Letting Go

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I may be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need"
- attributed to Lao Tzu


At the beginning of the year I set lofty goals. One thousand words a day. One blog post a week. One story submission per month. Quite poetic in its symmetry of a quantity of one task over each time span.

At the time I believed I could accomplish the goals. It would be hard and require strict discipline and focus and time management and the lack of any other factors that might possibly cause the slightest distraction. These were unrealistic goals.

"Know thyself."
- ancient Greek aphorism


The problem with committing to something unrealistic is it can be difficult to disengage, particularly if others are involved. If I commit to help a friend move a piano I will surely live up to that promise, no matter how much my back may regret it later.

When my commitments are internal, that is when I am the only one affected by the doing or not doing, it is still hard for me to renege. The completion of that task is linked to my image of myself, my self esteem, my character. If I don't complete the task I am a failure.

The end result of this cycle is obvious. Frustration. Low self-esteem. Sadness. Depression. Procrastination. Repeat.

When the commitment involves others, a promised favor, a work assignment, a relationship, letting go can be very difficult and painful. If the promise is only to myself, no matter how public I have made it, the only person who will be affected is me.

Back To School

I volunteer once a month in my daughter's 2nd grade classroom. My responsibilities tend to be cutting, stapling, and collating, though once I got to use a hot glue gun. That was cool.

The teacher got wind of me being a writer and she asked if I'd talk with the class about my writing process. The kids do a lot of writing, stories and essays, but are rather reluctant editors. I feel their pain. The teacher asked if I could focus a bit on that and maybe bring in some edited pages.

I was humbled to be asked to do that. And a little nervous. Kids ask the darndest questions, you know.

During my talk, I discovered they do many of the methods I mentioned: checking spelling (of course), reading out loud, and even cutting up a story and rearranging the pieces. Impressive.

I received some good tips. Like not making a title of a story until you're done, that way you know what the story is about. I usually get the title fixed in my brain at the beginning (after all, I need to save the document file as something). Good advice.

And then the questions. They were mostly softballs. For example: What is my favorite story that I wrote? But then came the tough question, the kind I knew would come up.

"Are you a professional?"

D'oh! Wow. Imagine the things going through my head, the subjective nature of the meaning professional writer, or even just writer! But I couldn't waffle. They'd see through that. I had to be honest.

I said that writing was a tough job. That most writers don't make a lot of money doing it and, like me, have another job to earn money. Writing takes a lot of patience and practice but if you love doing it, then it's worth all the work.

So it all went well. The teacher was pleased. My daughter was proud of me, and happy I didn't say anything to embarrass her.

Tyranny of the New, Part 2

Continued from Part 1.


Last week I had a full day to myself. Looking at a map, I decided to go someplace I'd never been before: the Quabbin Reservoir.

Tyranny of the New, Part 1

New projects are dangerous for me. The risk is distraction from current projects, work I ought to be finishing. Sometimes the lure is too much.

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