED to be ready.”

That’s what I said to myself this morning. “I WANTED to be ready.” Except I wasn’t talking about marathon training. I was talking about writing.

People think of injuries and comebacks as the domain of the athletic. But creative and intellectual pursuits can have just as many roadblocks. You get sick. You get depressed. You have seasonal affective disorder. A loved one needs to be cared for. You get a rejection letter, or several. There are plenty of reasons why writing work stops for awhile. (All of these, by the way, have happened to me in the past year.)

But at some point, the burden lifts, and you feel ready to tackle the work again. That’s how I felt this morning. Friday’s post, where I revealed that I was struggling to connect with writing, was a big turning point for me. After writing that post, I felt free; I felt inspired. Ideas and creativity flowed. My motivation returned. I was ready to write! I was ready to jump right back in!

So I told myself that I would resume my usual intense writing schedule today. I would write a blog post (not on this topic!). I would search for some new writing blogs to follow; I would get on social media and promote my blog; I would write in my journal; and most importantly, I would write at least 1,000 words of my novel, because I have to hit 5,000 words every week or I won’t be done by my scheduled date, and I’ll feel like I failed if I don’t meet that goal.

As soon as I set this schedule for myself, I started to feel incredibly anxious and unhappy. Generally, I try to push through this feeling and force myself to do things just because they’re on my list. But this morning, I checked my gut. I realized that even though I felt better, I wasn’t ready to jump back in completely. I was being too ambitious too soon. I’m still going through a lot of difficult things, and I need to give myself time. Most importantly, I need to release myself from the pressure of meeting my own goals. (This is hard for me to do, as I am a classic “Upholder,” according to Gretchen Rubin.)

So I’m taking what, for me, is the harder, less comfortable road: I’m scaling back. I’m giving myself permission to take a break from the novel for a couple more weeks. I’m giving myself space to write what makes me happy (right now, my journal and this blog) and read more books. I don’t want to be wiped out on the couch, back at square one. I want to take this time to work my way back in, so when it’s time to get back to goals and ambitions, I’ll be ready.

There’s a voice in my head saying, “Slow Down, Child.” I’ve ignored it for a long time, but I’m trusting it now.

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