It's Not Either-Or; It's BothSep 25, 2021
If you know me, you probably know I've made a mention or two about Kentucky bourbon. It took me a while to acquire a taste for it, and I think a big part of that was my appreciation for how it is made. Patiently.
In 2020 I wrote a book called Fix This Next for Healthcare Providers. I hired Mike Michalowicz's co-writer AJ Harper and attended her fabulous Top Three Book Workshop in the fall of that year. I had never written a book before. In fact, pretty much all I had written were some blogs that were just okay. I had no formal training in writing unless you count my two semesters attempting to pass English 101 my freshman year of college.
Emphasis on attempting
My words weren't perfect; they weren't great, hell, most of them were not even good, but I had something to say, so I persisted. I kept writing, kept believing I could learn and kept writing. That writing would later come to be my "shitty first drafts." Before you start questioning my motives here, know that this term is meant to be a semi-joke, not self-deprecating, or attention-seeking behavior. I don't do that.
When it came time to bang out that shitty first draft, I told AJ that drinking bourbon helps me write better. She said a few things. First, "Does it really make you write better, or does it just make you think you write better." Of course, I didn't have a good answer to that one. She was probably right; I probably just thought my words were better because I missed every third one.
Then she told me about the history of writers and how so many of them have got a bad rap over the years for "needing" something to write. Not bourbon necessarily, but some need silence, some need a beautiful landscape, and some need a little extra inspiration in some way. It could be anything, rituals, a favorite sweatshirt, or the house-shoes with the furry lining. She said, "Don't do that. Don't think you need something in order to write."
She told me she had trained herself to literally write anywhere if she needed to. Even the bathroom. In my head, I thought, yeah, right. You know I have three kids, right. My house is loud. My life is loud. I'm busy. How am I supposed to train myself to do anything? At this point, I couldn't' even sleep without Unisom or Benedryl.
But I trusted her. I trust her. So I gave it a shot, but it was hard.
During the fourteen weeks of writing my manuscript, I was fortunate enough to have physical space. I worked at the office alone on the weekends sometimes. I could go away to quiet places with little to no interruptions. For fourteen weeks, I could narrow my focus and write my first book. I didn't have to practice much, at least not on blocking out the noise. At least not the physical noise, just the internal, more emotional kind of noise.
I knew I was writing words that would make sentences that would become paragraphs that would complete a chapter. I knew I was writing to help the reader transform something, but other than that, I didn't know what I was doing. I had no idea I was also transforming.
On my first call with AJ talking through my core message and promise, I cried for the first time in a long time. I can't remember what made those tears come initially, but the rest came because the first came. What was happening to me? I wondered. This was new, and I wasn't sure I liked it. But one thing was for sure, whatever it was, I felt it. And I never stopped feeling it.
2020 turned into 2021, and as summer approached, I'd launched Fix This Next and began outlining my second book. I struggled; I went back and forth and created at least nine different outlines. As summer approached, as life often does, I was presented with an opportunity. One, to practice what AJ had preached less than nine months before. My world went crazy. I lost control. I found chaos all around me. I couldn't escape it.
My peace was disrupted. Or so I thought.
Fast forward a little bit. For the last two hours, I've sat on the beat-down, over sat on couch in my living room, watching my kids play with building blocks with the alphabet on them. They've built farms, put cows in a pasture, and put the plastic baby pigs in the barn. I've changed one poopy diaper, fed the other pink and white frosted animal crackers, and kissed two boo-boos. I've finished four loads of laundry and vacuumed up dog hair. Twice. I did all of these things while snuggled up under my heated blanket, a computer on my lap, and music blasting in my ears.
Guess what else I have done.
I wrote. I wrote these words that you're reading right now. I finished a book proposal (finally) that I submitted tonight. I sent several emails that I was behind on. I've gained even more clarity on the direction I'm going next with my life. And I did all of it, despite the chaos in front of me, the physical kind.
That may not sound like a lot to you, but to me, that's big. That means I don't need physical space and separation to go after big dreams or accomplish daily tasks. I need emotional, mental, and creative space and security. I need an environment that is conducive to this kind of outcome. It means that I don't have to choose. And neither do you.
It's not either-or. It's both, it's everything, it's anything.
Who would have ever thought a writing class would ultimately give me the pieces to the puzzle I've been trying to assemble my entire life? Who would have ever thought it would play a part in giving me the words to express what I need from myself and others. It helped me find a voice to not only help me, my kids, and those that I love, but a voice that can help stand up for others, for what is right, for what is fair, and for what should be.
Sometimes I wish I knew why I once told myself I couldn't have both, emotional safety with the physical space to be a high functioning woman. But you know what, when I think about it a little deeper, guess what comes to mind.
AJ, it's you again. It's also Steven Pressfield. It's Resistance. The reason I thought what I thought, was in many ways, was me resisting the very thing I knew could hurt me. Vulnerability. I was trying ferociously to protect myself. Just like you might be trying to protect yourself in some way by avoiding something you think you can't do.
As I wrap this up, a Facetime call comes through that I let go to voicemail. I didn't answer because I'm focused, but I know they want to see if I'm okay. I'd venture to guess that I'll have a follow-up text message before I publish this blog. I know they care, and that is nice. I have a little boy sitting beside me on the couch who loves his momma, and that feels good. I'm typing this last sentence with one hand because I have two, and why not hold my little BFF with the other. I have a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl asking to play on my phone, but guess what.
I'm still typing.
I'm still going.
I'm still writing.
I'm still focused.
I'm still here.
Fight through it. Fight hard. Don't give up. Ever.
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