Struggling when it matters.


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Without going into too many details, it’s important to know that I’m having a lot of trouble writing today. There are a couple reasons why, and I could write a whole article about that. Maybe I will, some other day.

But today. Today I am struggling.

It shouldn’t be important. If I’m not writing well, why force it? When faced with adversity, why keep any self-imposed deadline, really?

There’s a lot of plans I don’t keep. Two days ago I was planning to cook something elaborate for dinner. We were missing one ingredient, and rather than going to get it, I’m making that dinner today. I’ve had plans to clean the bathroom for about a week now, to no avail, and you don’t want to get me started on cleaning the dishes.

It didn’t bother me when I ignored any of those self-imposed deadlines.

So why does the idea of breaking my “at least one article every Sunday in 2019” deadline bother me?

Without turning this into a list-based article, I think there are a couple reasons. For one, this is a long-term goal. All the items I just listed are more short-term, a “what do I want to do when I get home after work”, not “who do I want to be”.

There’s a gravitas to writing these articles I can’t deny. Sure, writing blog posts may not change my life or anyone else’s. But I know I’m using these little successes as an emotional crutch to try more. It’s a foundation I want to fall back on. Its also an appropriately sized goal. I can get out an article in 45 minutes, if inspiration strikes.

Those things don’t automatically bring success, of course. I also wanted to be more physically fit, so I made a goal a while back to practice some kind of workout every day. It didn’t matter what, so often it was following a ten minute cardio workout video. I just wanted to do something physical every day.

I didn’t.

At the end of the day, I think it was about visualization. I don’t have a clear image of what success would mean for working out. I didn’t really feel the need to look different, I simply wanted to be able to do more without getting tired. It’s a good goal, but it’s intangible, and I never set any benchmarks for myself to recognize progress. When a bump in the road hit (I got a cold, and truly wasn’t up to my usual routine), I was derailed.

That’s not true for writing on Medium. I can see what I want, which is to be standing around on January 1st, 2020, looking over my list of published stories, and smiling. It’s not just a mental image, I’ve got plenty of those. There’s an emotional investment to it. I’m sure I’ll feel much more powerfully at the time, if I make it to that goal, but even now I have a warm feeling when I think about it. I smile, knowing I could reach that milestone.

To be honest, this isn’t really just a goal anymore. It certainly was, the first few weeks, when I was trying it out. But now, over a month in, its become something I’m successful on.

If this moment of weakness had struck earlier in the year, when I was just getting started, I don’t know what would have happened. But right now, already in the habit of writing, this is a pivotal moment where I decide if I keep the habit going or shake my confidence in it.

I think, in the future, I’m going to keep a back up article saved. Write a piece in a couple of days that I can pull out if needed on some other gloomy day.

That kind of forward thinking isn’t practical or possible earlier in the habit-forming process. This bump in the road was probably inevitable. Before now, I just wanted to know if I could do this at all. Now that it feels possible, I see the point in spending time to create support systems for this habit, to keep it going even when its tough. To build myself breaks that still allow me to keep my momentum.

I know some days will be hard, and certainly the quality of my writing will vary from week to week. That has to be okay, I don’t have the ability to control that. But at the end of the day, I said I was going to show up and try, at some point in the week, every week. Even if it’s for me, I still plan to do that. So much so that I plan to give myself some margin for error, without totally calling a specific week a “loss”.

I just have to get through today first.

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