Can You Pickup Life Where You Left Off After a Time Away?
I was listened to Sarah Werner’s podcast titled “Getting Back to Writing” when the question came to me, why is it so hard to pickup your life where you left off?
I completed the Culinary Nutrition Expert (CNE) program a couple weeks ago, and I feel like I’ve been floundering ever since. “What’s next?” I keep asking myself.
What was I doing before? Is it what I want to do now?
I’m sure you’ve experienced this yourself when something big demands your focus and energy — taking care of aging parents, helping your son or daughter with a new baby, dealing with your own health issues. When the time comes that you are able to pickup your life and return to your old routine, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Maybe you have been longing for freedom and adventure during a time when you couldn’t focus on your own desires or because you saw someone else lose their ability to make such choices. Perhaps you want to throw routine to the wind and take off on a jet plane. Perhaps you simply want to take a nap.
I didn’t exactly quit writing while I was working on the CNE certification. I’ve been writing up research findings, recipes, meal plans, courses and mock articles for months now. All of this type of writing is what Sarah Werner called obligatory writing during her podcast. What I gave up for a time was what she called exploratory writing — short stories, novels, creative non-fiction, and essays.
In reality, much of the writing I did for my CNE course felt like exploratory writing. It reminded me how much I love doing research on topics I’m interested in and polishing my findings into a brief, understandable, readable article.
There is nothing saying I can’t do both types of writing, yet I was having a hard time changing gears and returning to the writing that I had been doing. Worse yet, I also wasn’t doing the kind of writing the CNE course had demanded. Why?
Restarting is difficult when you have more invested in the results
While doing CNE coursework, I didn’t draw very much. However, returning to a daily drawing practice wasn’t all that hard.
There are no grand results tied to my drawing, which is intended for my pleasure, relaxation, and amusement alone. Even though I share some of it, it’s okay if no one responds. That doesn’t take away from the pleasure and amusement drawing provides.
Writing is different. I expect something to come from the work I put into it. I want my writing to mean something to someone besides me and my closest friends. Sometimes I want to be funny and entertaining. Other times, I want my writing to be informative and helpful. I want writing to be more than a hobby or pastime. Dare I say that I want it to be published and bring in some sort of income?
It’s our expectations that get us every time
Phillip Moffitt, former CEO and Editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine, wrote on his website, Dharma Wisdom, that “Expectations are almost always the result of what in Buddhism is called “wanting mind.”
Hmmm… How many times did I use the word “want” in my previous paragraph?
“You may expect that certain efforts will yield desired results,” wrote Moffitt.
Indeed I do, Mr. Moffitt.
When the future results I’ve imagined are not reached, I question the value of doing the thing at all. Why am I wasting my time on this thing that creates so much frustration?
Because at times, it also creates so much joy.
Moffitt recommends looking for possibilities in place of laying heavy expectations on an activity or life course. Possibilities mean opening yourself up to multiple outcomes rather than just one.
I would like to see if I can approach writing in a way that is more like how I approach drawing — doing it for the pleasure I receive, with the possibility that others will also find value in it.
But I don’t want to leave it at that.
I’ve been playing it safe on this blog. I don’t put myself out there enough. How can I be published if I don’t complete a piece and submit it for publication? Or pitch an idea to a magazine? Or learn about self publishing?
You can’t grow without taking the risk of failing.
In Twyla Tharp’s book, “Keep It Moving,” she writes:
“With the time you’ve got, choose to make your life bigger. Opt for expression over observation, action instead of passivity, risk over safety, the unknown over the familiar. Be deliberate, act with intention. Chase the sublime and the absurd. Make each day one where you emerge, unlock, excite, and discover.”
And to that I say, “Yes!”
I hope you have a love-filled holiday and a new year filled with many possibilities.
I think about this in relation to the workload I’ve taken on for a consultant position which has caused me to completely abandon my art career. I’m working on fixing that, and getting back to it, but also know, as Julia Cameron pointed out in The Artist’s Way, blocked (non-making) artists tend to glorify the work they’d be doing “if only” they could, and it makes the stakes almost impossibly high when they do finally make time. I worry much of me getting back to work will look like me melting down with the pressure I’ve created by damming up my creativity for so long, and doing some really crappy work while i frantically search for the magical flow again. Good post.
Hi Sue. Your time struggle did come to my mind a few times as I wrote this post. I agree, the build up to returning can put so much weight and significance to what we do that is difficult to begin. I hope you find a different way to think about it that frees you of that weight. I know you will. Crappy work is my specialty but at least it’s work that’s getting done and the beginning of something better.
Love this…have never heard of wanting mind but definitely possess one. Such good food for thought as I prepare for the new decade.
Hi Bev. Can we truly prepare for 2020? Just kidding… I hope the rest of your December is wonderful and that we both run kicking and dancing into 2020. Wouldn’t that be a sight?
Oh how I can so relate to this posting. I have the hardest time picking “it” up again. I travel or go and visit my mom and I return home and it takes FOREVER to get my groove back. For the past six months I’ve promised myself I’d get back to writing and that didn’t happen until this week. But what I have learned this past month of being at home that when I showed up in my little studio every day I slowly eased back into it. And yes, with LOTS of art failures. But, I keep reminding myself it’s the process of learning and I need to practice patience. I didn’t understand aperture and shutter speed with my camera in a few months…for me it took years to get comfortable in photography. And that’s just comfortable, not an expert AT ALL. So patience is my daily mantra! Oh so hard! LOVE the quote from Twyla’s book! Keep writing and writing and yes to taking risks!
Hi Robin! As I make plans for a trip, I may run into the same issue, only this time, because of travel. Although, my intention is to draw and write on the road. I’ll see how that goes. I’m beginning a challenge in January to draw a portrait a day, an art that I am not good at but would like to be better so I expect it will be another “process.” Here’s to having a new year full of art, photography and writing trial and error and growth days!
Came here today for a little inspiration as I guess I’m feeling very similar things….I’m going away now with a lot more to think about and I love that quote!!!! Thank you for being so open……
Happy 2020 Catherine! I hope that providing you with food for thought was a good thing. 🙂
So glad you reshared this post before Story A Day!
A couple of things that really resonated with me is the idea of shifting from expectations of one to the possibility of many. And your simple line: “You can’t grow without taking the risk of failing”.
Both concepts can relate to many aspects of living, but applying it to writing frees up a lot of preconceived ideas of what I should expect from my writing.