A few years ago I took an interpersonal communication class at Stanford Continuing Education. Our class had a very simple format. We could talk about anything that had to do with the group itself — no politics or weather. The group I was with ended up asking a lot about people’s first impressions: what did you think about me?” I stayed in the sidelines, feeling vulnerable, but that did not save me from one piece of feedback that had been branded in my memory forever. One of the women in the class told me: “You appear flaky.”
Flaky? I didn’t even know what that meant. According to the Urban Dictionary a flaky person is “Unreliable. A procrastinator. A careless or lazy person. Dishonest and doesn’t keep to their word.” Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect, but unreliable? dishonest? lazy? I took that woman’s words really hard. Where she said “appear” I put “are,” and I found confirmation for my flakiness with every appointment I failed to arrive to on time and every promise I failed to keep. She was right. I was flaky! I felt horrified and appalled.
And proving myself otherwise is impossible, because no matter how often I finish tasks, am on time (or even early), or am careful making plans, there is always the one appointment I can’t keep, the book I don’t finish, the party I have to cancel, or the friend I am forced to disappoint. I struggle with flakiness. I told you before, I strive for perfection (being the first to admit I’m not perfect is just a foil). I’m tough on myself for not continuing or finishing projects. I want to be responsible, reliable, thorough.
I get anxious when I don’t write every day. The writing routine is my refuge, what gives me confidence that there’s hope for me yet. But since returning from Israel the writing has been slow, and my progression into panic fast. Fortunately, it seems I’m not the only one who has a hard time getting back to a writing routine. Yesterday I read Nathan Bransford’s blog on how to get back to writing after a long break. Bransford says: “Breaks = kryptonite achilles heel termite ridden ankle breaking weakening things.” He recommends not heading straight to the novel, starting small, picking up momentum until the writing again flows.
I hope he’s right. My achilles heel is lack of faith that my flow can return. But I think it’s time to let go of this particular belief and accept one more facet of my humanness. Sometimes the writing flows and sometimes it wanes. My creativity can become inspired during vacation or disappear in the chaos of being far from home. And as usual, I see my first lesson to learn from all this is to let go of perfection and judgment, of comparison and expectations. My new goal is to let the magic of writing lead the way. That’s my worthy, optimistic, wonderful goal for today.
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