My weekly routine of starting Tuesdays off with reflection through this blog has never felt like a chore. It’s stayed safely out of the realm of obligation and the other have-tos of my life. Even on days when I feel stuck for an idea or not sure of myself, I know that if I just sit with a blank screen in front of me and let my fingers move, something will come.
I think it started yesterday, in fact. A little question in my head, “What will I write about tomorrow morning?”
I scanned back over my week, hoping something would pop out at me — an epiphany, an interaction, a realization, an observation. Nothing.
This morning, after my meditation, I started the water to boil for coffee. And then I started the dishwasher to run. And then I almost started washing the pot from last night’s spaghetti that was left soaking overnight.
Procrastinating writers must have very clean kitchens.
So, I came back to my desk, opened my notebook, and set my timer for five minutes. I looked at my list of prompts: “I’m thinking about.” Ok, go.
I wrote half of that five minutes about why I couldn’t find anything to write about.
And then, as the timer was going off, I wrote, “maybe I’m trying too hard.”
Think of something you love doing: for me I would pick running or writing or playing the piano. When I am truly doing any of those things for me and without an agenda or expectation, I feel free. I feel like I could do it forever. It’s a flow state, it’s a wave of momentum, it’s tapping into some part of me that just wants to be free. It comes naturally, and even if it’s hard or I’m tired, I at least trust myself that I know how to do it. The fundamentals are there.
Now, think of something you’re learning to do. Maybe something you have to think a lot about. For me, I would pick learning how to kiteboard. The moments of flow and ease are far between moments of remembering what to do and crashing and failing and ohmygodI’muppleasedon’tfall. Each time I go out, the ratio of those moments shifts, and I get glimpses into the future of feeling like, yeah, I got this. I’ve noticed that the moment I start thinking too hard about where the kite needs to go and where my board is and ten steps into the future, I start overflying the kite, I start trying to force myself to stand up, and I fall.
This tendency to try too hard is, for me, more apparent with activities I’m not as comfortable with or that are new. It’s easier to make the connection between force leading to tension, and trust leading to ease. As soon as I bring myself back to the basics, things start to flow again, and the tension eases.
But it’s easy to overthink even those things I love to do. The aspect of running and writing that make them joyful for me is the fact that I can just let it pour out of me. Even if I have a goal in mind, either a pace or a word count, if I focus on the process rather than the outcome, the miles will tick by, the words will come, and I’ll meet my goal because I was enjoying the process.
The moment I switch to focusing on the outcome, I start trying to force it to happen. I strain and agonize, I get hung up on what’s not going right, I get angry and say things like, “why can’t I just” or “if only I could” or “I should just be able to.” It’s a vicious cycle, as soon as that mindset takes over, it’s so hard to turn it off. The more I force, the more I feel tension, and the more I want to succeed at whatever I’m doing in order to ease the tension, so I force more.
The moment I let go, I give myself permission to just do the thing without expectation, without judgment. Run for the sake of running. Write for the sake of writing. Because it’s fun, because it brings me joy, because it makes me feel alive.
The moment I let go, my voice has a chance to be heard, and I can tap into my inner core, the part of me that hasn’t succumbed to the shoulds and have-tos of the world, the part of me that runs like a child through the field, that writes stories with fervor just to see what happens, that plays and laughs and gets up after she falls, eager to do it again.