Dark room, man holding a lighter to a piece of paper as he considers how to pursue his writing dreams

Pursuing Your Writing Dreams: Your Number 1 Skill

Over the past few months, I’ve been writing Worthiness Wednesday posts on Facebook and Instagram. Last week’s post on giving the fuck up while pursuing your writing dreams struck a chord, so I’m sharing it below:

In 2012, I graduated from James Madison University with my masters in counseling. Completing this program and doing this work felt not just right, but like doing the right thing. I expected to be rewarded with a good job and a bright future. So, when I contracted Lyme disease three months after graduation, I couldn’t understand how that had happened.

Lyme, like many inflammatory diseases, sucks not just because of the physical symptoms, but because of the havoc it wreacks on your emotions. Inflammation in the body and brain makes everything look bleak.

At first, I tried to fight my way back to good health. When that didn’t work, I did a lot of boohooing as I walked along the trail by my house, hoping it would all go away or that I’d at least get some goddamned answers.

Two years in, still with no answers, I stopped asking and instead accepted that I might die like this—living in a pain-riddled body, with a foggy brain, and a heart that wasn’t just broken, but shattered by this experience.

“Okay, universe,” I said, “I accept that this might be it.” Then I prepared for death. While imagining my death, I felt free.

Mind you, I WASN’T SUICIDAL. I merely accepted that death might be the outcome, and that I had a choice: continue battling this misery or make peace with reality.

Ironically, when I stopped fighting life, I got well.

We’re fed a myth that we should always trudge forward and never give up, but I think that’s bullshit. Sometimes giving up IS the way forward because when you drop your sword, you see all your options.

I give the fuck up a lot now.

When too many rejections come in, I imagine what else I could do besides being a writer. Potter often comes to mind. Then I Imagine the joys of wearing mud-stained clothes and the strength of my fingers.

Every time I do this, a door opens, either out in the world or inside myself.

And then, I can carry on.

On both platforms, people shared vulnerably about things like giving up the belief their disease would be cured, work on novels that had fizzled out, and clinging to versions of their lives that no longer existed.

These people weren’t trashing their dreams or giving up on life. Rather, they were relinquishing their attachment to a narrow outcome. Once they let it go, their happiness flowed.

Learning how to give the fuck up has helped me realize when to pull back, take a break, or abandon a project; how to lower the stakes around what I’m working on or stop taking myself so seriously; and how to regain my peace after a series of rejections.

While there’s no magic formula for doing this, here are a few of the tricks I’ve learned that can help you give the fuck up while pursuing your dreams:

  • Identify the outcome you’re clinging to.
  • Make a list of possible results from your dream come true to your greatest fear.
  • Gather your support network.
  • Either alone or with your loving support crew, imagine the worst has happened. Your disease is never cured. Every publisher says no. Your relationship ends. Identify why this outcome matters so much to you and what needs to be healed. It’s likely you’re telling yourself a story about this event that’s causing your suffering. For example, prior to the day I gave up fighting Lyme, I believed I wasn’t worthy unless I was achieving something.
  • Talk back to that story. Here’s my example. If I can’t achieve something great, I’m worthless. Bullshit! My worthiness doesn’t depend on my actions. I’m worthy just as I am.
  • This is the final bit of medicine. Create a plan for how you could be happy WITHIN your worst-case scenario. For example, when I thought Lyme would kill me, I made a bucket list of things I wanted to do and people I wanted to see. (Guess what: Writing a book was on that list.) When publishing fears crop up, I imagine myself becoming a potter, because I like working with my hands and getting messy is hella fun.
  • If you haven’t already done so, call or text someone and let them know how you were feeling and how you turned this around.

Learning to give the fuck up is a skill every memoirist and creative nonfiction writer needs to master—especially if you’re trying to grow your author platform. Figure it out, and you’ll always be able to write on.

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