When “You’re doing it wrong”

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Last night I tried to figure out what’s wrong with me by free associating, basically, dictating into my phone what ended up being about 1500 words ~ because I’ve been wandering around lately in kind of a state of busy paralysis. You know, that state where I keep busy with things that are important to me: family concerns, housework, bill paying, planting flowers and trees and cleaning out the flowerbeds and yard now that it’s warm enough ~ getting on with the projects that don’t require a lot of creativity on my part but do let me see what I’ve accomplished and give me a maintenance dose, at least, of a sense of accomplishment.

And, once again, not getting on with what it is that I really want to do: write and publish what I write for a living.

I get myself in a place where I feel secure financially and in terms of fulfilling other responsibilities ~ “set” for a certain period of time and think OK I’ve cleared the decks! I’ve got this long to write and publish or to finish recording the audio book that I am re-recording. Or was doing until a couple weeks ago when my sound engineer got a full-time job and needed to focus on that for a bit ~ thus relieving me, at least temporarily, of what in my mind was a firm commitment to send him chapters as quickly as possible.

And what I discovered about myself, or rediscovered really, is that if I don’t have a firm commitment to somebody else for the things that I want to do professionally, like having set dates to return student grades when I was teaching ~ It’s incredibly easy to put off actually doing anything ~ especially anything that you’re insecure or nervous about (whether or not what’s bugging you has any relationship to reality).

Mr. Mom ~ before

Remember Jack Butler? ~ the “Mr. Mom” title character of the ‘80s movie (played by Michael Keyton). When he loses his job ~ is “technically furloughed” ~ and his wife goes to work in a high-powered advertising firm, Jack takes over the care of the house and kids. Initially, he sucks at the job ~ why wouldn’t he? It’s funny to watch him flounder, especially if you’re a mom yourself, but on a more pragmatic level, you sympathize with him, too. Because, as with many “jobs” that look easy from the outside, “mom duty” isn’t as simple as it looks. For Jack, as long as he tries to do the job as if he were Carol, the mom, he fails miserably. “You’re doing it wrong,” becomes the catch phrase ~ along with his muttered response “Don’t tell me I’m doing it wrong; I know how to do this.”

In fact, he does. But it isn’t until he stops trying to be “mom” and do everything the way she does it ~ it isn’t until he learns to trust himself, makes the job his own and does it his own way (like rigging “Jaws” the vacuum cleaner to run by remote control) ~ that he succeeds. And he doesn’t just succeed, he’s brilliant at it.

Mr. Mom ~ brilliant

For me, that means I need to somehow go from the externally imposed deadlines of university teaching to self-imposed deadlines for a working writer ~ that are somehow just as firmly anchored.

Because, I’ve realized, up until now I’ve been “doing it wrong.” Largely trying to find the magic formula for consistently writing and publishing what you write.

There isn’t one. Or rather, there is, but I’ve got to figure out what that looks like for me, trust myself, and make it my own.

And then be brilliant at it.

If you’ve got any pointers for me ~ how did you get brilliant at it, for instance ~ I would really be grateful to hear them. Leave me a comment, email me, or look me up on Facebook or twitter, would you? Seriously ~ drop me a line.

See you on the beach ~

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