Photo by nicolasnova
I thought I was doing everything right.
After lunch I packed up my computer and left the house for a change of scene. I had two ideas jotted down on paper, and two hours carved out of my schedule. And I was setting out to do something I’ve done hundreds of times before: write a blog post.
But it didn’t work.
I pushed my way into one idea about 300 words before tripping myself up on my own tangle of thoughts and abandoning it for a fresh screen and idea #2. With that second idea, I got a bit further—about 500 words—but the kernel of idea I had started with suddenly seemed drastically out of place with where I was headed. And where was I headed, anyway? I cut and pasted, prodded and revised, but it just didn’t feel right.
Finally, I packed up and walked back into the oppressive heat toward home, a few hours poorer and nothing to show for it. In frustration, I sent out a tweet: I wrote and then abandoned two blog posts this afternoon. now trying to convince myself that the past 2 hrs were somehow not a waste…
Back at home, I stretched out on the sofa with a book, trying to forget my sorry afternoon and lose myself in words written by someone else—words that work the way they are supposed to.
The power of an outside perspective
About an hour later, I looked at Twitter and saw these responses to my earlier, frustrated tweet:
@katiengibson: Argh. I know that feeling. Maybe those abandoned posts will lead to some good, rich stuff. (Still stinks though.)
@jnswanson: nope. not a waste. You are a different person than before, even if we didn’t see the words. Because you said them.
@genevievecharet: Consider them therapy!
@jenluit: This is your brain talking: “THOSE TWO HOURS WERE NOT A WASTE. YOU ARE A REMARKABLE HUMAN BEING.”
@shawnsmucker: You processed something in those two hours that needed to be processed. The trajectory of your brainwaves will not be the same.
Wow. I was stunned and grateful, and wrote this in response: thank you for the encouragement—it’s possible that your words have led me to my next post.
No struggle is a waste
I mean, how great is that? Not just the encouragement, which was great for me in that moment, but also this concept, which we all need to hear from time to time: As long as we struggle and think, push and create—even if we try and try, and then seem to “fail”—there is no such thing as a waste of time.
As I get ready for bed tonight, I am not two hours and a blog post short. I have learned something—about those particular ideas I was struggling with, and about the writing process. The “trajectory of [my] brainwaves” has shifted. Those thoughts I pursued have progressed, even if they haven’t been shared. And I practiced letting go of traditional ideas about productivity, and grasping the encouragement of others. I’m pretty sure I needed all of that more than I needed the satisfaction of a quick and painless 600 words, all neatly tied up with a bow.