What happened to my Summer of Writing?
I wanted to Be More.
I started with a grand intention of being a regular writer this summer.
Crazy enough, I definitely did less than I expected. Maybe not in a good way. Maybe it was good. TBD.
But, this line that I wrote was prophetic:
Isn’t it crazy that to be more … I might actually need less?
I can’t tell if I had the wrong goal or the wrong season.
Here are my thoughts on both:
I set out to write an essay once a week during the time between Memorial Day 2018 and Labor Day 2018. It was pretty noble. I didn’t think it through much. It just kinda felt like a decent goal.
There are 14 weeks in this time period. In retrospect, I wish I knew this.
I wrote 4 essays in 14 weeks.
If I was in school, my grade would clock in at an F, or 29%.
However, I didn’t have a decent concept of how long it would take to write an essay. I found that it was taking me about 9 to 10 total hours of drafting, redrafting, copy editing (thanks Paul!), reformatting on Medium, figuring out the best photo, etc. until it posted.
Maybe 9 to 10 hours is too much. Honestly, it felt like too little and I’m almost embarrassed at confessing the minimal time I did devote to each essay. I may have insulted every good writer out there in calling myself “a writer.”
So jamming 9 to 10 hours of activity per week would sound reasonable…if I didn’t want to live fully engaged with my family during the summer. Because the summer sun sets later, I was motivated to squeeze in as much time with our kids and my wife.
The Summer of 2018 was positioned to be awesome — and it was.
But it would only be awesome if I was present.
Crazy enough, I was also pretty prophetic about that in my Be More essay — my primary goal for the summer was to “be more present.”
How do you rebound from having a bad goal?
A year ago, we were pretty intent on teaching Hope, our youngest daughter, how to ride a bike without training wheels. The freedom of riding a bike is pretty important to a youngster.
We had an alternative model we wanted to try with her: learn to ride a bike before we even put training wheels on.
She hadn’t learned to ride with training wheels, so we rationalized: let’s just skip that step.
We got set up with the helmet, the bike, the empty school parking lot, and a dream of childhood joy of floating around on a two-wheeled bike.
Of course, this crashed and burned pretty hard. Hope never was able to keep her balance, no matter how many times we repeated: “Keep pedaling, Hope! Keep pedaling, Hope!”
Instead of calling it a total failure, we picked her up, dusted her off, and added the training wheels.
It wasn’t a good goal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a goal worth pursuing at some point.
Rebounding and recovering from a bad goal requires 1/ at least trying the first goal and 2/ readjusting once you find out it’s not achievable.
But ya gotta try first.
I’m the king of bad goals. This isn’t a distinction that I relish, but I’ve set forth goals that are both too easy, and too difficult and getting that right mix of difficulty and achievability is basically the day-to-day work of a leader and a person who wants to be better than I was the day before.
I think goals are great. I wish we could all achieve them. But when you don’t, it’s not because you’re a failure. Consider if it’s even a goal worth pursuing.
For me, my family, my coworkers, my work…I want us all to achieve. I believe deeply in the achievement.
But adjusting your targets and expectations should be baked in to how we even set goals.
Don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a long time making it.
Know when to call Uncle. Be ok with increments instead of achievements. Rebound instead of crumble.
Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming — John Wooden
When it comes to writing, I’ve found that I need a mix of the right timing and the right time.
That basically sounds like the same thing, but I think they’re different.
The right timing is akin to “striking when the iron is hot.” I’m not always tuned into what I need to say in an essay, even if I wanted to squeeze something out.
I started the summer with a list of about 20 essay ideas. Titles of things that I wanted to write on, and some even had rough outlines of the points I wanted to cover.
Again. I wrote 4 essays. So there’s a lot I’ve left unwritten.
Some of those topics are left undone because I didn’t “feel” passionate enough to apply energy to them. Some were very trendy titles that could have brought me more views, but were just for attention.
Even this essay: I had aimed to write it by Labor Day weekend to kind of put a bookend to the summer. I sorta forgot that the end of the summer is more wildly paced than almost any other season in our family’s life. So, it was started back in August, and I’m just getting back to it.
This summer, I had a few strong ideas, but I went back to the well for more ideas, and I don’t think they were there.
What happened? Where did the ideas go? Was this the right time to even be doing this?
How do you deal with your life’s seasons?
During my first days as a freshman at Penn State University, I wore this Northface jacket that I was in love with. It had all the tech a jacket could have: clever pockets, warming fabrics, waterproof.
The only problem: the temps were still in the mid-to-high-80s. Super hot. Not jacket weather.
It was either my own pride or my own stupidity that had me sweating it out in that jacket.
Wrong season, brah.
Living in the Northeast of the US, we get all the seasons. My fingers are crossed that we could actually enter into autumn soon, or as my youngest calls it: “leaf time.”
The earth reveals its own rhythms in these seasons: the days aren’t much different, but what occupies them are so different.
The sun rises, shines, and falls. It makes way for the stars and the moon.
It’s pretty predictable. The rotation and orbit are pretty fixed. Constants.
Days can get mundane for us, but it’s the season that invites us to new occupations. New challenges. New disappointments. New glory.
In order to weather the seasons, I’ve found that I need to have constants. Or at least be reminded that they are important.
For work, I need to be reminded that even ground-breaking ideas required the grind of work. Also, I need this: You’re never as good as they say you are, and you’re never as bad as they say you are.
In my field of design, it’s important to remember that a lot of the stuff we’re making is so timely. We delude ourselves into thinking that we’re as timeless as Dieter Rams or some other design hero. But. Look back on your portfolio. If anything, we’re so seasonal but think we’re not.
For home, I need to be reminded that every success with my kids and family required a bunch of small and seemingly insignificant — but extremely important — acts of leadership, kindness, and intention.
And in general, I need to remember that seasons are actually constant, too. Unless you’re stuck in Florida, which just seems like a bad idea at all times. 😉
Constants are the things that remind us that this isn’t forever. And conversely, they can remind us that there are forever things.
My son broke his arm yesterday. On our way to the X-ray, he started counting all the ways his life will change: no soccer, no cello, no Fortnite (GASP!). It might feel like forever when you’re in the midst of something gnarly.
We gently reminded him that it will heal. And maybe more importantly, that we (his family) are there to help and support him in the same (and new) ways. He has a tribe. His arm will heal.
This season will end. I need to be reminded that it too is a constant. There is a terminus. But there is also a beginning of a new one. Try again. Adjust.
Until then, live.
Vivre sans temps mort. (Live without wasted time) — Parisian political slogan
On writing more
I enjoyed making these essays. I heard from a lot of you either online or IRL, and in some way, connecting to you was the best part.
Putting time to write my thoughts publicly is important. Like I wondered at the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I had to say anything of value. Even if there wasn’t a meaningful contribution to our world’s discourse, I’m ok with that.
Thanks for joining me on this journey so far. I’m looking forward to what the next season brings.