Lately, everything feels like homework.
I’m not dissing homework. What I’m saying is that there’s been a lot of stress attached to my work and my own personal definition of “success”, so that instead of satisfying work (perfect work), it just feels like work, on top of work, and I think about it all the time.
You might be thinking, Oh great. Another blog post by some stranger about the importance of failure and how success isn’t everything. OK. Maybe that’s where this is going, but right now, in this moment as I write this — unedited — I have no idea and that’s kind of the point of this blog. I have no idea and I don’t care.
I’m a writer. I’ve been writing and keeping diaries and journals since I was 9, when a relative, or close family friend, gifted me with a diary. It was hard covered, pearly-white, with tiny, uniform, lilac-colored fleur-de-lis printed all over. I loved this diary for three reasons.
First, was that it had an illustrated vignette on the cover, of a young girl, with dark hair looking hopefully, and helplessly, at the stars that the illustrator had dotted above her. Beneath her was the caption, “Here I am, all alone, thinking and dreaming on my own…” This girl is like me! I thought.
Second, it had a lock on it. I remember the code 3-6-9. Finally. I had privacy. False-privacy, but an inkling of it nonetheless. False-privacy…I suppose not much has changed since 1988.
Third, it was mine. It was given to me by someone other than a family member, and for some reason that made it sacred. Untouchable. Like…it truly belonged to me and nobody could take it away. It wasn’t a toy, or a trinket. It wasn’t a hand-me-down, or something to share with someone else, or something to send to Goodwill. It was a book with what felt like hundreds of empty pages, that I could fill up with me. It was my first book.
I got my first job as a paid writer over 10 year ago. Since then, I’ve been a technical writer, technical editor, technical trainer, blogger, science writer, scientific editor, news writer, book author, and now science blogger. Paid writing is different than writing for yourself.
Paid writing is similar to writing for yourself in that there’s always a purpose. Putting pen to paper, or text to blank page, is purpose enough. Paid writing is different because it’s never for you. It’s always for your reader. Parts of it might for you…for example, you like writing, you like the topic, or you can relate to what you’re writing, etc. But ultimately, it’s written from the perspective of, Will my reader like what I have written for them? In other words, Does this suck? Is this good enough?
Work is like a relationship — it can’t be good all the time and it gives you heartburn. I say “can’t” because, without a shift in balance, where does growth come from? Also, work and relationships DO give you heartburn.
Personally, I mean “heartburn” literally for both work and relationships. But I know that work and personal relationships can give us emotional heartburn as well. Been there too.
(Side note: I have wicked heartburn right now.)
Since everything work-related is feeling like more homework than satisfaction, I can tell that I am undergoing a shift. My heartburn is a big, bright, red flag, and the flag is on fire. Did I mention I have heartburn?
It’s time for growth…I’m learning something…what is that something…I guess I’ll have to keep writing.
As a writer, I’m hella insecure — I’ll just own that, right there. INSECURE. Seriously.
As a paid writer, I’m constantly wondering (and the editor is too) Does this suck? Whether it’s a technical manual, a style guide, or an aggregated news story. The thoughts are always there and it goes something like this:
Thought: Does this suck?
Answer: Yes. Probably.
And it’s on repeat. With every idea, topic, sentence, paragraph, page, photo…there’s always a “but”, always a “it could be better”, but there’s always that one part of the equation that never cooperates. TIME.
So what happens is that words are published as “good enough” because they have to be and then they are edited endlessly — sometimes. Nothing ever feels finished. Ever. And that’s a great source of stress for me.
I know that I am not alone. Why? Because in the 36 years that I’ve been alive, I have learned that I am not unique — at all. Maybe as a whole, I am unique (a big MAYBE), but all the little things that make up “the whole” are not unique. Not one bit.
To be honest, that gives me peace. It means that I never have to be that 9-year-old inspired by that illustrated girl in the vignette, looking hopefully, and helplessly, out her bedroom window feeling like she’s “thinking and dreaming on [her] own.” I know that I’m not the only one with stress-related-Advil-induced-heartburn and that’s cool.
Does This Suck?
But here’s the deal with this blog — I don’t care if it sucks because I can’t care anymore. The fiery red flag is lit and waving behind my sternum.
I care about my work, my work that has become homework. Homework that I carry around with me EVERYWHERE I go because of my damn phone, internet access, and compulsion to check it every 5 seconds…
But here? On this blog…it’s like that diary from 1988, except that there’s no real privacy, there’s no lock, and I am not alone.
I’m a writer. I need to write, but not always for work. I need to write for me and not care that anyone else cares…I also need to write without worrying if my writing or topics suck. I need to write about things that aren’t work.
So why “Birds Nature Life”? Because “Birds Nature Heartburn” was already taken.