In Day 6, I wrote about how it was only after I dropped the unrealistic expectation of being a good writer that I was able to write freely and click “publish” so you could read that post. (Thank you for reading it. I love you, have my babies. I have 3 minutes before I need to get on that plane ;)) Dropping the expectation that I had to write a good blog post was all I needed to make that post. I had to accept that if I am a bad writer, that’s okay, I would be fine. I’m still James, I’m still a valued person.
Let’s revisit what I was feeling before I dropped that expectation. I was terrified of writing a bad post. My mind was telling me, “I have to write a really good post this time.” I probably set the bar to what I wrote in Day 5. It had to be even better than that post. Or else I wasn’t “progressing”. Or else I wasn’t good enough.
I was able to relax when I realized that was false. I had been writing for 5 days. I’m not a writer, I’m a wannabe. And I’m going to stay a non-writer until one day I realize, “Wow, I write a lot. I am a person who writes.” At that point, these fears won’t really play into my decision-making. Just as you have no inner fears when you lift your fork to your mouth when you eat. You are simply a person who knows how to use a fork.
(You weren’t always, but you were free to learn because you weren’t expected to know how yet. I remember when I was around 10 years old, I would refuse to use chopsticks. I didn’t know how and everyone else did. And I felt stupid because I didn’t know how and everyone else did. It was safer to use a fork. I eventually learned how to use the chopsticks, but I complained the whole time and hated the process.)
When I dropped the expectation of being a good writer and viewed myself as a newbie trying something out for the first time, I was finally able to post. This is an experiment. I’m a kid playing with Lego blocks. I wonder what those blocks will become? That’s pretty cool, huh?
Now that I look back, I realize that there are deeper reasons for my unrealistic expectation. Now, I can ask the question, “Why?”
First of all, why does my post have to be any good at all? Why do I care so much? Does the 3rd grader care if his story about the tiger and the wooly mammoth is any good? No. He just thought it’d be cool to write a story about the tiger and the wooly mammoth and how they went to the jungle and the wooly mammoth stubbed his toe. Now that story is completely organic. Do you see any desire to “write a good story” there? No. And that’s what makes it awesome.
Inevitably, if a person’s goal is to “write something good” as opposed to “write”, his effort shows in his work. He ignores all of those crazy, creative ideas in his head and instead thinks, “What do people want to read? What will make me look smart? No, that idea won’t work because I’ve never seen anyone write about that before. I need to live up to the expectations of college-educated readers. I want to look like I know what I’m talking about.”
(I just had this thought that I should write about crab-people. That will never come to a person who is caught up in the outcome of his writing. Jakarta, Jamaica, Jordan, Hey Ya! Case-in-point, I write because I want to write. I rest my case. Cheers, guvna.)
Writing doesn’t have to be smart. It doesn’t have to be anything. I could talk all country-like, ya dig? as long as I wrote what I wanted to say. That’s it. Just like that 3rd grader. Is his story good or bad? Does it matter?
There is another “Why?” question. Why am I setting this expectation of myself?
Let’s tease apart this expectation. What is the expectation? The expectation is that I should write a good blog post. Why? Because I have written “good” stuff before. Why does it matter if it is good or bad? Because if I write good stuff, I succeeded. And if I write bad stuff, I failed. Why? Because I have attached my self-worth to whether I write good blog posts.
I held the value that it is good to be good at writing. And it is bad to be bad at writing. Is this a real value? No. Let’s go back to that 3rd grader writing that story. Did he fail because he didn’t split his story into chapters and his story didn’t have a beginning, middle, and end? No. His story was just a story he wanted to write. No goals attached. He wrote it for himself and no one else and again, that’s what makes it awesome.
I want to write. Period. As soon as I attach something to the end of that sentence, my intentions are no longer pure. If I want to write “to make millions of dollars”, I am writing the way I think others want me to write. My mind would think, “What other book made millions of dollars? Harry Potter did! Hmm… Larry Boulder and the Order Of The Blade…Chapter 1.”
This line of thought makes me think of this concept of people who try too hard. The “try-hards” of the world. What does it mean to be a “try-hard”? Well let me think back to when I played League of Legends. I hated losing. And in retrospect, the reason why was because I thought losing meant I wasn’t good enough. That is the key. I thought winning meant that I was good enough, and losing meant that I wasn’t good enough. Is this a real value? No.
Losing is part of the process of playing the game. No NBA team has ever had an undefeated season. To get better, you must lose. But to a try-hard, you value winners. And you despise losers. And the higher you value winning, the harder it becomes to play the next game because you may lose. Some people can’t take this pressure and quit entirely. These try-hards have chosen a completely artificial value to live by. Here’s something else, they are also completely misunderstood by those who do not hold that value. The “non-try-hards” are the people that say things like, “It’s just a game. I just play to have fun.” Those people have not tied their self-worth to winning the game.
I keep looking around and seeing all these values people apply to their lives. Some people value themselves based on their education. Depending on where their standard falls on the spectrum and whether they attained their goal, they draw either pride or shame from it. One person thinks a college education is “good enough”. He went to college and looks down on the high school graduates. He may also think people with PhDs are so much better than him and maybe he feels a little inferior.
Another person sets the bar at college education and couldn’t cut it. He’s the guy who claims “I could’ve done it if I had the right teacher” or “I had to work a job while I was there, you had it easy”. He views college grads like deities and despises people like himself. Yet another person set the bar at high school and went to college. He tells himself, “Wow, I really achieved something here.” He views high school graduates as equals and college graduates as rock stars.
I observed all of this and thought to myself, “So, is college education a real value?” Well, it is as far as it gives you something real you want. Like a job (hopefully)… but beyond that, should we be valuing people based on it? No, a high school graduate and a Ph.D. have the same value in reality. The bar you set is completely arbitrary. It doesn’t actually exist.
What I noticed is even if you are “successful”, you are still driven by these values. You use them to judge others positively or negatively. Think about that the next time you look at a homeless person in disgust. Put yourself in their shoes. If you flip the roles around and think you are a failure if you are homeless, that means you hold the value that your self-worth depends on whether you have a place to live or not. Did the homeless guy fail? I don’t think so. He gets food every day, he gets sleep. He is just as much a human as any of us are.
Time: 20 minutes, 32 seconds
-Stared at the code for a long time and pulled it apart thread by thread. Grueling 😛
P.S. It’s a “longie”, but a goodie 🙂 I loved writing this post. Someone told me that the progression of my blog looks a little like I am slowly going insane. I take that as a compliment. I slowly stopped caring what others thought of me, and started writing for myself. I am that 3rd grader. And that’s awesome.
Epilogue (The Tragedy of Mammoth And Tiger)
The wooly mammoth stubbed his toe. It broke in three places, but unfortunately, the fracture wasn’t caught in time. The tiger kept nagging him to go to the doctor to check on it, but he was too prideful and kept insisting that the toe was “just fine”. The toe got gangrenous and the infection spread everywhere until they finally took him to the mammoth hospital. The zebra doctor had grave news. They had to amputate.
The tiger was besides herself in anger at the world. “Why did it have to be Mr. Mammoth!? Why couldn’t it have been me? Oh, cruel, cruel world.” But the world didn’t answer. It wasn’t cruel. It simply didn’t answer. Fin. (My heart…)