(day -10): all the ways my mind is telling me this is a bad idea

When the initial euphoria wears off and dread begins to set in, we can say to ourselves, "Yes, this is hard, and yes, we can do hard things."

I had a great time writing yesterday – I even got back to the manuscript I had been stalled on for weeks now and wrote to my heart's content and more with such joy and delight – so much so that my mind came up with the most inventive excuses to not take on this writing challenge at this point in time.

These were literally the thoughts that ran through my head when I woke up this morning.

  • Your arse has become so fat. Shouldn't you spend time and money on losing weight instead?
  • You will write for a day or two, and then you'll run out of ideas.
  • What's the point of writing so much? Who's going to read all these stories any way?
  • It's going to be summer soon. You don't want to spend all that time indoors, writing!

And so on, and so on ...

Today I had the sense to not run away with these thoughts but instead let them come. Oftentimes, I felt really bad at the things my mind was saying to me. I mean, how could someone say such mean and nasty things to themselves!

I've also seen that the meanness ramps up in tandem with any success/happiness I'd have experienced recently, as if to compensate for that joy, as if to stop myself from getting too used to being happy because who knows what curveball will come my way next and topple me from that podium of joy?

It's partly my fault because after a good writing session yesterday, I stayed up a little later than usual to finish reading a murder mystery I was in the midst of. And then I didn't get enough sleep, and woke up completely tired and exhausted and not in the least prepared to face this expected onslaught of thoughts.

But what follows is even better, and shows me that I'm on the right track.

Because the morning had gotten off to such a rough start, I knew I'd head for email and Whatsapp first thing to soothe myself, so I was mindful enough to not do that. I also knew that I wouldn't write much if I were to stay at home, so I offered to drop D at camp at his school so that I could head to the library from there.

And I spent a delightful hour, writing more than my daily threshold, although a little less than I managed to yesterday, but it's still a massive win in my opinion.

Alternate-me would have given it up as a non-writing-day and deserted writing fiction in favour of working on the newsletter instead, and then told me that this is proof enough that I'd be aiming too high if I were to sign up for the writing challenge.

I am truly amazed at all the ways in which our minds can quickly work against us and not in our best interests if we're not careful.

Experts say that this is the mind's way of protecting us from what it perceives as a threat. For instance, it could keep me from writing so that I won't have to face rejections or a bad review.

But if our mind is so intelligent, why won't it also allow for the fact that I'm so much happier and energetic and positive and cheerful after having written than if I were to skip writing that day? Why won't it allow for the fact that I can only write what I can write, and that there is no way to guarantee a 5-star review or a huge spike in book sales?

This is why we can never understand how much it truly takes to stay on the path to success unless we try it out ourselves.

It is very easy to look at other's successes in hindsight and fail to perceive the effort and staying-power and mindset that journey would have surely demanded of them.

Movies and memoirs fail to capture this struggle without romanticising it. In fact, these snapshots of other people's success trick us into believing that if we're passionate enough, we too can be successful, and that if we're not able to achieve our goals then there must be something wrong with us.

Of all the positive affirmations I tried to say to myself this morning to come out of that spiral of defeatist thinking, the one that worked for me today and the one I can say with complete belief in was this one: This is really hard for me today, and I can do hard things.

a tiny sapling growing out of a grey rock
growth in an unexpected place / Photo by Nagara Oyodo on Unsplash

I realized today that the thought of waking up and writing 2,000 words every day for the next ~300 days was terrifying me. Some days it excites me, like it did yesterday. Some days it terrifies me, like it did this morning.

Because these feelings are so transient and keep shape-shifting, it is probably best not to use them as a guide for action.

High-performance coach, Sarah Arnold Hall, said in a recent podacast episode (or maybe she posted this on her Instagram) that we should make four things part of our plan: dread taking action, undesirable outcomes, people not understanding, and extreme discomfort.

This was a useful reminder to me this morning, that 'dread taking action' and 'extreme discomfort' were showing up in full force and that I'd succumb to them if I were not careful.

And I am really proud of myself for showing up to work and for making the plan to get to the library so I could focus more. One hour, that is all I need, one hour, I said to myself over and over again.

So yes, even though I haven't yet officially signed up for the challenge, I know I'm doing it no matter what my mind tells me between now and April 1st, or even between April 1 and December 31.

Yes, this can be really hard, and yes, I can do hard things.