Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cut Yourself Some Slack


Do you ever feel like this guy? A little stressed and uptight?

Today I want to say:

Let's cut ourselves some slack

As writers, and as people in general, we need to ease up on ourselves.

You may think this is a silly concept....that you are already doing it, but I'll ask you to question yourself.

Are you comparing yourself to others?

Jerry Spinelli said there are 10,000 steps to publication. I may be on step 8,764 and you may be on step 9,138 and we may meet someone tomorrow who is on step 2. How fair is it for any of us to compare our journey, our writing, our dreams to others? I believe it robs us of our individuality. When we spend two weeks complaining that we are only on step 5,691 then we waste time and deny ourselves the opportunity of enjoying the journey. Where's the fun in that? Why would we put that unfair and unrealistic burden on ourselves? And yet we do it all the time.

How kind is your inner critic?

We have all heard that it takes ten 'atta boy's' to make up for one 'you blew it' with children. Have you ever considered that it may be the same with your own inner critic? And yet, we often forget that we are our inner critic. We wait to receive validation from outside sources instead of celebrating our own goodness. Guess what? We have the ability to control, silence, change the MP3 file of that critic. Today I want to challenge all of us to change those thoughts to 'You are full of potential' and 'Your best work is still inside of you'.

There's lots more to cutting ourselves some slack, but I think I'll leave this post with these two primary challenges.

Questions: What would you add? Will you take this challenge to ease up on yourself? To say positive things about your abilities? To recognize your potential and to allow other's their journey without the burden of comparison? What are some other things we can do to help us have a little joy on this writing journey?

What say you?



Barb said...

What a great post. I think part of this comes from focusing on what you have written instead of what you are writing. We all so want to be proficient.

There was a time when Eddie Van Halen couldn't play the guitar.

Corey Schwartz said...

Great post, Tess. I feel stressed out all the time! I definitely need to cut myself some slack.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

Read over a piece you excelled in writing. There are lots of them. Remember that chapter where everything fell right into place and even made you feel what your characters feel? That's worth revisiting. That'll shut that critic up and you can give yourself ten 'atta boys.

Tess said...

Barb - love your comment! Yes, there was a time Eddie Van Halen couldn't play the guitar. I think I'll post that on my office wall - thanks :D

Corey - me too, friend! me, too.

Elizabeth - that is a great idea. Now that you mention it I believe I have done this at times when I have felt low - you know, pull out something good that I've done, or even focus on my children (they are accomplishments for me as well, right?) Great thoughts, thanks for sharing.

Lynnette Labelle said...

I can be hard on myself. The worst is that I see how much everyone else is writing and how much closer they are to their dream of publication, and then there's me. I'm short on time and energy. I keep telling myself it'll get better, but it's hard to wait it out. I feel like I've been waiting for years now. Oh, yeah. I have.

Lynnette Labelle

Jody Hedlund said...

Absolutely true, Tess! I think I'm hardest on myself, expect too much sometimes, and need to learn to give myself some slack!

Tess said...

Lynnette - I understand that feeling, but when we set ourselves up against another by comparing then we are being super unfair to both ourselves and that other person. There may always be someone who got there first or did it brilliantly, but that doesn't mean we can't as well. Publishing is NOT like pie...where giving one piece away takes away from our chances of having any. It is more like the flu, where there is plenty to share and one does not take away from another :D

Jody - like Nike says...just do it, right?

JKB said...

This is 100% on, Tess. I've found myself doing that lately, and even though I really try to do it, it's still like water under the door. Insidious stuff.

Lisa and Laura said...

Love this post! I absolutely need to cut myself some slack and stop comparing our journey to publication to every other author's that I read. Fabulous (and very timely) advice, Tess!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yeah, that's me, like the guy with the scissors...I once had a ski instructor ask me if I couldn't just relax.
My inner critic loves to nag and scold and purse her lips in disapproval.
But I heard something that I'm trying to do consciously--visualize yourself and your endeavors in positive, successful terms. The theory is that the image you hold of yourself both infuses your work and the way others react to you. That doesn't mean we don't have to revise and rewrite--one thing I've learned is rewriting is part of the process and everybody does it. I just need to shut up the critic whispering, "Idiot. Why didn't you get that right the first time?" and replace it with, "Good start! How can we make it even better."

Natalie said...

Great reminder. Some days I'm awesome at ignoring my inner critic. And some days not so much.

Funny enough, I always write better when I tune him out entirely.

Joyce Wolfley said...

I realized that I was stressing myself out...for no good reason. All the pressure of doing everything, and thinking you have to be amazing at it right away...HOGWASH! So now I just do what I can and don't worry about the little things.

lotusgirl said...

I like telling myself that I am full of potential. I just have to work hard to achieve it.

L.T. Elliot said...

What I'd say? I'd say to remember that we all start at step 1. Everyone. You never know who you'll meet on step 2 or 3 that will be with you on step 9,999. It's just best to play nicely in the sandbox and remember that kindness never goes out of style. =]

Yunaleska said...

I applied giving myself slack this weekend, and had a completely relaxing day yesterday. It's set me up for the weekno, I'm full of beans. Let me at that wip!

Knowing we're all at different stages helps with the relentless inner critic inside of me (the hard taskmaster one, not the cheerleader)

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

My best work is still in me. I like it. Gives me hope. :)

Tess said...

JKB - what a great analogy...water under the door. It is that sly and insidious. We must be vigilant.

L&L- so glad the timing was helpful :D

Tricia - I have days when I can be like that, too. I think it takes conscious effort to ease up and remind ourselves of our great potential.

Natalie - I agree! I always write better when I am feeling good about myself. It really does help the muse.

Joyce - Yes, hogwash! And, like Natalie said, when we ease up, we free the muse.

lotusgirl and KarenAmanda - actually, that is something my hubby came up with and tells me from time to time. He'll read something I've written, tell me it's fantastic and then say, "You have amazing work still inside of you, keep writing!". It is super inspiring for me.

LT - I really liked it when Jerry Spinelli said that. It has given me huge perspective. And, you are right, manners never go out of style.

Ylnaleska - you go girl! that is great news and I'm glad it helped you feel more creative. your best work is right inside of you just waiting to come out so write, write, write!

Tess said...

Yunaleska - don't know what happened to my fingers when I was typing your name above...sorry, it's early here :D

Danyelle said...

Great post, Tess! My husband is eyeing me. I have a perfectionistic streak the size of the Mississippi that I'm trying to reform. It's good to be reminded that we need to be good to ourselves as well. :D

superpaige said...

Thanks, Tess. I'm SO guilty of comparing my worst attributes to everyone else's best.

Eric said...

This is a great post, and so timely (for me anyway). Thanks alot.

Jill Kemerer said...

Thanks Tess. I am my own worst critic--and ironically, my own best cheerleader. Unfortunately, I'm revising and I loathe every word I've written. be writing a first draft. That's when I'm invincible!!

I'll keep in mind your kind words.

Merc said...

Great post--I will attempt to pick up the gauntlet here and go a bit easier on myself. ;) (It won't happen all the time. Sadly, that's just how my brain works.) But hey! I can try... O:)

PJ Hoover said...

The challenge I'm working on is rewarding myself for how much I do accomplish! little things around the house. A page of new WIP. Folding laundry. if I do it, I should give myself kudos!