Stumbling and Balancing & WFMAD Day 14

Allow me brief rant about messing up.

Kids do it all the time. Teenagers are the lord and masters of messing up (though it makes them cringe and their face break out). By the time we get to be adults, most of us will do anything to avoid messing up because it’s embarrassing and horrifying.

We hide our mistakes, we blame others, we bury the shame by swilling beer, chowing down seven-layer dip, partaking in illegal substances, watching American Idol or Real World marathons, and pulling our hats down to cover our eyes. Because we feel bad when we mess up. We feel stupid and worthless.

But to be human is to mess up a lot.

So the choice is this – you either acknowledge that you are not human, which means you are an Immortal, which means you should feel like crap if you miss a day of writing or forget to change the oil in your car or blow off a date with your best friend. You’re Immortal – go back in time and fix it! And stop whining!

If you’re human, then you get a little break. The trick is to be honest with yourself, get up, dust yourself off, and go at it again.

Have you missed a couple of writing days this month? Had you planned on being published by now? Were you convinced that not only would you be published by now, the movie of your book would be out and you and JK Rowling would be taking your kids to Chile to go skiing in August?

Nothing wrong with that. Dreaming is the first step. But if you’ve fallen a little short of your goals, do not reach for the seven-layer dip and the remote. Dust yourself off and admit what’s not working. If the goal is really important to you, set another milestone (perhaps one that is a shade more realistic) and go back at it.

I have fallen way short of my running goals recently. I overtrained for the Lake Placid half-marathon and wound up with pissed off tendons and muscles in my calves and feet. I’ve taken almost a full month off from running to recover and I’ve spent about nine-tenths of that time yelling at myself. Which is ridiculous.

I”m going to try and start running again this week, but I know I need to be more balanced about my exercise. (Balance = a concept that eludes me; I usually go at a project a hundred miles an hour, then I crash and burn and wonder what went wrong.) I just bought a bike so I can crosstrain more and so my legs and feet will forgive me. I’d like to run another half-marathon in the fall, but I’m not going to obsess about it. The goal is to try and get in some kind of exercise every day, just like I write every day.

Me geeking out on my new ride.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes without scolding self.

Today’s mindset: balanced.

Today’s prompt: Take a couple of minutes to evaluate how you’re doing on your writing goal for the year and if you need to recalibrate. “Write every day from now until December 31” is a reasonable, achievable goal. “Get an agent, score a four-book, six-figure contract based on this really good idea I have” is not reasonable.

Extra prompt – freewrite descriptions of clothing worn by your characters. Push for exquisite specific details about those jeans or that suit or her bra strap that tell us as much about the person as the clothes.


16 Replies to “Stumbling and Balancing & WFMAD Day 14”

  1. Confession

    I’ve missed four of the last five days, because we are on vacation, and I find it too difficult to write in a hotel room with the TV on. I DID write a poem on Saturday, though, and will get back to routine when I return home later in the week.

    Good luck with ‘balancing’…I also know how hard it can be. I tend to be an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person, but for me, since I fall short of all so much, I end up doing nothing. That is why this challenge has been good for me.

  2. Thanks

    I wanted to thank you for the writing prompts. They have been my daily creative respite from studying for the NY Bar Exam. Bar Exam = necessary to practice law in the great state of NY, but neither fun nor creative. So, thanks.

  3. Good to hear this post now–I’m two weeks into not running myself on account of heel issues, and feeling really really grumpy about it (but also trying not to push it because I already found out running when almost-healed is not the same as waiting until you’re all the way healed–because heel injuries are more stubborn that other injuries).

    I do miss running, though–nothing else feels quite the same. Still, I’m determined, too, to work in some other form of exercise most days for the duration!

  4. I agree. The professionalism we see everywhere in the world gives us the illusion that it wasn’t the result of large amounts of screwing up and learning from it.

    “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

    – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  5. Thank you for the reminder that we are human, and we don’t have full control of our destinies. I’ve brushed myself off and I’m writing again, and more importantly, enjoying it! Now, I need to fit exercise back into my life again, too. It’s been a year! ACKKK!


    PS – LOVING Chains!

  6. I hope your tendons and muscles are healing nicely. Did BH have any trouble?

    I half-heartedly agreed to join a lunch group studying the fruits of the Spirit. We started with Patience. My expectations of the study were pretty modest, so I am pleasantly surprised to find it helpful.

    The upshot: Part of my brain is working with you on discipline and goal-setting, and part of my brain is trying to surrender my own agenda to proceed of God’s timetable. (Can I use God in your blog? Should I say “Higher Power”?) Is that a test of balance or what?

  7. Thanks for a writing prompt right when I needed it. (Otherwise I might have skipped today.) Now I not only know more specifics about my characters, but I know what I don’t pay attention to–what teenage guys wear on their feet.

    The whole balance thing is one of my major life challenges, more like skating than riding a bicycle. Wobble, wobble.

  8. I am making the little “hear hear/me too” hand sign that I teach my students, except you can’t see it, so I have to comment.

    I used to vow to start exercising approximately every two months. I would head out, push myself really hard, feel ashamed at how little I could do, push myself even harder, injure myself or make myself miserable, and quit on the grounds that working out obviously was not for me.

    In late college, though, I lived with a marathon runner. There was no doubt she was hardcore, and yet she INSISTED that we go slow. The first day I ran with her, I managed one whole minute before she said we should stop. “I can do more than that!” I argued. “Yeah,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean you have to.”

    That freaking changed my life. I started working out a very, very little bit, stopping way before I was tired or miserable or free of all my flaws and defects (which had previously been my only metric for Enough.) I had to make my peace with No Pain. And of course my No Pain point went up and up, quickly and easily, til I could do forty minutes of stairmaster or running or whatever without wanting to throw up afterwards. And now I work out all the time, except I know I’m allowed to stop.

  9. PS I notice lots of likeminded folks on this thread, so I have to recommend one other thing: FlyLady for cleaning and caring for your environment. They are all about breaking the “all or nothing” habit and doing exactly as much as you can do, which is always more than you think.

  10. Half day today. 🙂

    Great post. I hope you’re healing well, and that your tendons have forgiven you. 🙂

    I have the same problem with going at a project 110%, crashing into a brick wall, then taking forever to recover. And the more I crashed, the worse I felt, the harder I tried, the longer the recovery time. It was a viscious cycle.

    I finally got sick of doing that, so I took a step back and looked at things with an objective eye. And I discovered that it took the same amount of time barrelling into something as when I’d taken my time and NOT crashed (taking recovery time into account, etc). So I made a consious effort to do what I could when I could, not overextend myself, and be happy with what I’d achieved. No matter how small the achievement. And now, I’ve found that I get *more* done with this slower pace, because I don’t need to take so long to recover from those break-neck, whip-cracking paces I used to set.

    That’s why I love this 15 minute challenge you’ve set up. It’s the epitome of everything I’ve learned about myself. 🙂

  11. Checking in

    I’ve been diligent but had to take yesterday off. I wrote my character into a scene I didn’t expect on Saturday and had to turn my mind off for a bit to recharge. It’s a good problem to deal with, forcing me to take risks with my MC.

  12. WFMAD

    I just stumbled upon your site and loved this post because it matches my blog them In Search of Balance ( ). I decided to join your WFMAD challenge even though it is already half way through the month. I am going to try to post my thoughts to your prompts each day on my blog. Thanks for doing this. It will be fun and something to look forward to. It is a perfect time of the year too since I am on summer break!

  13. forgiving our mistakes

    Hmmmm – but I truly excel at beating myself up mercilessly for all errors large and small.

    Whatever would I do with all the free time if I stopped the self-flagellation?

    (oh, i know – ScribbleScribble)

  14. As a runner myself, I highly recommend yoga as another cross-training tool, to center yourself and stretch out all those muscles that running and cycling tense/shorten up. Also, make sure to still give yourself days off to recover. 🙂

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