Thursday, April 16, 2015

On the Edge: Changing Direction to Land Where You Want to Be—Part 1

I may not be a fan of Lao Tzu's religion, but I am a fan of this quote attributed to him. Have you ever been on the edge of a precipice, about to take a swan dive, about to end up in a place you do not want to be if you don't step back and change direction? In other words, about to give up on something important to you?

It will not be a surprise to learn one thing important to me is writing. My commitment to this blog, for instance, was to write so I would have a post every Monday and Thursday. After all, as a full-time freelance editor and writer, this is my chosen, main outlet for personal writing. (My “Plan to Write Fiction” is another story, which I might have mentioned a few dozen times before without ever saying what the plan is. But I digress.) 

And writing, like all endeavors, takes discipline. And writing means, well, writing, not just talking about writing (unless you, um, do both). 

So, except for when I recycled two or three posts and had a couple of vacation stretches when I chose not to write, I have been able to make the time to meet that twice-each-week goal. That is, until the last couple of weeks when making time to write somehow turned into a chore and not a love. You see, though writing or any other work you love is still work, it is, in my opinion, not a chore when you love it.

No, this was different. Not writer’s block, which some believe to be a myth anyway, but a barrier to writing that was—or seemed—new.

I just could not seem to do it.

One reason, I realized, was some procrastination—putting off writing about some hard things. So I confessed that here. But there have been some other reasons for this visit to the edge too, circumstances or conditions that, before I knew it, put me there, staring down at a rocky-bottom canyon that looked a lot like “Yes, well, I don’t write anymore. I tried, I put up a brave face about it, but in the end I gave it up, took a swan dive, and landed down here, my hopes crushed beyond all recognition.” 

Yes, this is a bit dramatic. But the analogy works for me because I cannot tell you how afraid I am of heights and falling from them. Well, I could, but not right now.

I've written about how I would not give up writing on this blog, but still, I was getting closer and closer to being on the edge of exactly that, not backing up enough to get a good look at how I got there. And I think the path I discovered is not so uncommon for many of us, regardless of what matters to us so much that standing at the precipice—of, dare I say, failure?—does not at least give us pause.   

Anyone else experience these on-the-edge realities?

·         On the edge with overload. Overload can come from all kinds of places, with over-the-top busyness ruling the day for everyone from entrepreneurs to stay-at-home moms. My story is that to make up for losing some business when a couple of clients cut back on using freelancers, I took on several new clients, which resulted (with my full permission, of course), in a close to too much work in a given time period for my own good.  Read: all of March and most of April.
·         On the edge with burnout. Overload is one cause of burnout, but there are others. And once I took a hard look, I recognized how close I was to burnout for a couple of reasons I will go into next time. Burnout is a place I have not only been close to but in a few times. I have been there, done that with pressure to get things done, to perform, to stay ahead of the game—to the point of exhaustion. Read: More than two decades in a fast-paced, corporate world (not that plenty of people didn’t go way faster than I ever did!), to say nothing of the demands of life we all have that, if we let them, can begin to control us instead of us controlling them.
·        On the edge with overload- and burnout-induced apathy. Need I say more? Read: I am tired, so, really, why bother? Maybe later, when I feel more like it. Who will care if I take a break anyway?

So what are we who are on the edge—whatever has pushed us there—to do to step back, turn around, and make a change to land where we want to be? I have some ideas. Stay tuned for Part 2.

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