Saturday, January 25, 2014


It's a good thing I didn't make any New Year's resolutions this year. They would have run to the usual: exercise more, take more time to relax and take care of myself, write more often, say no to the things I don't truly want to do. By that measure, I might get half a point on the last one, because I'm getting a little better at distinguishing the categories of Things That Are My Responsibility from Things That Are Someone Else's Problem. I've even gotten better at keeping my sticky little fingers off of the things that fall into the second category, because I have found through oft-repeated experience that when one jumps in to help with such items, they then have a tendency to migrate permanently into the first category. But on the whole, except for starting the year with an unusually clean living room and dining room, I have failed to start 2014 on the right foot.

It hit me on a particularly busy day this week, when I had scarfed down my second Balance bar of the day as a poor substitute for lunch. The first had been a poor substitute for breakfast, consumed at my desk midmorning. That day I had worked my three hours, run home, finished a freelance proofreading project, taken it to FedEx/Kinko's to ship to the client (I passed my unusually long time in line making up a back story for man ahead of me, who sported a plethora of CCCP, hammer-and-sickle, and other Soviet-oriented tattoos), and then dashed back home. It was around this point, a few minutes before I had to head out again to pick the kids up from school, that I realized I hadn't put "lunch" on my to-do list, and therefore it hadn't happened.

So I downed the second bar, did the usual round of elementary and middle school pickups, dropped Sons #2 and 3 at home so I could take Son #1 to his therapy/social skills group in the equivalent of East Jesus Nowhere (seriously, it takes 45 minutes one way to get there in the carpool lane on the freeway), and headed out again. And it was on the road that it hit me I had, at least for one day, morphed into a human hamster--eat my pellet, run on my exercise wheel, eat another pellet, run on my wheel some more.
Actually, the minivan is my hamster wheel.

I spent a lot of time mouthing off toward the end of last year about all of the things I thought I should do this year--primarily grow my freelance business and finally edit at least one of my NaNoWriMo novels and get serious about trying to get published. I went around talking about these things as if I only needed to decide that now was the time, and somehow they would happen. But somewhere in the post-holiday letdown that accompanies taking down the decorations and realizing that you've got another couple of months of sunshine deprivation in your future, I started wishing some of those cocky things unsaid.

At some point, though, I have to stop dreaming of doing things and just do them. Honestly, after 5 successful years of doing NaNoWriMo, I think I've proved that I can pull a 50,000-word rough draft out of thin air (and I mean seriously thin air--I've never started a NaNoWriMo with more than a first scene and a vague concept of where the story is going). It's time to start the hard work of actually crafting a novel out of one of those drafts. Saying "I'm busy" just isn't enough of an excuse to avoid it. I have a college friend with young three daughters (the oldest is my youngest son's age) AND a full-time job whose second novel will be coming out this year, so I think it is safe to say that I've got something on the order of negative excuses on the "too busy to write" front. "Too busy" is a big fat euphemism for "too afraid no-one will want to read what I write" or "too afraid to admit I haven't got the first clue on where to start on getting published."

My fears for my freelance career take a different form: I pride myself on careful work, and I've never wanted to take on more than I could handle at that high standard. This caution made a lot of sense back in the days where mothering duties included diaper changing and keeping little fingers out of electrical sockets and the cat's ears. Nowadays, when the kids can get their own snacks and my job is generally training them not to be jerks, I have more time to devote to proofreading and editing, particularly since my husband's new business venture means he isn't gone 12 hours a day any more. But I approach each new client with a certain fear--am I really as good as I think I am? are they really going to like my work?--that makes me hesitant to seek out new work. Knowing it's irrational doesn't make it go away.

But there was a reason I was mouthing off so much about all of this stuff, and it's because after 41 years in my own company, I think I know myself reasonably well. I'm very good at inundating myself with things that "need" to be done because they make a plausible excuse for not facing the things that I am scared to try. And then when I commit, I need to follow through, because god forbid I flake out. (Mind you, having three kids has given me a fair number of necessary humility lessons on the subject of flaking out, but I still don't like doing it.) So talking often and loudly about my writing and work ambitions was my way of trying to push down my fears and commit to finding the time for those things.

However, while I'm frustrated, I'm also kind of glad. It took me less than a month into 2014 to realize that the path I'm on will not take me to where I ultimately want to be. That gives me the opportunity to step back from the wheel/pellet/wheel/pellet cycle of hamstermanity. I suspect that even if I don't succeed, I'll enjoy the view on my journey quite a bit more.
No excuses. Plus cool goggles.

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