Hello, dear readers!
Apparently I’m on a kick, because I want to write more about pressure today. I wrote about it in terms of some financial aspects of writing last week, but over the weekend, I realized that over the course of last year, I unconsciously placed a lot of pressure upon myself that was not only unnecessary, but damaging. So of course I want to unpack it here.
I put pressure on myself in two ways: my desire to hit 160 pounds and by believing that BLOOD PRICE was going to be novel that broke me in as an author. Reading both of these things written out, just like that, it doesn’t sound inherently bad. And neither of them are bad goals, either. But I unconsciously put a time limit on both of these and that’s where the trouble began.
With my weight, I’d been doing really well up until last October. I’d started to stagnate and not lose any weight, and in fact, had started to gain some back (though, this could have been muscle, retrospectively). There’s a lot of factors that play into why I fell off the bandwagon and have since gained half of the weight I’d originally lost back and got into a three month slump that I’m just now working to break: laziness, seasonal depression, moving in with my boyfriend (a positive in and of itself, but a lifestyle change I didn’t do well to adjusting, with this goal); all reasons easy to see on the surface.
I didn’t realize I felt this pressure to hit my ultimate goal, considering myself a failure if I didn’t get that 160 mark (because, a long time ago, that was the max weight you could be and still be considered healthy, at my height, age and sex, so that was my benchmark, because I didn’t think it was feasible to try and get down to 130 pounds, the recommended weight). So when the progress started to slip, I panicked and, so desperately not wanting to fail in this goal I wanted so badly, that fear and pressure actually resulted in giving up entirely and going backwards for a bit.
Switch to my writing, and you can see the same thing happening. I’m really excited about BLOOD PRICE and I’m really proud of it. So many of my stories beforehand have been considered too cliched to make it in the publishing world or not unique enough. Those aren’t wrong statements, really. This is the first book I felt could actually break those patterns, those roadblocks that have kept me from being published before. So, I gained a little confidence, a little cockiness I’d never felt with my writing before, and I knew this to be the one.
I sent the novel out to betas and some of the feedback has started to trickle in. I won’t start making an editing plan until I get all of it, but it opened my eyes and reminded me how far from ready my novel actually is. It humbled me and reminded me that I still have a lot of work to do. But it also scared me, because it made me realize that this still could not be the one that gets me published. It does break the barriers I had before, but that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be published.
With the help of some advice from my boyfriend and writing group (thanks, you two), I realized something very pivotal I’ve been doing with my writing that also translates into my fitness training.
I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing, by fighting against a non-existent deadline, thus putting unnecessary pressure upon myself.
Let’s break that down.
In both cases, I’ve been focused on the end goal: get published, reach 160 pounds. Both goals I still want to reach, but neither of which is really an end goal. Because once I hit that magical number (in my head) doesn’t mean my journey is over. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet or a fad. Just because I publish one book, doesn’t mean my career is done and I’ve made it. While I would have made it, it’s only the beginning. I’ll still have plenty to learn after becoming an author and then many more books to write, besides.
You see, I shouldn’t be focusing on the end goal, not right now. Especially not in writing, when I’m in such an early stage of my book. Yes, I’ve very proud of it and yes, it’s the strongest thing I’ve written. But there are still issues with it, some of them major. There is still plenty of work for me to do. And yes, I’ve learned a lot with fitness and nutrition, but there’s still so much for me to learn and incorporate.
Yet with both these, I felt like I had to lose weight and keep doing so, if only to prove I was serious and this wasn’t another phase. With writing, I had to get this draft done early and queried as quickly as possible, before someone else published something similar and my chance is gone. I’m turning 27 this year, there is no time like the present, and for some reason, I felt like I was running out of time to become beautiful and running out of time to publish a novel.
There is no deadline for shaping the body I want. That’s a lifelong commitment, which is why I need to focus on forming habits and routines that I enjoy daily, because they aren’t going to go away after my first goal is met and there is no point creating a routine that I hate but gets results, only to stop and then lose all that progress. These habits are going to continue to persist, evolve and grow as my goals do, and I need to enjoy them.
There is no deadline for writing or publishing my novels. There are no awards for publishing my first novel before I’m 30. I only hurt myself by rushing the process and not submitting my best work. There is no need to put pressure on this book being “the one,” when I should be focusing on making it the best it can be, a book that I love, before giving it a shot. I can worry about helping the world love it to later, during the time to market it, after the deal, the contract, the query. Not while I’m still figuring out what it is.
I’ve put a lot of extra pressure on myself where there doesn’t need to be, in areas that matter most to me. I’m glad my eyes were opened up to it so quickly, so I could adjust my mindset and my attitude posthaste. Instead, I just need to learn to breathe, to take it one day at a time and focus instead on loving both of these processes. Falling in love with the track and the weights, the scale and the measuring cup, letters and the numbers; falling in love with the manuscript and the prose, the story and the craft, revision and the draft. Because if I can learn to fall in love with the daily things, each step in my quest, then those goals I want to achieve so badly? They’ll come, in time. And those hiccups that hurt so bad recently? They won’t have nearly so much power over me.
These things don’t have to have any power over you, either.