According to one of my favorite children’s books, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk to go with it. And if you give the mouse a glass of milk, he’s going to want a straw (to drink with). Then a mirror (to avoid a milk mustache). Then scissors (to groom himself in the mirror). So on and so forth. There is always something more to want.
I think the writing life can be that way too. If you write a good short story, then you’ll want to try a novel. Once you write a novel, you’ll probably want an agent. If you get an agent, you’re going to hope for a book deal. Then good reviews, bestseller lists, prestigious awards, bigger advances…
Rising expectations are a double-edged sword. It’s good to have goals, and to push oneself to grow. But it’s destructive to never be appreciative of where you currently are and what you’ve achieved.
I often struggle to walk that line in a graceful, healthy way. In fact, I often fail. But lately there are two things – two pretty basic things – that are helping me to keep a better balance.
1. Morning Pages
Made famous by Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, morning pages are supposed to be handwritten and stream-of-conscious. A way to get in touch with one’s inner self, as well as to clear the pipes for creativity to flow. I basically do them all wrong – I type them on the computer, sometimes in the morning but usually just in spurts throughout the day – and yet I still find that they work.
They help me the way that scales help a pianist. [Read more…]