My sister-in-law Linda started a business transforming reclaimed wood into home decor. Reklaimed Designs is hard work, but Linda loves it. Last week I told her, “I could never do what you do. I’m not artsy at all.”
This morning I remembered something.
I took years of oil painting lessons when I was young. As a little girl I was constantly drawing. When my 3rd grade teacher’s wife had a baby, our class used my picture for a congratulations poster. Framed paintings—Julie Christianson, 1981—still hang in my grandparents’ home. But today I see myself as someone with zero artistic skill.
Young Julie—living her best life—under the pig painting she reproduced from a print.
In my dining room sits an old piano that used to belong to my other grandparents (who also had framed paintings of mine). They gave the piano to my family, then I took lessons for years. I composed songs—both lyrics and music—for two decades. Now the piano is out of tune, and I can’t finish songs I once played with my eyes closed.
Even more than paint and piano, though, singing brought me joy. Whether it was choir class, school musicals or concerts, this girl was all in. I won awards and a college scholarship (accompanying myself on the piano). I performed at festivals, for weddings, and with a cover band. Wrote funny songs as gifts for my family. Solos. Duets. Background vocalist on a demo tape. I couldn’t get enough.
Now I don’t even sing in the shower.
Young Julie—sporting questionable makeup and costume—for her lead role in The Boyfriend. Spoiler alert: I didn’t have a boyfriend.
When I was ten I wanted to be a teacher like my father. I also wanted to be an author like Judy Blume. But teaching seemed more practical, so I got my credential and taught high school English. For 16 years I tried to be the best teacher possible. Then I took a leave of absence. And eventually resigned.
Do you see the pattern?
I didn’t until this morning.
Now my mind is blown.
But you left teaching to be an author, Julie. You were following a dream!
Sure I was.
You know what, though? The first project I completed was a memoir about training for a marathon for my 40th birthday.
So you were a runner?
Nope. I just couldn’t decide what to write. Young Adult? Women’s Fiction? Instead of choosing, I took the road less traveled.
Within two years, I’d run three marathons, four half-marathons, and could lace up my shoes for a 10-miler on any given morning.
You get where this is going, right?
I don’t run anymore. Ever.
Holy crap, y’all.
I’m a quitter.
(Damn, I hate thinking that.)
So okay, the word “quitter” might be too harsh. It’s not terrible to embrace new experiences, soak them up, then shift to fresh pursuits.
Maybe instead of a quitter, I’m a trier.
Trier’s a label I can get behind.
Either way, though, I fear what this revelation means for my writing.
I spent the last nine years working with words; revising, polishing and querying. I share blog posts encouraging others not to give up.
Oh! And my kids left for college, which leaves me extra time for authorship! Yet here I sit at my computer, the words elusive. I’m frozen. A fraud.
Fellow writers say they HAVE to write, but I’ve already admitted that’s not true for me. Writing is my dream, but the reality’s hard.
Marketing. Reviews. Sales. These come with the publishing territory, and they bring with them the risk of disappointment. Rejection. Heartbreak. There’s always more to achieve, bigger numbers to chase. Others who are better. Stronger. Faster.
Ah, but comparison is not merely the thief of joy; it’s the swiftest route to misery.
(And I’m not a perfectionist, anyway. I’m a good-enough-ist. Bonafide.)
Maybe that’s what scares me most: that I’ve achieved good-enough, so I’m already withdrawing, softening the blow, making excuses.
I miss my kids. When they’re home for the holidays, I will prioritize them. And did I mention I got a new job? Actually, two jobs. Maybe three. And I still have to walk the dogs!
The pile o’ rationalizations casts a longer shadow than that pig in my oil painting. It’s self-sabotage, no?
But this doesn’t make it untrue.
I do miss my kids. They will be home soon. I have taken on two new jobs. Maybe three.
I can check published-author off my bucket list, then shift to those fresh pursuits.
I could keep showing up to my writing desk. Stick with the hard. Put myself out there. Try. Fail. Hurt. Try again.
It’s a very tempting whisper…
If I want my voice heard, though, I have to stop quitting.