Do You Need To Lower Your Writing Expectations?
You don't have to feel like a failure
Recently I did a survey about writer’s block and discovered some heart-rendering reasons why people aren’t writing at their desired output.
You told me that you were juggling more than one job to make ends meet, that you were exhausted from home-schooling and that you were suffering from grief. For some, your income had dropped and you were stressed about it. Some of you are coping with sickness or a disability, either yourself or a member of your family. On top of that you are experiencing a huge dollop of pandemic stress.
These last two years have been hard, really hard. We’ve all been adversely affected by the pandemic even if we haven’t had covid-19 ourselves or haven’t lost a loved one to it. The lockdowns and uncertainty have taken their toll. We’re all burned out, one way or another.
And that might mean that you are not where you want to be with your writing.
I know successful bloggers who’ve hit a wall and authors who can write a book every two or three months who now have several unfinished work-in-progresses sitting on their computer. They just can’t seem to get anything over the line.
It’s okay to not be the writer you once were or would like to be. This won’t last forever.
Ease the pressure on yourself
If you always feel as though you are failing then this will take a huge toll on your mental as well as your physical wellbeing. One way of being kinder to yourself is to loosen the expectation.
Maybe you used to publish a blog every day but now you can only manage it once a week – that’s okay.
Maybe you used to get up early and crank out 2000 words before you started the day job. But now you’re too exhausted to get out of bed. That’s okay.
Maybe your editing pace has slowed and the manuscript for this novel is taking longer to whip into shape than the last one. That’s okay.
If your expectations are high and you feel that you are constantly failing then this is only going to create more stress and negative feelings.
We are hard-wired to see the negative and it is easy to see failure in ourselves. But setting the barre lower and saying “I did this” and “I did it consistently” will increase your motivation and your well-being. It might even lead to better long-term results.
In The Trenches
Last year I did a Time Genius course with Marie Forleo. While the main focus of the course was about productivity and getting things done, there are times when life is so difficult that you can’t be your usual dynamic self, you can’t be “business as usual”.
She describes this as being “In The Trenches” and that you need to give yourself the grace and space to be there, for as long as it takes.
She posed the following questions to help build a pathway through difficult times:
What is the MOST important thing for you to focus on right now? What is this season of your life asking of you?
What goals, plans, or activities will you pause, amend, or let go of to make space for this new priority?
How can you best take care of yourself right now? What boundaries do you need to put in place to protect your sleep, health, and self-care?
If your writing has to take a back seat or a lower priority, that’s okay. If you can only write for half of the amount of time you used to, that’s okay. If you have multiple projects and have to drop one or more of them to focus on the most important, that’s okay.
Plod gently, at a pace that is suitable for your current circumstances. Build a new, kinder routine, with lower expectations. That doesn’t mean giving yourself an easy time. It’s about being compassionate with yourself and continuing as best you can.
Celebrate what you do achieve, both in your writing and in other aspects of life.
You will get through this. You will adjust to new conditions. You can heal.
Better times will return.
(Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash)
I’d love to know what you thought of this article. Do you agree that sometimes you have to lower your expectations or should we be pushing on through, regardless? Please leave a comment. Let’s get a discussion going.
Thanks for reading Gentle Creative! Subscribe now to receive new posts and support my work.
Also, I just watched a video for Marie Forleo's Time Genius course -- did you find it worth the investment?
I totally agree - we all need to take it easy on ourselves. Do what you can, with what you have, and let go of perfection.