Wednesday, December 7, 2011

the ideal with its yeah-buts vs. the possible

Yesterday I had lunch with a long-time client, a psychologist and trainer who has written 5 very successful books on low self-esteem. I've edited all those books. We hadn't seen each other in a while and we got caught up, including stories from her travels around the country teaching her method and selling her books, which are self-published. Then after a lull as we finished our sweet potato fries, she said, "I've haven't been writing."

I was surprised to hear this for she had told me about a year ago that she was done with writing. At that time, she'd been having fun writing a mystery novel with a psychologist detective but had become ill and felt she had to choose to do her professional work of therapy and training with the energy she had. So I hadn't asked about writing projects and didn't expect she would have any.

I asked her to tell me more. It turned out that with the return of her health, she felt too guilty about an incomplete professional writing project (a recovery version of her method) to write for fun. She had written many pages on the professional book but was overwhelmed by the task of completing it. She had plenty of material and felt confident in her writing skills. She even had time and energy. But she didn't have the right kind of time--she wanted 3-4 hours a day for as many days in a row as she could get. And she couldn't see a way to write the book because that wasn't really available to her.

I told her of my experience with finally giving up that need for my own writing and letting an hour a day or even less suffice and move me forward. I told her I still go on retreat and have long periods to write (and that she could do that too as she controls her own schedule). She listened and we talked about it a little more. I didn't push too hard. Just said that maybe with some rearranging, she could finish the last professional book by June and really be done with that part of her career. She said she'd think about it, and knowing her she will.

It is easy, I think, for those of us with creative inclinations and other work obligations to get stuck in needing the ideal with its yeah-buts and if-only's. However, if we can find a different place to come from (how happy creating makes us, how meaningful it is, how relaxing it is, what kind of a contribution to the world we can make when we are happy), then that idea has less of a grip on us and we can welcome the possible, even if it isn't perfect.

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