Writing has become a marathon. Lots of ground to cover, lots of stamina required, lots of self-talk about whether I can do it and why I am bothering along the journey. without knowing for sure when I will finish something, or whether I will finish it at all.
In terms of the writing I am doing right now, there can be no predictable end date, and as much as I would like to churn out the first draft of a novel in a week, I know that this is not possible. For me, anyway.
There are valid reasons for this, but what it comes down to mainly is, I am not a superhuman and I am not interested in burning myself out, for anything. I have been in recovery from burnout for close on five years, and I don’t intend going back there. Anyone who knew me in a former life would probably describe me as a driven person who knew what she wanted and how to get it. Oh how things change!
Just when I have found the joy of simply ‘being’, the world appears to be heading in a completely different direction. Being driven to achieve is seen as one of the most important traits a person can have today. Just check a dozen or so job ads if you don’t believe me. Don’t want to? OK, here are a few first lines of reception/administration roles that I grabbed off seek.com.au just now, in order of appearance (I have included the first six, unedited):
- ‘Company A is seeking a motivated and organised individual with high attention to detail and a winning way with customers.’
- ‘We are looking for a vibrant, bright, bubbly, positive candidate …’
- ‘We are a fast-paced industry leader in need of an energetic front-office receptionist with the desire to achieve.’
- ‘We are searching for a happy and energetic person to be part of our team.’
- ‘Great opportunity for a bubbly engaged candidate looking to advance their career …’
- ‘We are looking for a passionate and switched-on receptionist to join our company.’
In the job market, everyone is obviously expected to be a superhuman. It seems that to win even the lowliest job with average pay one has to know how to jump hoops. Don’t they have jobs for ordinary people any more? What about people who prefer introversion? Is there no place for someone who will simply turn up and do the job they are employed to do? Indeed not! These days, everyone has to have a bubbly personality and a drive to succeed – or so it seems.
The problem with this kind of nonsense-jargon is that it has found its way into other areas of our lives. Check the profiles on Tinder, RSVP and eHarmony – with so many bright, bubbly, fit, active, overachieving singles, we have a glut of worthy matches – until he first date proves them to be otherwise. Even for those of us who are not looking for a perfect match, it is not enough to just do things any more. We don’t just go for walks or exercise, everyone is comparing their fitbit information online in an effort to prove to the world that we are superstars in our normal everyday activities. It is for this reason that I refuse to wear a fitbit and only recently discovered the heart app on my phone. Does knowing the number of steps I do really add value to my walk? I would say it achieves the opposite. Whatever happened to the idea of stopping to smell the roses? Or, in my case, to photograph them? I wonder how much these high expectations of ourselves and others are contributing to physical and mental health issues, and even suicide?
I have a theory about all this that I will leave for another post, but what I have noticed lately is a number of my fellow writers are posting daily word counts on Instagram. I’m sorry, but really? I am not really sure how this helps, other than providing an ego boost – and the need to maintain the pace, which invariably falls off and then leads to a sense of failure. I’m happy to hear from anyone who actually does find this helpful; this is something I clearly am at odds with.
You see, I have this weird notion. As a writer, I want to write when I am happy about writing, and when I feel I have something important to say. Obviously others might not agree that what I write is important (like this post, even), but I have to feel it was worth the effort or what’s the point?
So I’m in training for the marathon. Like my doctor told me when I said I want to walk the Camino one day, it is all about sustained, incremental, cumulative activity. This is not something that can just be ‘done’, it is something that needs to be nurtured, worked on, and progress may not even be instantly obvious.
Over the past month my writing has suffered due to the onset of a virus, which robbed me of my creativity. My muse and warrior retreated while I concentrated on getting better. Not so long ago I would have cursed this interruption, but at this stage of my life I see it as an opportunity to examine another part of my being, to sit and wait, enjoy the lack of productivity. This last few weeks have consolidated my humanity, and shown that my body still has the wherewithal to respond to an attack and fight back, which it did brilliantly.
It is fair to say that there are some of my kind who have achieved amazing things. I also believe that it is OK for most of us to just be alive and be in the world. I left my ego behind some years ago, it did not survive the stormy years and although I miss its lusty power, I know I am better off without it.
As my creative brain turns back on, I am finding stories in lots of places: in conversations, the things I listen to and watch, the things I read. I have a thousand ideas which I will jot down for future reference. After all, I can’t write about them all right now, can I? What is important will find it’s way through the gestation period in my brain, and some of my marathon efforts might find their way through a long an arduous labour and be born. Hopefully, if they do survive, like this post, they will be useful to others on their own journeys. One thing I can guarantee, I will continue to write, because writing helps me to be me, to understand myself and the world – and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?