Illustration of labor of love: photo of man in a yellow t-shirt and jeans carrying two children through a field of red tulips while a third walks on in he distance.

7 Questions to Protect Your Labors of Love

According to the US Department of Labor, the Labor Day holiday was created in 1887 to “recognize the contributions workers made to America’s strength and prosperity.” The time off is an opportunity to trade our labor for others for our labors of love.

If you’re reading this newsletter, it’s likely you’re working on a writing project that’s your labor of love. Maybe you have two or three labors of love, or maybe you see your entire writing life as one big labor of love. I know I do.

I say thank you every day that I’ve arrived at a place where I value myself enough to prioritize my writing and that I get to help other writers do the same.  It’s truly a dream come true.

Yet, while I love living the dream, the word dream can trigger fears that I’ll soon wake to a life where I DON’T give myself permission to write or circumstances snatch it away.

Ever felt that way?

It’s a common form of scarcity thinking that says you are not enough, or you don’t have enough (talent/education/intelligence/fill in the blank) to live the life you’ve always wanted, or worse, you don’t deserve it.

Living in scarcity inspires rigidity and fear-based planning and decision making, because we’re armoring up for battle. To protect our time, we construct elaborate rules around what our writing lives must look like and set arbitrary deadlines for when things MUST happen.

I’m a master at that last one. In fact, setting rigid deadlines (and worse, having too many of them) is my Achilles heel. Part of this is due to a huge zest for life and enthusiasm for what I do. Another part is trauma rearing its ugly head.

People with Complex PTSD have hypervigilant brains. Overfilling my dance card, work plate, and project bucket list is a great way to become overburdened and overwhelmed, which triggers my hypervigilance. When this happens, my brain says, “Oh yay! We’re back to normal.” Except this kind of normal wears you out. It can also make your writing life miserable.

No longer interested in creating my own misery (another skill of mine), I looked up the word deadline. It originated during the Civil War, when prisoners were warned they’d be shot for crossing the “dead line.” When it comes to my goals, I want to be ambitious, but I don’t want to work so hard I feel dead when I reach the goal line.

How about you?

You’re more likely to fall into this trap if a) you’re unaware of the rules you live by b) those rules are fear-based and c) you’re hoping the completion of your labor of love will give you something that comes from within.

As you prepare for that journey, think about creating some December celebration lines instead of simply working toward a deadline. This will help you transform any lingering scarcity into abundance.

To keep from sabotaging your labors of love, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your fall goals?
  • How do you want to feel on the last day of the year?
  • Do your goals align with how you want to feel? If not, what needs to change?
  • What rules have you established around your writing life?
  • Which ones will lead you toward this feeling?
  • Which ones will take you away from it?
  • How will you pivot to ensure you achieve that feeling, even if your goal must be altered or abandoned?

I plan to meditate on these questions during my daily walks past Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring, so I can design this fall’s celebration line.

I hope you do the same. More importantly, I hope this work helps you write on.

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