Hurdles and Hoops

Before I had kids, I liked to imagine I could plan out my life 18 months in advance. It gave me a sense of momentum and helped me juggle several tasks at once. It also helped me see that there were finite amounts of time. Projects would really only take so long to complete. Grad school had only so many courses and exams and meetings.

Kids change things. Life happens, unpredictable and scary at times. Wonderful and funny and freeing. And I’ve learned to let go of some of that long-range planning.

With my writing I have tried to find a balance of focus and creativity, setting goals, and being open to learning. For the past few weeks, I’d set a goal of when I would Finish the Darn Novel. The plan was to write and not really edit but Get There. It didn’t have to be pretty, I just needed to get to The End. Deadlines work for me. They add a touch of fear and a sense of structure, even if the only person who cares about it is me. (Well, and hubs. Supportive guy.)

So here I was, swimming along, mostly fine with the process, scared and excited. But the month of April caught me completely off guard. May is usually the overly-scheduled month, but somehow this year April is filled with activities. Last week, I sat down to write and my word-count actually went down one night. I closed my computer and tried to shake it off. I took a week off blogging, just to get some extra rest. Not only is my writing time more condensed this month, in the process of trying to lessen the load on my schedule, I managed to make more work for myself in the short-term.

April has gotten me off-track and, sometimes, even feeling insecure about my writing. Why am I doing this? My life is already too busy. Who am I to think I should just put it out there that I’m writing a novel? How pretentious. Even my twitter-feed made me anxious. So many tips and suggestions, I felt like what I had, even if it was just for me, was silly. I was venturing into a world I was fooling myself I could really do. Ick, right?

But then I realized (again) that I’m not really writing for anything other than that it makes me happy. It makes me so happy. Even if my goal for finishing the dreaded rough draft gets pushed back a few weeks, I am not giving it up. I choose to carry on. It may be messy. It may be naive. It certainly is amateur. But I just can’t stress about all of that because it gets in my way and keeps me from just doing it. Yes, of course, there are a million things to learn and never enough time. But I am still going to do it.

I usually refer to obstacles in my long-term planning as hoops to jump through. I also believe that there is more than one way to get to a goal. Very few things in life–if any–have one perfect path to get there. So me getting all insecure and feeling overwhelmed was just another hoop. Same with April being ridiculously busy. Unlike future obstacles in this process, I did not see those coming.

But this weekend I also thought about how one spring I went out for the track team. Somehow I ran hurdles. Maybe it was the long legs because I am not known for speed. The first memory that pops into my head when I think of it is how one day I tripped and fell on a hurdle. I rolled a few times on the track and felt embarrassed. I probably had skinned knees too. I don’t remember anyone laughing at me, though they certainly could have, especially because a falling hurdle is loud. You look at a hurdle differently once you know how it feels to fall from it.

This time though, when I thought of running hurdles, I thought about how the rest of the time, it was really fun doing hurdles. It was all run and run and plant that foot and leap and tuck the other leg up and to the side and make it over the bar and keep freaking doing it until the end. Fun.

While I did not leave the track world with any honors, I absolutely came away from it with a couple of lessons. I am reminded this spring that while hurdles can be complicated and trip you up, they can also teach you about getting back out there.

What kind of hurdles to your writing do you face? How do you keep your momentum? What do you do when you fall?

Happy writing, all!

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