waiting for 'the end'

When did getting to the end become more important than relishing the process?

waiting for 'the end'
Photo by Ondrej Machart on Unsplash

School has been off for March break since Friday and D's at home this week. As happens so often when he's around, I just like to hang out with him and I set aside work for the most part.

After the last three days of having fun, I felt the itch to go and write. Not so much an 'itch' but that constantly nagging worry that if I didn't add words to the manuscript, I'd never be able to make money from my books.

I made up my mind to go to the library, so I could write without distraction. KrA took D out to play, and I made my way out before they came back.

My mind came up with a thousand reasons why this was a bad idea. No one's at home, so why not just sit at home and write? Why spend time and effort getting dressed to get to the library?

Eventually, I did get out, knowing that I needed space to focus, which would be impossible once KrA and D got back.

All the way from parking the car to getting to my favourite spot in the library, a part of my mind kept going, "I don't want to do this." "Why can't I take a break?" "Why can't I just hang out with D when he's got school holidays?"

... while another part kept counter-arguing, "It's alright," "Only 30 minutes. Just be done with it." "It won't take long. Let's finish this thing and get out of here."

As though I was executing a solo heist, something that I needed to do quickly and run away and never have to do again in all my life.
I have to shake my head and ask myself, How has it come to this?

There was a time when I was so enamoured with writing fiction that I simply kept at it.

Obviously that time has long disappeared into the past, and whatever memories remain, I'm pretty sure I'm romanticizing them all.

Still, the thrill of writing a tale, of feeling satisfied with simply writing 'The End' and not worrying about what other people thought of it, was as precious as it was fleeting.

The desire to make a living from writing came after I wrote my first longish piece of work, a novella, shortly after D was born and I wanted to find a way to 'work', feel useful, feel productive, while also being a stay-at-home mom.

That first book paved the way for a longer work — Dying Wishes — which was also a joy to write, as far as I can remember.

What I can't remember is when that joy of writing came to be superseded by the disappointment of not selling, not earning money, not gaining visibility in the marketplace?

When did that fear of not selling books turn into full-blown financial anxiety, which kept me paralyzed from creating in the first place?

Nowadays, I can't help but wonder how long I have to keep writing before reaching some ill-defined financial goal? How long do I have to spend my days like this? When will this end?

This question has permeated into every aspect. When will school break end? When will tomorrow's doctor visit end? When will this summer trip we're planning get over? When will this day end?

It's as if I'm going through the motions hoping that one day it will all end, hoping that one day I'd do it all for one last time, and then I can rest at last, not worry about having to keep on at it.

It's terrifying that I've come to view almost every aspect of life like this, feeling as if I can't do this 'living' thing anymore.

Don't worry — I'm not at all suicidal. I'm simply terrified at how I've been getting through the days off late, languishing, feeling less and less excited about present moments and even future plans, feeling overwhelmed about all the work that needs to be done, feeling as if this never-ending to-do list will simply remain never-ending!

I'm not alone in feeling this way, it's easy to tell simply from the countless coaching and mindset (and manifestation!) programs that have sprung up in this industry, notwithstanding the fact that those who teach these courses themselves openly succumb to burnout and doubt and despair just as often as the rest of us.

I read a very interesting quote recently, and I'm only paraphrasing it here:

It's only in my profession (of the arts) that you get paid much more to talk about it than to actually practise it.

Too bad I can't remember who said this or where I came across this quote. I read it very recently and I remember reading it aloud to KrA, who burst into laughter when he heard it.

Because it's so true.

As a form of art and craft, writing has been dissected in so many different ways, as though everyone is trying to figure out that unsolvable mystery at the kernel of it all. What makes for a good book? What counts as great storytelling?

But all these are lenses through which people view the world. The author of a particular plot structure, as well as those who buy into this, are simply viewing the world of writing based on the framework of that structure they've come up with, the one that helps them understand this art form in a way they can describe and replicate.

Having a formula gives us a feeling of certainty, even if there are a thousand different formula in the marketplace now.

Because the alternative is so scary. What if we can never finish writing a book? What if, having completed one book that was well received, we're unable to write another one like that? What if we can never replicate our success? What if we never find success in the first place? What if success remains elusive to us all our lives?

Over and over again I keep coming back to this realization, that so much of life is simply out of my control.

The only thing I have right now is this present moment and what I do with it. Do I spend this moment lamenting past decisions, feeling terrified about an unknown future, hopelessly wishing life was otherwise, anything other than what it is now?

Or do I spend this moment building a strong relationship with myself, focusing on the steps I can take now, on the quality of time I spend writing or hanging out with KrA and D?

This is a constant practice. It's not a few-minutes-a-day practice of meditating or journaling, although those tools do help throughout the day. It's how we show up for ourselves each moment, the decisions we take — am I going to spend the next 24 hours worrying about something that's about to transpire then or am I going to focus on the task on hand right now and re-evaluate the situation in 24 hours from now?

The most important spiritual growth doesn't happen when you're meditating or on a yoga mat. It happens in the midst of conflict — when you're frustrated, angry or scared and you're doing the same old thing, and then you suddenly realize that you have a choice to do it differently.

~ Unknown (I've found this quote on the Internet in so many different places but have been unable to locate the source. If you ever find it, please let me know.)

So here's to no longer looking forward to 'The End' but to enjoying the process in the interim, no matter where it leads or what the outcomes are.