Failing Into Practice
A Practice Post
I do not remember the source of this story.
A middle-aged woman, distraught, goes to the village wise woman. “I fear my husband no longer desires me!” she says. “He has not lain with me for months, and I do not know what to do!”
The village wise woman says, “Listen carefully, for here is what you must do: tonight, you both must lay in the bed fully clothed when you go to sleep, on top of the covers, and do not touch each other. Tomorrow night you will wear your nightshift, but he will be fully clothed, both of you on top of the covers — not touching. The night after that you may lay naked under the covers, but he must sleep in his underwear on top of the covers — making sure your bodies do not touch. The night after that you may both lay under the covers, but lay far apart, so that no part of your skin will touch. Finally, the night after that, you may again touch each other.”
The middle-aged woman nodded eagerly and went off to follow the village wise woman’s instructions. Two nights later she was again at the door, in tears and even more distraught as before. “I tried to do as you instructed,” she cried. “The first night, we lay on top of the covers, in our clothes, and we didn’t touch at all. The second night I lay on top of the covers in my nightshift, and we both couldn’t sleep. We tried, we did, but there was just no resisting it — in the middle of the night we turned to each other and our passion was greater than it had ever been! I’m so sorry, we’ve ruined everything!”
The village wise woman just smiled.
NaNoWriMo? Not Much, What’s WriMo with You?
I’m not doing so well on my daily National Novel Writing Month goal.
I’m just over about ten thousand words. Which, in NaNoWriMo words, is like sleeping with all your clothes on on top of the covers. I knew that it would be difficult to do this kind of task this month in particular, due to other commitments — but I was feeling like my creative writing chops were stagnating, that I was spending so much time managing and promoting that the actual work of producing content was falling by the wayside.
I had good days — times when I would get into flow and the words would just pour out as the story unfolded. It was not the story I expected, not at all — the minor character I had thought would be in the background came to the front and demanded a voice. Then they took over the plot entirely. I found extra challenges in the way I presented them. Of course my old friend Imposter Syndrome showed up, telling me that the pacing of the story was too slow, too boring, too trite, or that I had no right to attempt to voice a character so different than myself.
I would try to carve out time here and there — 500 words, even just a paragraph — but the times when I had imagined myself writing I would often simply be too tired. Turns out it’s difficult to juggle a portable keyboard on your lap while you’re trying to write on your iPhone in a car driving cross-country — who knew?
- I re-committed to this blog shortly after the election, and that has resulted in thousands of more words and a recognition that I still have things to say.
- I’ve had my patrons for my podcast (with whom I’ve been sharing my novel-in-progress) write me and tell me they are enjoying it.
- I’ve had dreams almost every night that contained hooks that would make for great stories: what if every time you crossed the street you needed the consent of those around you to keep from shifting into alternate realities? What if you were at a garage sale and suddenly you could hear the voices of all of the items, telling you their history?
- I’ve had a past writing selected by the NaNoWriMo editors on Medium included in their choice of recommended works.
- I successfully scheduled a post to appear both here an on Medium last Friday, which makes me feel like I am Mastering Time and Space.
- This morning, when I woke early and couldn’t sleep, instead of laying there letting my brain go down corridors of insecurity, or mainlining dopamine via some social media, I got up, made coffee, and sat down to write.
In short: I’ve written only ten thousand words for this novel, but my writing habit is back.
Shoot for the Moon, Enjoy the Clouds
The moral of the story, for me, is that it doesn’t really matter if I hit my 50K goal. I’m not giving up, mind you. There was a moment in the middle of the Open Space I was doing in Columbus when I suddenly saw, clearly, what the next two scenes in my book would entail. I’ve got at least two thousand more words in that alone.
But if I get to November 31 and all I’ve got are thirty thousand words, have I failed? Only if I choose the most narrow and draconian definition of success. Instead, I’ve already succeeded in making positive changes to my habits through simply trying to do one very hard thing.
Think about that practice that you wish you did more of. Meditation, sharpshooting, knitting, encryption. Whatever it is, set yourself a goal that seems way out of the realm of possibility. Then pay attention to how the mere act of working towards that goal is, itself, a success.
Then keep doing it. Or not. There is no “final level” or “happily ever after”. Just a new story to tell yourself, every day.
Gray Miller writes about personal development at Love. Life. Practice. He has written a book on meditation (or tomatoes, depending on how you read it) as well as multiple works of tawdry fiction. He lives in Madison, WI.