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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Earlier this year I did a seven day “Stop Holding Yourself Back” mini course on the Insight Timer app. There are lots of things to love about that app, including a swell timer and some nice background sounds to block out the ringing in your ears and the beeping of the construction trucks while you are trying to meditate.

They have some good guided meditations and a bunch of Binaural Beats that I find helpful.

And they have a lot of woo.

A lot of tapping into your inner light and connecting with the infinite universe or opening the sky of your mind. But once in a while they have something that speaks to me, and “stop holding yourself back” was one of those things. Because I am my own worst tether.

Out of seven days, six and a half of them were more woo than not, but one of the exercises that particularly resonated was one in which you had to imagine yourself living your best creative life.

Not the “I want to retire and live on the beach forever” kind of life, but the “if I could live my passion what would it look like” kind of life.

It gave me pause because it was an exercise I have never done.

I also took a productivity course recently. A four week course, in which one of the weeks was about setting goals. Real aspirational life goals. Not “I want to finish this client blog” kind of goals but “I want to play every Neil Diamond song on the piano by heart” kind of goals.

It also gave me pause. Because I realized… I don’t actually have any goals.

That sounds terrible. That sounds like it couldn’t possibly be true. But sitting down, really thinking about “what do I want out of life” was not something I had an answer for.

Not from an aspirational perspective, anyway. I want to launch some software that we’re working on. I want to buy a house and lose 20 pounds. I want to travel. But… what do I WANT?

WHAT DO I WANT??? This is the thing I keep trying to get to but really I think I’m just avoiding it because it’s hard to think about.

Life doesn’t give you what you want. Sometimes no matter how hard you try you can’t even go out with a rock and spear, hunt it down and drag it back to your cave kicking and screaming. It’s how life works.

I live in the now, for the most part. I try very, very, very, very, very (times infinity very) hard to be content with what is instead of wanting what isn’t.

And yet…

I can have goals. Can’t I?

I just couldn’t figure out during the week of that course what those goals were.

I could, however, picture my best creative life. I could picture that very well. In the absence of goals and the absence of limitations and the absence of my brain on reality saying, “Go write the client blog,” I could picture what my ideal looked like.

I want to be a writer.

I have always wanted to be a writer, I have just persistently told myself I have nothing to say or I don’t know how or I can’t or it’s too hard to break in or there’s too much I don’t know or [all the reasons].

I can’t even keep up my own blog. All I needed to do for my year-old self-imposed Word Project was write something every day about a single word. It could have been DOOR for all it mattered, for all the people who read it. But it was never good enough. And sometimes things stop mattering, and you don’t care anymore if you write or die.

But sometimes you either write, or you die. And I’d much prefer to write.

I imagine I’m sitting in a room, a room where I have a big window looking out on a peaceful wildflower garden full of birds, and I’m at a desk and I’m surrounded by books and things I love and there is no mess and there is no explosion of electronics and there is no TV. There is just me, some great places to sit, a beautiful view, and my laptop so I can write.

I don’t know where this room is, but it’s not here. I don’t know what I’m writing, but it’s enough that I don’t have to do anything else and I can live supported by my own words.

So I apparently have to “stop holding myself back” somehow, and manifest this.

I guess it would start with writing. Except everything I write feels too personal and if I make up a story, it’s going to sound like my life and if I don’t make up a story it’s going to BE my life.

I was wondering, how could I pick up my blog again? Would it be remotely possible to do that? What could I write? A writer writes, a writer doesn’t sit around thinking about writing.

I have been in my own box for so long that I really feel like I have nothing to say. Oh, I have plenty to say. About everything that is holding me back, and my own fat self, and what I’m cooking, and what I feel bad about today. But that’s just drama and it doesn’t lead to writing. Not in the way I want to write.

How do I WRITE, something meaningful, not just some random story for some cliché thing?

Writing needs a point.

I don’t have one.

But I guess if I’m not going to hold myself back I need to start thinking about how I’m going to actually get to that room.

My room is not a big room. It is cozy, with wall to wall book cases of very beautiful books, not organized by color or height or author or subject. Maybe a little organized. Because of my OCD. Maybe a little organized by subject like fiction in one place and non-fiction in another. And all the cocktail books together so that when I want one, I can find it. My room has a very beautiful bar and I can mix up a fantastic drink in a vintage coupe glass.

Then I will go sit at my desk near the very big window where the sun is always shining in, unless the stars are shining in, unless there is a fantastic thunderstorm and the lightning is blazing in. I will sit in my very comfortable, beautiful, not at all ergonomic chair, and look out at the garden and the birds, and write.

I suppose there is a house around my room, and I suppose that house is located somewhere but all that matters is that I’m in my room and it’s mine and I’m writing.

Maybe I should do some writing exercises. Find some prompts somewhere and try something. I have no idea. But if I’m not holding myself back I have to move forward. Some how. ANY how.

I have to do more than write blogs for my clients and come up with synonyms for “lovely” or “acrylic”.

I feel creatively sucked dry and stuck. Stuck in nothing. Stuck with no ideas. Stuck with nothing to do but sit here and talk about it and occasionally stop to eat a slice of cake.

Thing I just did, or spent an entire week doing: reading through every one of my blogs from the aborted 2022 Word Project. I made it to March 21.

And just finished making a list of each word and date I used it on, because I have a plan.

Remember how I said I want to write? I JUST want to write. I don’t know if it will ever pay the bills but I have to do it. It’s the one thing I have that is wholly mine. Nobody tells me how to do it, what to do, when to do it or why. I don’t care what anyone has to say… except, I do because I want everyone to love me and what I write but I’m not writing because I want to please anyone. I am writing to please myself.

So I have a plan. I am going to pick up the word project again. I am going to pick up the word project the day after I left off last time and go as long as I can go and then if I can’t get to the end of the year, I’ll do the same thing next year.

Assuming I’m not dead or incapable of forming sentence. You can never tell.

And here we are, on this day after the day last year when I gave up because of life and reasons.

I am also not going to tell anyone. Maybe I’ll tell someone. I was thinking I’d tell my mother because she enjoyed reading them and it’s the smallest thing I can give her.

If I tell her then the rest of the family will know, and then they will want to know why I didn’t tell them. Then if they all know Ralph is bound to find out and if that happens he will be understandably annoyed and perplexed that I told everyone but him. So I don’t have to announce it, per se, I just have to mention it to the right people.

I’m going to blog every day again.

The end, no conversation required.

Then if it ever comes up over dinner or someone gets a Google alert about me and sees that I’m writing, I can say, “Of course I’m writing. I’m a writer.”

Also I have a few writer friends who might appreciate knowing. I’m sure they have other things to do (I was going to say “better things to do” but decided to be nicer to myself) than read thousands of my words every day, like read an actual book or something about whale teeth, but they like me and are good at being encouraging when the only words I talk about are “thwarted” and “done” and “no”.

But that’s it. The rest of the world doesn’t have to know. If someone mysteriously stumbles on my blog then hooray. If they are a writing person and call me up to say how brilliant I am and wouldn’t I love to write a book or something and get paid a lot of money, even better.

But in the meantime I am going to write just for me, because I need to. I NEED to. It’s not that I love writing (I do). It’s not that I enjoy writing (I do). It’s not even that I want to write (I do).

It’s that I need to say all the things in all the words, as many and as often as possible. Even when I have nothing to say, which is disturbingly frequently.

I had to Google “do whales have teeth?” They do.

My plan is to pick up where I left off and not make a thing about it. I thought about making a thing about it, explaining why I quit and how much better I would be. And what happened in between and isn’t the price of eggs just ridiculous?

But that idea doesn’t please me. It sounds like justifications and excuses for something I don’t need to justify or excuse. It’s MY writing. I don’t have to explain to anyone why I did or didn’t do it.

So I won’t.

One thing I did decide after reading through nearly three months of past drivel is that I’m not going to talk about how I can’t think of a word anymore. Too many of my posts started with me not really knowing what I wanted to say and then backing into it after about 900 words, which is fine once in a while but got really tedious reading over and over.

And while I did my best to turn things into something positive, I did a lot of whining and complaining. It was annoying to read, and I wrote it.

Will I get through the rest of the year? Maybe, if I don’t make a literal project out of it. If I don’t feel compelled to write all the words all the time. If I can find a way to write some of the words and make that be good enough.

I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately, mostly because of that meditation course, and mostly about their advice to “figure out what your best creative life looks like and put yourself there.”

Imagine it. See where you are. See who you are with. See what you’re doing.

And the only thing I kept coming back to was writing. Makes sense that writing is my first word back.

So there, I have a plan and a word. And I don’t know if that will lead to my ideal life but at least it will make the one I am living a little better.

Last year – especially last year around this time – was so stressful. I mean, I’m a ball of stress on a good day, but that was really something. It was working nonstop on a client project and being berated constantly by that client and sniping with Ralph even though we’ve never had a fight because he was stressed into a mass of hives and I was stretched to my absolute breaking point.

And was it the client?

No, not really. It just happened that they got in the middle of it all.

But that client is gone now. Purposefully gone. As in, cut them off and didn’t look back gone. Since then we’ve had time to work on our own actual projects that had stalled, and things there are looking more hopeful than they have in a long time.

And “launch software” is still a goal, but it isn’t a life goal. This is my life goal and this is what I am going to do.

Starting with this word, right now.

Photo: my laptop keyboard, where the A, S and E keys are perpetually blotched out. N isn’t looking too hot, either. Because I’m a writer.