[BREAKFAST WITH THE MUSE] DON'T LET EXPECTATION SABOTAGE YOUR WRITING
|"FRESH START" acrylic painting|
by Linda Lee Greene
ere are the stories of two aspiring writers I worked with years ago:
The first, whom I’ll call “Jane” was positive her memoir was going to be enormously successful. Her greatest fear was that she’d have the press “beating her door down” once her book came out. She’d had a colorful childhood, and her writing was strong, and she thought those two things would certainly lead to success.
I loved this writer--her passion, her energy, her vibrant outlook, but I worried that, once she saw how challenging the marketplace really is, she would falter.
Unfortunately, my fears came true. Her first rejection sent her reeling. When she had a half dozen, she was so devastated she stopped sending her memoir out—and that was the end of her writing career.
The second writer, “Joe,” had very different expectations from Jane. He was sure his magazine articles weren’t good enough for major venues, so he focused on small-circulation newsletters and religious magazines. He got into a niche of writing how-to articles, and racked up a lot of publications. But he never pushed himself beyond that narrow niche. Despite having a lot of talent, he never submitted to a national magazine or tried writing something new and different. He was so convinced it was pointless, he didn’t try.
Although Jane and Joe may sound like opposites, they had the same problem: They suffered from what calls the “tyranny of expectation.”
Whether your expectations are sky high or not high enough—whether they’re making you suffer from shattering disappointment (like Jane) or keeping you from being the most successful writer you can be (like Joe), getting out from under them is one of the most liberating things you can do.
It’s not easy. Most of us will never let go of expectations altogether. But we can all loosen our grip on the expectations that bully and constrain us, at least a little. Here’s how:
When you go exploring, you don’t know what you’re going to find. That’s the fun of it. The writing life isn’t a superhighway to success. It’s a winding path that can take you to beautiful vistas as well as through some pretty dark forests. Keep in mind you’re exploring unknown territory. It’s not going to be comfortable—but it is going to be exciting.
I used to try and fight the blues by telling myself I was certain my next work would be a success. It never worked.
Now, I think of what is possible, rather than what is certain. When you start looking at the possibilities open to you, you realize they are vast, even innumerable. Expectation is all about seeing a single outcome. Letting go of expectations means seeing that all bets are off and almost anything can happen.
Your writing is going to lead you where it will lead you. There is no “wrong” place. There is just the place you are. Relax, and let your writing guide you. Trust it to take you where you need to go.
“A life of no expectations is not a life without hopes or dreams,” writes Bill Bohlman on . “It is a life of striving to attain…goals while constantly remaining aware that, for all we think we know, there is far more that we don’t.”
None of us knows where our writing will take us. Instead of imagining what lies around the next bend, open up to the infinite range of possibilities ahead.
Jill Jepson is the author ofGet her free ebook .
Linda Lee Greene’s novel “Guardians and Other Angels” is at http://goo.gl/imUwKO
Linda’ Lee Greene's novel “Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams,” co-authored with Debra Shiveley Welch is at http://amzn.to/VazHFG