When You Feel Like Giving Up

Have you ever started a project with gusto and then while in the middle of it realize that you may have made a terrible mistake?

It could be a book, an organizational task, a move, or a garage sale. But you and I have both had that sinking feeling of “Oh no. What have I done!”

24699607783_e429516614_o
Photo Credit: TheNoxid via Compfight cc

My blogs, books, and several of my moves over the last ten years have felt this way. I stand there, wondering what the next step is, and consider eating seven slices of pizza as the answer to feeling overwhelmed. It’ll never get done anyway.

I wrote a while back about the U shaped journey of the creative referenced in Todd Henry’s book Louder Than Words. The visionary starts their journey with joy. They can see the other side and it should be a quick hike down into the valley and up the other side. Once the sun is out of view, however, the forest grows tall and dark, and the traveler hears a wolf howl. So they stumble forward with suborn single-mindedness and soon enough, find ourselves out the other side.

Life is not this easy. But the truth is that anything worth doing is bound to get really difficult. I am not sure who said writing books and having four kids was easy but they were lying. Sure I love my novels and non-fiction stories and love my kids even more than that but I’d like to commiserate with you and say we’ve all been there, feeling like everything we do is terrible.

That ___ is a mistake.

That ___ will amount to nothing.

It wasn’t always this hard or energy sapping but it feels like it will forever be so going forward.

Friend, great writers weren’t magically endowed with the writing gift when they were born. Sure some might have a leg up, but I know many writers that are incredibly talented that struggle with doubt in the middle of every project.

I have heard it said that when you get to the place of being really uncomfortable or feeling like you are lost then you have crossed the border between imitation and originality in art.

If you feel like giving up, I implore you to move forward. There are so many books and blogs that have encouraged and inspired me on my journey. I know that it may seem impossible to continue onward but I hope you do. Remember the joy that came at the beginning and write from there.

It will take time but keep writing. That is the one and only way to know if your work will be worth it in the end.

Do you feel like giving up?

How can I encourage you today?

 

Advertisements

Why Today Can Be The Best Day You Ever Had

Nearly every day I put my son to bed and then his two older sisters. My wife handles our three month old. And almost every evening my daughter Clara asks me the same question.

“Daddy, what are we going to do in the morning?”

I’ve had many answers to this question. Occasionally, they morph into a fictional story but lately I’ve been answering it this way – “Well, tomorrow can be anything you want to make it”, which usually produces a frown and furrowed eyebrows which mean she’s either confused or unsatisfied with my answer. So I try the excitement angle.

“Tomorrow is open honey,” I say. “You can do anything you want! It can be the best day of your life!” Her eyes sparkle and she smiles.

Sunrise

Somewhere along the way we grown ups can lose our enthusiasm and sense of adventure. Part of the reason can be the responsibilities we have but I think it is because we have beaten paths in our lives that are familiar, comfortable, and easy.

It’s much easier to sit at home and browse my iphone than it is to get up and go browse the books at the local library. We prevent our kids from jumping in puddles or building a tent in the living room with the couch cushions because they create messes and as adults we’ve learned that messes make our lives difficult, regardless of the joy they can bring.

There are days I can be a curmudgeon. I can easily revert to cranky and ornery. These are the beaten paths I’ve plodded in my few years.

But as I told my daughter, each day can be new. Each day can be the best day we’ve ever had. But, in order for them to be so, we must ignore these familiar ways we traverse every day. We must search for activities that bring about joy and restoration to our soul.

I hope you are active today. That you take a hike. You play with molding clay or dust off your guitar or maybe even do something as simple as take a different road on your commute.

Whatever you do, do something different and do something that brings joy.

How To Integrate Your Dream Into Your Busy Life

When I first started writing I had no children. I could get up as early as I liked and stay up as late as possible, as long as my full time job did not suffer. At one point, I got up at five thirty every Saturday morning and wrote for four hours. It was a magical time.

Fast forward to today, I am lucky if I get fifteen minutes each morning. So how do you balance that change? Going from four hours a day to fifteen minutes?

I like making checklists. I didn’t realize I did until I got further into my sales career. Before I leave for the day I write down what I need to accomplish the next day. This keeps me focused and on task no matter what happens during my morning commute.

How does this relate to writing? Because knowing what I am going to do with the brief block of time I have matters immensely. As a busy writer, I cannot approach time casually. I must be intentional about how I use it whether I am writing, doing the dishes, or relaxing. Having a plan on how I am going to use my time goes a long way to spending it well.

I wrote a checklist before I started my writing block this weekend. Then I listened to music on the way to my writing destination to get me in the writing mood and journaled as soon as I arrived. Usually, these are my first two actions before I have a writing session. They help me focus on what I need to do. Then I can attack the checklist. If you don’t like checklists, do any action that helps you track progress. For me, crossing items off a list is extremely satisfying.

When I create my checklist I start with writing first. I may need to send an email or tweak a portion of my website or do some research but I write first. I can do admin tasks on my lunch break during the week if I run out of time. On my checklist I put two hundred and fifty words or whatever I need to remain on schedule for my current project.

The reason I put a limit on my words is because my time is limited and I like a target to aim at. It also helps me not burn out. I cannot possibly sit down and write five thousand words and still be present with my wife, kids, friends, or work.

So I create a checklist, get my mind in the writing mood, and then do my writing first. I also limit the word count to feel accomplished and limit burn out. These three things help me be prepared, build momentum, and execute.

I would like to leave your with this caveat, however. If you chase a dream, you must be flexible by keeping your expectations in check. Life can change in a moment and we must be ready to leap forward and take advantage of a sudden gap in time, or throttle back as it requires.

What To Do When Battling Self-Doubt

These past two weeks at my job have been the hardest I’ve had in years. Not because of a potential job loss or trouble with a coworker or boss but because it’s so busy my brain literally hurts when I leave.

Last week, in the midst of this furious pace, I had a thought I haven’t had in a long time. A little voice stepped up to the podium in my mind and declared that no matter how hard I try I will never be a writer.

It also added, as if one leads into another, that I am a terrible public speaker, I’m not good on video or encouraging people, and my fiction is terrible too so I better just stop and save myself the pain of rejection.

The strange part about this thought process? less than twelve hours before this thought, I shared my 2016 goals with my writers group. I said I was thrilled about the possibilities that this year holds.

Self-doubt is a sneaky little jerk. I know that I am a writer. I know that I did a decent job in my last conference talk, however, I was foolish to believe that I was over self-doubt because it was simply waiting, lurking around the corner, until my guard was down.

Want to know how I stopped that voice speaking in my head? The same way I stopped a goalie that would heckle me during a hockey game.

I went to work.

I became competitive and started writing this post even as the voice grew louder. The surprising thing? I can still hear its voice but I am no longer afraid. It’s like a tiger in a cage at the moment. I am no longer frozen in fear, with the thought I cannot write because I just did. And soon I’ll publish this post and get some edits in on my next e-book.

Self-doubt never leaves us. But it’s what we do in response that says who we are. Sometimes self-doubt is reinforced by a dry spell of writing or in the form of an off handed joke by an uncle or cousin or parent or friend.

Keep in mind that Someone laughed at Disney’s dream, but he kept working anyway. So should you.

 

5 Ways To Make Thanksgiving Awesome

Holidays. This one word can bring of flood of emotions. But, I believe if we maintain the right perspective and use our time well, we can make Thanksgiving awesome.

How? See my 5 ways to make Thanksgiving awesome below.

basket of breadBe intentional with your thanks. Often we are so busy we only stop to sleep. Being thankful when you don’t pause to consider what you have in your life can seem stale and old hat. My suggestion is to think of something now before you get to the table so you can have ample time to actually have something real to say, not something made up on the spot.

Slow down. We often want to run from one event to the next accomplishing the holiday rather than savoring it. If you have multiple places to be on Thanksgiving, find a small morsel of time to relax. Maybe even go on a walk and just breathe, don’t talk.

Remember what you have, don’t think about what you don’t. If you are able to read this post, you should dance, you have sight! Can you hear? This person could not hear for 29 years. You most likely have some place to go and someone to share food and drink with. That, aside from all of the awkward family situations that may arise, is awesome. Be grateful.

Do Something Fun. Growing up, my extended family were big bowlers. After a Thanksgiving feast, we went bowling. I am sure I was terrible but I remember those times fondly. Doing fun things together like going to the movies, hiking, playing board games, creates common experiences. So do something fun!

Hug Longer. This may be awkward. But I mean it. When you see people be sure to embrace them. Hugs can go a long way to easing tension and even lower blood pressure. Don’t just go for the simple embrace or side hug silliness, hug longer because it’s healthy and if someone traveled from across the country it may be a while until you see them again. So Hug!

Do you have ways that make Thanksgiving memorable or awesome? Please post them below.

On Chasing Transformation Not Information

Recently I noticed a disturbing trend in my life and I wonder if this is common in your life too.

I get excited about an idea. I grab books, follow blogs, jot down notes, even form some loose goals around this new idea. Then another, more interesting topic flashes across my computer screen and I chase it for a while.

Some say this is ADHD. But I have another theory. I find a thrill in learning something new. But I am after information, not transformation.

But isn’t transformation what we are after in the first place?

Lightning

It’s Okay To Love Information

Often times I become enamored with the joy of learning and gathering information and miss the point of what the writers of these materials are saying. They call for action and initiative so I read their e-book but nothing really affects my life.

I may even take notes and stew on them for a bit before moving on to the next interesting topic. This is great. I’m filling my creative well. The problem is I am merely stockpiling and not using my ammunition.

What To Do With The Ammo

If we are all honest, there may be a bravery issue here. But more than that I think we all need to be aware of our follow through. Is what we are learning, or doing for that matter, worth the investment of our time?

I want to do more. This includes an e-book, a new website, and producing podcasts within the next four months. This is what I must remember when I consider what my goals are and how I spend my time and what I am learning. Are they all in sync?

Is the information you learn from a book or podcast impacting your life? Is it merely information or is it transformative?

Are You In The Game Or Safe On The Sidelines?

I played soccer my freshmen year in high school and sat on the sidelines for most of the year.  I was short and thin and I’m fairly certain a small gust of wind might have blown me over.

I don’t remember feeling bad about it but I do remember that I always I tried to encourage the seniors, give them water, and pat them on back when they came off the field.

When I got into my first game I was terrified. I was certain every one of my opponents was faster and stronger and could jump higher than I could. I wanted back on the sidelines. It was safer there. There was no pressure and I couldn’t fail.

I believed these things because I was afraid. I didn’t want to let my team down or my parents down.

FC Barcelona Stadium

I think this application is true for our lives in any capacity of bravery. When we don’t get in the game and we stay on the sidelines we are safe and comfortable. If we get in the game, life becomes real. There are stakes now and people we can disappoint.

What if we launch that business and fail? What if we let our family down? What if this is the wrong promotion or job? What will other people think?

These are the questions that plague us. The negative side of the what if’s. But what if these are the wrong questions?

We should be asking these instead.

What would happen if we don’t launch that business? What if we don’t take that job? What if succeed, what would that mean for us? What if we never did ___.

The next time you start to become “sensible” make sure it is not a response to fear. If you are launching a website or book or business and start to give into fear, consider the flip side of the lies in your head. It may just give you the bravery needed to step on the field.

Have You Taken Inventory Of Your Life Lately?

A client called me the other day. From the other end of the line I was told the most heart wrenching story I’ve heard in some time.

He told me he and his wife built a business together. They put off vacations and holidays knowing they could go later or sell the business and live off the profits. Then one day she left the office to run a quick errand. She’d be right back.

Oma's Old Telephone

Soon afterward, several cars and a semi crashed on a local highway. There was one fatality.

He told me something I hope stays with me for a long time. He said, “Go home and hug your wife, your kids. You never know when they’ll be gone. Cherish them.”

It’s these conversations that make me take inventory.

Am doing too much work and neglecting those I love? Am I working overtime to buy that thing I want? Does it matter?

Then finally, is my life rich and full, exactly how I want it to be? Not in a selfish sense. But if I am writing too much and not paying attention to my kids, this is a problem.

There is a famous quote by a Isaac Asimov that goes like this –

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

I think that’s rubbish. If I had six minutes to live I’d reach out to those I love and tell them about love and joy, using the best sentences I could construct. If I could not reach them, I’d write a quick letter on a notepad.

Today, think about what you’d do differently. I’m not talking about that thing you did yesterday or last month. I’m talking about right now.

Are you loving people in your life? And are you living well or just getting by?

Where Will You Be In One Year?

When we blog or write daily and we don’t have success, we can easily get discouraged. We put in a lot of work on the post and no one came to see it or our words are garbage and we throw away the chapter.

At this point we can either give or keep going. Giving up makes the most sense because the blogging/writing/artistic/creative life is tough. We must work harder than most to push ourselves to the next plateau and the cliff is straight up.

But what if you don’t want to give up? What if you want to fight through the tension, go out on a limb, and dance in a minefield?

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

Each year I ask myself these questions at least a dozen times. What’s the point? Do I really want to keep doing this? Is writing for me? Then, I write the next post. Why? Because I am focused on the goal ahead not on what happens in the day to day.

Don’t get me wrong, daily success is thrilling. A strong day in sales, a great day in the comments section on your blog, or a promotion. Shortly after that though, roughly eight hours later most likely, the day is fresh, the achievement has faded, and the blank page is there again complete with blinking cursor.

We need to develop the march of the everydayer. You and I must come prepared to put in our work, but not looking at the ground below and the daily miles we have to traverse but instead be fixed on the mountain we want to climb, far in the distance, and move forward with jaw clenched.

So, friend, I ask you this question. Are you looking down at your feet? Or are you looking ahead at the goal you set at the beginning of this year or the last. You want to reach ___, right? Then focus on the long haul.

Where do you want to be in one year?

White Space And Why Every Writer Needs It.

If you are like me, your life is filled with noise. I’d love to be the pondering cabin dwelling writer, however, I live in a much more vibrant world. I have a wife, three (soon to be four) kids, a full time job, and a budding writing career. This is not to mention the housework, the extra curriculars, the struggling to make ends meet, and trying to stay in shape.

Life can move at such a pace that I feel if I make one misstep, the collapsing bridge will catch up with me like a villain in an Indiana Jones movie.

Ever feel this way? When you are overwhelmed and there is no rest in sight?

One thing I’ve learned is that though I desire a night where I sleep more than six hours straight or have four uninterrupted hours on a peaceful Sunday afternoon, there is little chance that I’ll get it. At least more than twice a year.

So how does one find the capacity to charge into the creative foray of writing every day? The key for me has been to clear out bits of time for White Space.

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

White Space is the clean, nothing space. It’s like a newly fallen snow. It’s pristine, uninterruptable space. Where you take a brief walk, close your eyes, lie back in your car, and just clear your head. It’s a bite size respite in the current of a frenzied life.

My White Space happens during the week at lunch. I clear my head by walking down a park path that weaves through a forest. Or, I go downstairs to my desk and kick my feet up and read in the early morning or late evenings.

In this space I pray, journal, or read something inspiring, or just am quiet. I breath deeply and soak in the silence or rustle of the leaves as they are brushed by the wind.

White space is precious to me because its budgeted clear your head time. I know I need it when I am wound a little too tight from work or life and I need to visit my park or read quietly pronto. It doesn’t have to be an hour or even a half hour as long as I have a handful of minutes to find the quiet.

For me, White Space creates balance and gives perspective. Do you create White Space in your life? How do you spend it?