Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Let's Talk About Pressure

Indulge me for a moment whilst I come out of my semi-hiatus from blogging...

In this world where we are constantly driving ourselves to succeed, to be involved, to do this, to do that, we put a tremendous amount of pressure upon ourselves.


We feel pressured to lose weight, to be healthy, to work out every day, to eat right. We feel pressured to volunteer at our kids' school or our church or our charity group or our writing group. We feel pressured to be the best friend, the best daughter or son, the best husband or wife, the best mom or dad, the best sister or brother, the best employee. In terms of writing, we feel pressured to meet our deadlines (self-imposed or publisher-imposed) or write a break-out novel, or come up with a unique character, or write 1,000 words a day or write to satisfy the market, or blog on a daily basis or visit blogs and comment every day.

Just
looking at that list overwhelms me. I have the urge to crawl into bed and pull the covers over myself in a vain attempt to hide from the world and all that pressure. Are you feeling it,
too?

*deep breath*

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be or do any of these things. Who doesn't want to be a better mother or father or be healthy? Many of us believe that we need to do these things to be happy, to find contentment. And this is true in many ways. But it's the pressure to be perfect that throws a monkey wrench into the works.

I highly doubt I'm ever
going to be a size 7 again. It would be nice, but my body has changed since I was in college - for one, I had a child. And two, well, metabolism changes as you age. But instead of looking at my attempts to lose weight and eat right as a quest to be the perfect size 7, I've had to perceive it differently. Instead of "needing" to lose the weight, I "want" to lose the weight because it will result in a healthier me. Have I lost track of this vision? Sometimes, especially when I'm at the mall and see all these perfect size 6s and 7s walking around!

But the pressure valve can be released on many of these situations if we simply change our perception
. If, instead of saying, "I need to be a perfect mother/father", we say, "I want to be a better mother/father," that takes some of the pressure off.

Look, perfection in this world ain't gonna happen (forgive my lapse in proper grammar). So why do we keep wearing
ourselves out trying to find it? Why do we continue to put more and more pressure on ourselves to achieve something we'll never have? I'm never going to be a perfect size 7, never going to write a perfect novel, never going to be a perfect mother or daughter. What I can do is be a better writer, a better mother or daughter, and heck, a healthier size --whatever--.

I think this whole bit of "hunkering down" I've been doing lately has shown me some truths. I think too much
, for one, and I am putting way too much pressure on myself with my writing. I need to back off. I need to write just to write. I need to isolate myself from the publishing and marketing news and just focus on the story. This also means perhaps backing off on writer-related posts on the blog. I feel a foolish superstition that if I let anyone know about the project I'm currently working on, the motivation and love I feel toward it will melt away. So I'm keeping my yap shut. This may be hard for me, but at this point, I feel like it's the right thing to do.

And it has eased the pressure.

Have you felt under pressure from too many things in your life lately? Has it affected your writing?

17 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes and oh, right, yes. Does that help? I postd last week that I'm reading fewer blogs and commenting even less than that. I'm also keeping up with "marking as read" because I don't want to turn to Google reader and see thousands of unread posts. I haven't blogged in about a week on my regular blog. I have done some writing though, in different areas, and that always makes me a happy camper.

    I don't talk about WIPs much unless it's in general so I hear you there. Just keep plugging away...what else can we do?

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  2. Oh me too. The best advice I ever received was "relax, relax, and then relax some more". Do I abide by it? Well, maybe at least one "relax". Pressure and perfection does impact my writing; that's why some days I just post silly things.

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  3. Sadly, it affects the rest of my life more than my writing. SHE'S a size 6, why can't *I* be a size 6 again (you know, without working at it)? I just have to keep reminding myself to stop creating needless and imaginary peer pressure. Am I happy? Is my family happy? If yes, then there's nothing to worry about. If no, then I can WORK to fix whatever is bothering me. And that internal compass is the only one that should matter.

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  4. First, I really like the fall colors of this new background. Very warm and cozy!

    And I like the way you think: Not perfect, better. I'm on board with that.

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  5. Great post, Melissa - you said something a lot of us need to hear.

    I've been under lots of pressure lately, to earn money (harder now with my greatly reduced hours), be a good daughter and find a way back to my writing. And we won't even talk about my exercising.

    I'll take your words to heart and try NOT to put so much pressure on myself. Thanks!

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  6. You're talking about something I know all about. I put myself under incredible pressure for years and years. I was a size 3, had to be in excellent shape, the best at my job, have an immaculate house -- anything I did had to be to the highest standards. Over the last five years that has changed a lot. I learned that my job, my furniture, my body, my clothes, whether or not people liked me -- weren't me. It was very hard to start looking at all the things that stressed me out and stop to ask myself the question: "what if I don't" -- lose weight, make a perfect dinner, have the highest sales, write a blog post every day, publish a book and over time I relaxed about all of those things. When the pursuit of what it is that we think is going to make us happy at some future date begins to make our here and now unhappy, it's time to stop and ask what we're really struggling for. What is it about a particular accomplishment that we believe is necessary to our happiness? I slip -- a lot -- I don't think you can ever completely overcome being a "Type A", but learning to stop and ask why I'm stressing myself out has helped enormously. Plus, I'm old :)

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  7. Excellent post, Melissa. I think we all put ourselves under immense pressure at times. I try to make myself relax, to tell myself it doesn't matter, but at times, it's difficult.

    I do find, though, that the older I get, the less I stress about the little things.

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  8. I meant to say that I just love the new blog layout too. Lovely!

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  9. My life over the past year feels like it has been an endless stream of stressful events. Every time I poke my head up to see if the coast is clear I get slammed again. But I think through all of that, I started looking at the more positive things to help balance out the sense of being overwhelmed and somewhere in there found my mojo again.

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  10. I have really felt the pressure lately and have had to back off a bit. I sat down one evening and thought about who was putting all these deadlines in front of me, then realizing it was Me, I decided to take it easy for a bit and just enjoy it.

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  11. Totally get it about the WIP; stay mum! Talking about it only takes energy away from it...and at the beginning of a boo, in particular, most of us need all the energy we can get to keep going.

    I tried for years to find the perfect balance of everything in my life. Finally figured out there ain't no such animal. Every day is a bit of a teeter-totter...some things get done well, some done not so well, and some not at all. And I'm learning to be okay with that. I really think being in my forties helps. I find I care a lot less what other people think.

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  12. I live in a pressure cooker by necessity, while longing for a crock pot. LOL

    Good for you for sitting on your work while it's still incubating. Play at your blog...use it to let off some of that pressure. Works for me! :D

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  13. We need to set our own deadlines and do it with joy! Or our writing will lose that excitement and thrill we once got from it!
    I do what I can, enjoy what I can and that's it. I am dealing with too much outside pressure trying to find us jobs to worry about all this. If God intends for me to get published, it will happen in his time.

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  14. You might find this interesting, Mel.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AugWiDv17Yg&feature=related

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  15. Your blog is so cute--I love the graphics! And, yep, I feel pressured too. I'm forever trying to find a good balance. Hope you have a great weekend!

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  16. Seems so many can relate to this latest post - me included! One thing I have noticed is if I plan less for one day and keep the tv off, time seems to slow down. It gives me a taste of what it might have been like for the early settlers who led such simple lives. In that time period, I imagine an evening to be quite long and the night also with little distractions. And what we (in 2009) try to pack into one 24 hour period was probably done by the pioneers in like a week or two or maybe even a month! So does that mean that the modern conveniences of today have only contributed to us working harder and being under more stress? Something to ponder!

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  17. Oh yes! I totally relate. It has made me back away from many many things including blogging :) Great post, Mel :)

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