The Ease of Wanting

Be forewarned: This post is filled with questions and concerns and not a single answer. I usually prefer to hold off writing about a personal creative issue until I can tie it up at the end with an answer or a message or something that I've learned, but I've determined that I may never be able to tie this one up, so I should probably just put it out there and gain some strength or wisdom from the Universe. 

A while ago, I told you guys about my box of ideas and dreams - the little slips of paper that fueled me while I worked at my big job in the city.

The post got a big response. People connected with what I had to say about following your dreams, about having courage and being honest. I meant all of it. 

But there's a reason they say walking the walk is harder than talking the talk. For weeks, I didn't open the box. I thought about it each night before I went to bed - tomorrow I'll read through them. And then tomorrow would come and go, and the box would stay closed. I tried to get myself excited. All those ideas! But the truth - I was really scared. 

What would happen when I opened the box and read through all those little folded scraps? Would I really be able to greet them with honesty and courage?

While they stayed in the box, I could think of them as these abstract ideas hanging out somewhere, waiting to be called upon. And when I was super busy back in DC, I told myself that I didn't really have time to do the calling.

But once I left my job and was no longer "too busy," I knew that it had been - at least in part - an excuse.

The truth was that once I read the ideas, I felt like I would owe them something. I would have to honor them. Once I pulled them out into the sunshine, I would have a responsibility to carry through. And what if I couldn't? Or didn't want to? Or didn't know how?

I finally forced myself. 

I took them with me to a coffee shop and opened them one by one. And I categorized them into piles - craft ideas, career ideas, blog ideas, writing ideas, and miscellaneous. There were things in there that I had completely forgotten - some that I still think are excellent ideas, some that gave me a little pride in my idea-thinking-up skills. 

The end result is both what I had hoped for and what I had feared. One pile was much bigger than all the rest combined. 

Writing ideas.

There were 72 little slips of paper with ideas for books, short stories, articles, screenplays, poems. There was nonfiction, fiction, comedy, fantasy, young adult, children's. There were snippets of conversations and character sketches. There were some with a single opening sentence and some with full-blown plot ideas. 

I sat at the table with my cup of coffee and realized that I was looking at the idea box of someone who wants to be a writer. 

And it was mine. 

I sat. I finished my coffee.

I folded all the pieces of paper back up and put them in the box. 

And since then I've carried them - folded in piles - with me all over the place. I took them in my carry-on to Rwanda. I took them in a canvas tote to Atlanta. They're in my purse right now. 

I keep meaning to look at them, but I haven't unfolded a single one since that day at the coffee shop. 

So what's going on here?

I'm not sure I know the whole story. I know some of it's about fear - of failure and rejection.

But there's also fear of stepping out of the "wanting" phase and into the "doing" phase. Wanting might feel angsty, but how hard is it really in comparison to actually having what you want, or being what you want to be?

Take parenting, for example. I want to have a baby - be a parent - so badly that sometimes I feel physical pain. I know it will happen eventually, but I want it now. I dreamed recently that I was caressing my own very pregnant stomach and cooing to a little baby inside. In the dream, everything was warm and soft and peaceful. When I woke up, I reached down for my belly and instantly burst into tears. The pain of wanting is real. 

But compare it to the difficulty of having a baby - the birth, then getting up 3 and 4 times a night, dealing with temper tantrums, juggling work and family, wondering if you're doing the right things. That's not mind work. That's real work. 

And it's the same story for writing. I think about wanting it, and the longing feels heavy. But right now I'm just jotting down ideas. Can I do the work of being a writer? Getting up early and staying up late to fit it in around my day job, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard until an idea becomes pages of text, revising and editing and re-editing and revising again, learning the market so I know how to submit my work, and stomaching rejection after rejection for who knows how long? Can I do that work? Do I want to do that work?

In comparison, wanting is a breeze. 

So where do I go from here?

I have the blog for now. And some would say - hey! you're writing already! But it feels like a cop-out in some ways. Don't get me wrong - I love this blog. It sustains me in a lot of ways. But I can't do everything, and I have to be honest that right now I'm choosing the blog over a writing practice that heads in the direction of the ideas on those pieces of paper. 

The blog is a lot of work, but it's an easier road than my writer idea box road. It's an instant gratification road. Write. Publish. Bam. 

And I'm honestly not sure which road I want to be on. 

Maybe I can be on both, and I don't even realize it yet.

For now I'm staying the course, but there's a nagging voice that worries I'm taking the easy road, a road where I'm always wanting but never doing the work to have or be what I want.