It is funny how sometimes we can take a simple task and turn it into something far more difficult than it needs to be. I think we all have been there. We know in our hearts that we are capable of accomplishing something (in fact, many times we have done it successfully several times before) and then someone will ask you to do it for them and it becomes something that feels unnatural and difficult.
I call this a ‘command performance’ in my own mind when this happens to me. And I am learning to overcome the negative aspects of times like this and turning it into positive results.
In considering this phenomenon, I try to understand the cause of my anxiety. (Knowing your enemy is the first step to conquering them, and all of that!) Without understanding the reasons for these issues, I feel that it is impossible to overcome them.
Case in point – my editor said she would like me to write more articles for the magazine.
“OK.” I said to myself. “That should be easy.”
After all, I look at the title of this post and see that I am on #499 of this blog series. Who would have ever thought that I had that many words in me? But each morning I get up here and sit at the keyboard and things just seem to flow. It isn’t always easy – especially on the days when things are quite routine, but once I begin, usually the floodgates open and things start to flow and before long I have an entry.
So why would this be different?
I believe that I have come to a conclusion that is probably the best reason so far. ‘Expectations.’
When I come here to write every morning, much of the reason that I feel that I can do it is because there are no expectations placed upon me. Now I know that it isn’t quite as true anymore, as if I am late or miss a day, there are some who are looking for my morning posts. (It is nice to know that I am missed!) But that is a rather friendly expectation and I have learned to not allow it to bother me.
For some reason it seems quite different when I am actually going to get paid to write. It changes the entire mindset of my thinking and kind of messes things up in my mind. Who would actually want to pay me to read what I have to say? With the payment comes expectations of writing something relevant and enlightening. And with that comes pressure to preform at a certain level. That can be a big stopper.
Here’s an example I can give you:
You just made a nice trinket box. There wasn’t any reason that you made it other than because it was your heart’s desire. Maybe it was because you acquired a beautiful piece of maple and it was just crying out to be a box. You plan the design carefully and take pleasure in every step of seeing the box come to being. In the end you are satisfied and proud of what you accomplished.
Now your friend sees the box. He wants one. You aren’t ready to surrender your own box to him, and agree to make them one for him (he is going to pay you, of course!) Now, suddenly the whole demographics of the situation changed. Creating this box is no longer a sweet indulgence that you allow yourself. It is a job and even though you like doing woodworking very much, it has a different feel than when you were doing it simply for the pleasure of accomplishment. It isn’t that it is bad, it is just different.
A similar circumstance occurred with me in regards to writing this article. I believe they call it ‘writer’s block.’ I began the article several times and each attempt seemed awkward and unnatural. What the heck was wrong with me anyway? I have no trouble (most days) rambling off a post here every day. I honestly knew my subject matter quite thoroughly. This made no sense to me. Why was this so different?
After several aborted attempts, I decided to take a step back and think things over. I thought about my writing and this blog and all the nice things that others have told me about how they liked my writing style and finally the fog began to lift. I figured out that in writing this article that I was trying to be someone other than myself. I was trying to be a ‘writer.’ I wasn’t concentrating on the teaching aspect of the article or the points that I was trying to get across, I was trying to be something that I didn’t normally consider myself to be.
As soon as I came to that realization, things began to improve. In my heart, I don’t view myself as a writer. I like to look at myself as a designer and teacher. Coincidentally, a by-product of designing and teaching happens to be writing. A large part of what I do involves teaching my designs through the writing process. But I look at that as a residual part of who I am.
So I looked at the assignment again, but this time in my own mind I applied a different label to it. This wasn’t a writing assignment, it was a teaching assignment. And that made all the difference in the world.
I felt no pressure whatsoever in teaching my subject. Once I got started, the words began to flow. Soon, after a relatively short time (a much shorter time frame than I had spent struggling) the article was finished. I am quite satisfied with it and I am pleased with the way things were presented. I think that others will learn from it and hopefully my editor will feel the same. I think it will be a positive contribution to the issue and it is something that I can feel good about.
Moral of the story is that sometimes we allow labels to define the way we approach some of the things we are trying to accomplish. Some of these labels can be quite intimidating, even if we, ourselves are the ones who applied them in the first place.
Our minds and attitudes are very powerful factors in how we view a task in front of us. Sometimes we forget that we have a great deal of power over our own lives and something like a small adjustment in our own attitude towards things can make a huge difference in both the outcome and success of any venture we choose to take on. Sometimes the answer is as simple as changing the name or the label of the task at hand.
I hope you all consider these things the next time you may feel overwhelmed with something you need to do. Allow yourself to use the power you have inside to not only accomplish your task, but to excel at it. Show them what you are made of!
Who knows? Maybe one day I will be a writer after all.
Have a wonderful Saturday.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"