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Expectations

The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. (Exodus 32:16 NIV)

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For months, my inspiration chalkboard supported me with the word: DREAM. I even drew little stars all around the word.

For months, with the word, dream, as my visual cheerleader, I wrote words that looked like a play script. I liked the words. I enjoyed talking about the characters, plot and struggles of writing with a couple of my writer/creative friends. I’ve been teasing myself, my friends and my family with the idea that I am stretching myself and becoming a playwright.

I have enjoyed the journey, and sometimes needed the reminder to enjoy it. I give the story room in my mind, take it on vacation and ignore it. I even took it to Chicago, and made some progress.

Earlier this year, I erased the word, dream, from the chalkboard. It’s support was no longer necessary. I needed a stronger exhortation: “Do the work!” These words don’t get the work done, of course, but they guilt me when I feel like quitting.

So as I write this post, I am using one of the techniques that helps me get the work done. I divert myself from the project at hand, then surprise the work and come back to it. It works for me.

Another thing that has been working for me this week, so far, was to set aside time to work on the project. I thought I’d share today what I’ve learned from this week, so far, and how “doing the work” works for me.

THINGS I’VE LEARNED THIS WEEK

  • I need a shower before I write.
  • I need coffee, too and always.
  • Accountability works! (Even if you don’t have much contact with your accountability network, it still works, because I wonder if they’re going to check on my progress.)
  • Setting aside specific time works! (My self-appointed 9am-12pm schedule gave me a target. Now, do I write for three hours solid? Let’s not be ridiculous. You need to get more coffee, check social media and stretch every once in awhile to stay productive!)
  • Reference books are helpful! (For this project, I have referred to and read chapters in Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and Playwright Power. In, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, Jessica Brody’s subtitle promise comes through: “The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need.” I have read a lot of books on writing, and this one is very practical and a basic blueprint for any narrative work. The second book was given to me years ago by a friend and aspiring playwright. She had met and worked with the author, Robert Friedman, who I know little about, but his candor has helped me be realistic about my lofty aspiration of being a playwright. His advice has been spot on, as I work through this process. I don’t know where you can get a copy, but I’m sure some other playwright is out there who would be just as helpful.)
  • Any writing counts! (Writing in your journal, writing a grocery list, writing a blog post, taking notes and the actual project.)
  • The DELETE button is addictive! (I used to be afraid of deleting some of my work, but it actually feels cathartic to let go of some of my “clever” ideas. BTW, I do save each draft, so I can go back and see what I deleted.)
  • Any quality of writing counts! (Crappy writing is just as important as clever stuff, because remember, you usually need to delete the clever stuff.)
  • Practice detachment when you’ve completed your scheduled writing time. (One reason I kept putting off finishing this project was that I got too involved with the characters. I needed a mental and emotional break from them, so I actually would say good-bye to them at the end of each writing session. And it worked. I moved on and did other things, and guess what? They were waiting for me the next morning, they didn’t leave or forget about our relationship. Cool!)
  • Make a playlist for your project! (I did this as a diversion while in Chicago. It’s great to have music playing in the background that remind me of my characters. I would hear a song on the radio, and think this speaks to so and so’s experience. I was proud of my self for learning how to use Spotify Premium. It was fun searching for the songs.)

I wasn’t sure if I’d stick to my schedule this week, because I’ve failed to follow through in the past. What was different this time? I think I expected to follow through. I was living the mantra “Do the work!” It was time.

Who knows? But, I do recommend checking your expectations for projects, for relationships, heck, for life. Expectations can really mess with you or they can guide you, but if you turn a deaf ear to them you will stumble, and possibly even stall out.

How do you interact with expectations?