Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 28, 2011

Beating the Frustration of Great Expectations

Sometimes Life just doesn’t conform to our expectations. As John Lennon famously sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” We expect things to go one way, and they turn down a road that isn’t even on your GPS.

I’ve been having one of those “off-roading” months (which may explain the quiet but insistent voice that keeps saying, “Turn around immediately”). Life has been getting in the way of my writing. My 21-month-old demands a great deal of my attention, plus we are in the process of moving. And then there are the million other things on the To-Do list (which never gets shorter, somehow).

I made the choices that have put me in this position, of course. And although I do not regret those choices, I do sometimes regret the loss of time those choices have forced upon me. Note I said “regret” and not “resent.” Resentment is a destructive emotion, robbing you of the ability to enjoy any part of your life. But even when you love the life you have (as I do), you can still be frustrated when trying to balance your expectations with reality.

When I don’t get as much writing done as I expected, frustration grabs me and I wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t find time to write more. I mean, you hear about these moms who raise twenty kids and cook all the meals from scratch and have pristine houses and still find time to run a successful business out of their home. Why am I not one of those? Am I not efficient enough? Do I not have a strong enough work ethic? Do I sleep too much?

No matter how many times I look at my schedule, I cannot squeeze more time out of it. I am highly efficient in that I get everything done that NEEDS to be done. I have a very strong work ethic, judging by the fact that I sleep much less than I should in order to get done all I need to get done. And still I feel like I am stuck in that dream where you run as fast as you can but don’t move. I am putting out fires in my writing, but don’t feel that I am moving forward as a whole—at least, not as quickly as I would like.

So (other than cloning myself), what’s the answer? Do I need to lower my expectations? Am I expecting too much of myself? Probably—I have a habit of setting the bar pretty high. But as an unpublished writer, I am the only one who DOES expect anything from me. I do not have editors and agents pushing me for deadlines. So without my own high expectations, it would be easy to slack off to the point of stopping altogether. To do it when the baby’s older, when we are not moving, when summer craziness is not a factor.

But the truth is, there is always SOMETHING. Life will always get in the way. A friend once told me that there was no perfect time to have a child, and if you waited for that perfect time, you never would have children. Writing is like that, too. There is never going to be a perfect time to write. So I just write.

I write (and accept) my less-than-utopian daily word count knowing that someday I will have more time again. That someday we will have completed this seemingly unending moving process and be in the new house. That someday my child will go to school and I can work during the day. And that when that day comes, I will miss the hours spent with my child and being the central figure in her life.

So, I let my frustration melt into the delight of watching my daughter grow and develop—that daily miracle we so often take for granted. I listen as her vocabulary soars and her imagination opens up new worlds for both of us. Her laughter brings light, her face shines with the wonder of play, her eyes glow with the fascination of exploration. On any given day, her joy trumps my frustration, and she shows me how to truly live.

What’s your cure for your writerly frustration?

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Responses

  1. Great column, Kerry. You are such a great Mom, wife, friend, daughter, niece AND writer! @ moving: it is always hardest to move “down the street” as it were. You think ” We can do it a bit at a time” when it is actually better to just do it in one big effort. You have a beautiful heart and soul. Keep writing as many words as you can and remember how many people love you!

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    • Thanks, A Carolee! It’s not the move itself that’s taking long (we’re going to do that all at once), it’s the getting the house in shape. It’s hard when you have a little helper with you all the time!

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  2. Good post!

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    • Thanks, Nancy! I figured you might be able to relate.

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  3. Am always glad to know there are others with difficulty in assigning time for writing. Proof that my misery loves company! No pain-no gain, etc. Once I get the outline together, however, then I set my levels of productivity to be reached. That allows some flexibility of my time. Oddly, I long for those formal deadlines you mentioned. I’ve used contests for their built-in deadlines; and I have very understanding editors of literary journals!

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    • Glad to know I’m in good company! I think the deadlines imposed from outside are easier to meet for a few reasons, one of which is that OTHER PEOPLE respect deadlines imposed from outside rather than self-imposed. When a writer has outside deadlines, all of a sudden other people see what they are doing as WORK rather than a hobby, and take your need for time and space more seriously.

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