When the Thing Becomes Too Important

I’m feeling something that might possibly be the beginning of writer’s block.

Writing blog posts took a back seat to prepping to teach the Thing-Finding class.

And then once all of that was over, my post ideas were mostly vague glimmers that I couldn’t quite latch on to. Kind of like when you wake up in the morning and you know you dreamed something really bizarre but you can’t remember the details enough to describe it to anyone. (Or is that just me?)

The glimmers of ideas are coming into slightly clearer focus, and yet it also feels more difficult to put words to paper.

It feels almost as though writing a post has started to become too important.

And that reminded me of other things I want to do but don’t because they’ve become too big a deal.

A couple months ago on Twitter I learned about Zentangles. (Not sure from whom – @AmySeyBrown, maybe?) I was completely fascinated. And I thought it would be the perfect creative outlet for me because it’s simple – you just need a pen and some paper.

But then I read about how the perfect pens for this activity were Sakura Microns.

So I ordered a set.

The first set got lost in the mail (what are the odds?), so by the time I received them over a week had gone by.

(Can you guess where this is going?)

I took the pens out of the box. Opened the package and made some scribbles to see the different pen thicknesses.

And haven’t used them – or made a single Zentangle – since.

So what had happened?

I thought I was giving myself something I wanted by splurging on a set of art pens. But what I really had done was to impose a set of rules for when and how I could start creating.

This pattern is very closely related to the “if only’s” and the “I’ll do x once I ____.”

I’ll get serious about my Thing once I don’t have a full time job.
I’ll write the ebook once our house sells.
I’ll start painting once I can afford an easel.
I’ll knit something once I find the perfect yarn and pattern.
I’ll set up my Etsy shop the next time I use some vacation time.

This stuckness is not about lack of time or equipment or supplies.

It’s deeper than that.

For me and my non-existent Zentangles (and my on-again, off-again relationship with knitting), it’s fear of messing up. Of creating something that’s not good enough. Too much emphasis on the outcome of my efforts.

As for the lack of blog posts, here are some questions I’ve been asking myself about this, along with my answers.

What rules are you trying to follow?

I’ve already let too much time go by since my last post, so I need to hurry up and get something out there.

If I’m going to post something, it needs to be important. And useful. And at least a little entertaining. I don’t want to waste people’s time.

But it can’t be too long of a post. Nor can it be too short.

And the writing itself should feel like it just flies out the tips of my fingers. If the words aren’t flowing, it must not be worth writing.

What are you trying to avoid?

I don’t want to bore people. Or drive my readers away.

Or look like a dumbass.

What’s the kernel of truth in the fear?

That I want my writing to be genuinely helpful.

How can you take some of the importance out of writing a post?

Write about the struggle itself. (Wooo…meta!)

Trust that showing up is, in itself, helpful.

Drop my expectations about how it should look and feel.

Give myself permission to write something even if I decide not to publish it.

Intentionally write something badly. Ramble. Be ridiculous.

Draw a zentangle!*

First zentangle

First zentangle

* This is a perfect example of how getting unstuck in one area (writing a post) can lead to getting unstuck in a completely different area (drawing a zentangle with my fancypants pens).

How about you?

Have you set a condition for doing something (or some Thing), and then found yourself not doing it even once the condition was met? Share in the comments by answering some or all of the questions below.

Or don’t – let’s not make the comments too important. (I would say there are no rules, except, well, there are two: Be nice and no advice.)

What’s the thing you want to do but aren’t?
What rules are you trying to follow?
What are you trying to avoid?
What’s the kernel of truth?
How can you take some of the importance out of it so you can move forward?

(Ahhh…feels good to post again.)

22 thoughts on “When the Thing Becomes Too Important

  1. Mona

    Your zentangle = smiling me over here. Love it. I am enjoying it while laying in my Garden Lounge.

  2. misty

    brilliant post, Victoria!

    i find myself often being stuck, mostly due to some probably-minor underlying fear. i think i mentioned it to you on the thing-finding call…”if i finish this, then i feel like i’m supposed to do this next thing. or this looks hard, let’s find something easy to – ooh, there’s something shiny.”

    writing blog posts have been difficult for me, much for the same reasons you wrote about above. after writing for awhile, i’d start to feel like i was rambling, and that if i actually showed it to anyone that they would get bored, or think it was stupid.

    i think i’m managing to get through that, though, because i’ve posted a few times in the past week.

    and i really love the zentangle. it looks like a lot of fun to create.
    .-= misty´s last blog ..art doesn’t need a reason to exist =-.

  3. Bridget

    I do this all of the time. Especially around book-writing.
    I want my book to be perfect.
    Honestly, I want my book to be mind-blowing. I want it to be orgasmic.
    I want it to be everything to everybody.
    Yeah, see where this gets me?

    My little book of Bridget turns into a big book of unreachable expectations.
    My book can’t be perfect until I’m perfect, and I highly doubt that perfection is going to come in this lifetime (and not too many books are published from the other side).
    .-= Bridget´s last blog ..The amazing thing I learned from my mom… =-.

  4. elizabeth

    I’m so glad you mentioned this. I had to try drawing one myself. They are fun! And slightly addictive. They remind me of the way I used to doodle when I was in school, where you’d just draw a line and then snake it around and around itself in various ways and it would turn out really cool.

    The same thing happens to me every Friday, which is when I’d like to write a third post for my wellness blog. What happens? I am looking for something that is useful, and flows, and I wind up spending the weekend waiting for that magic thing, and then it’s Monday. I’m trying to avoid posting something that isn’t useful (for someone other than me). The kernel of truth is that I do want to be helpful (with the caveat that I don’t always know how something will be helpful, but somehow I feel like what I post might be). I will have to consider how to take some of the importance out of it.
    .-= elizabeth´s last blog ..perfection =-.

  5. Patty K

    Thing I want to do: leave a comment for you
    Rules: not to be lame and say “me too” or “great post” – instead, be profound and offer something useful, interesting or entertaining
    Trying to avoid: looking like a dumbass
    Kernel of truth: I *am* a dumbass (was that entertaining?)
    What can I do: post this comment :) (quickly, before I go and look up how to make zentangles…looks like fun…wondering if I can use my new set of coloured sharpies that I had to order for a project that sat on my floor and *taunted me* for days…I could really relate to your example)
    .-= Patty K´s last blog ..Growing to accept my feet =-.

  6. LaVonne Ellis

    The more I search for tips about how to solve this problem and get WRITING again, the more I see how common it is. In fact, I’m thinking that NOT having this problem is the exception to the rule. Which means that there are millions to be made by the first person to come up with the solution and patent it! Sadly, even that is not enough motivation for me. ::sigh::

    But I do love your questions and will print them out and tape them on the wall above my monitor. Thank you.
    .-= LaVonne Ellis´s last blog ..Stop searching and start DOING =-.

  7. Andrew Lightheart


    I totally get it, especially with writing, especially-especially with blogging.

    ‘Now that it’s been so long, it had better be good…’

    Sheesh. Hard.

    Just so’s you know, you showing up and sharing is helpful enough (I just love hanging out with your words/thoughts) but a framework too?

    Hmmm… My experience of this post: Not. Lame.
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last blog ..And on Saturday I made a superstition =-.

  8. Wulfie

    There’s a lot of truth here. I don’t post regularly either because I have all these ideas I’ve gathered that I need to do first…except I don’t need to do them first. A great deal of my issue is figuring out my thing and how to share it…but being afraid to and not being sure what it is exactly doesn’t help. I was positive attending your Shmoria Thing finding would help me do that and what happens? Voila! Couldn’t even afford a meazely 17 bucks to do it! That so depressed me that I just kind of withdrew thinking such unhelpful things as: Maybe the universe is trying to tell me I don’t have a thing and should just give up on the idea. It’s hard.

    But behind all that there’s the fears that you listed…like looking dumb or whatever. I just have to relax more about the whole thing and go with whatever happens. Yeah?

  9. Josiane

    Ooooh, these questions are brilliant! I’m totally copying them in my journal – I just know they’ll be perfect for when I need to disentangle (di-zentangle?!) something… Thank you for sharing them, Ms. Shmoria!
    .-= Josiane´s last blog ..Middle of the night musings =-.

  10. Victoria Post author

    You guys are the bestest!

    @Mona – so glad you enjoyed the zentangle. It turned out a lot better than I expected. I think I might start making them as cards instead of buying store-bought ones. :)

    @misty – I am right there with you – I find myself stuck on something at least once a day. Especially when everything I do seems to be a new thing that I’ve never done before. The learning…it burns. Keep posting – your writing is *real* – so much good stuff!

    @Bridget – Oh yes…the quest for the perfect orgasmic book. For me, just calling it a “book” is enough to make it way too important. The world needs your book, Bridget. It’s waiting (no pressure, of course). It can get its orgasms elsewhere.

    @elizabeth – You make a great point – sometimes we don’t know whether something will be helpful or not. Which I guess is where trust and faith come in. I think sharing a little bit of yourself will always be interesting and helpful (or at least that’s what I’m learning around here!).

    @Patty K – Oooh…yes, you should totally draw some zentangles w/ your colored Sharpies (if for no other reason than to get them to stop glaring at you)! And you are always entertaining, my dear! I totally relate to not wanting to leave a “me, too” or “great post” kind of comment. It can lead to its own comment-stuck!

    @Lavonne – The rule rather than the exception…I am sure you are right about that! Glad you enjoyed the questions!

    @Andrew – Ahhhh…thank you. Hadn’t even considered that I gave a framework. *struts proudly*

    @Wulfie – You most definitely have a Thing. Finding ways to take tiny, safe steps is what it’s all about. And you nailed it – relaxing will help so much more than trying to force it. I know you’ll get there.

    @Josiane – OMG di-zentangle! That is so clever I can hardly stand it! I hope the questions serve you well!

  11. Rose

    Everyone’s already stolen my comment of “I ADORE YOUR ZENTANGLE!” and I think I might try one myself.

    As for your questions, I’ve sooo many things I’m currently putting off.
    Hmm, to pick one..

    What’s the thing you want to do but aren’t?
    I want to draw more.

    What rules are you trying to follow?
    Work must be completed first (revision, coursework, assignments, lecture notes, key reading)

    What are you trying to avoid?
    Drawing rubbish pictures.
    Spending hours getting the drawing right.

    What’s the kernel of truth?
    Hmm… I used to be good at painting and drawing but lack of practise means I’m now not – i don’t want to lose those labels of being a good artist.

    How can you take some of the importance out of it so you can move forward?
    I could doodle more and make that *count* as drawing.
    I could try alternative drawings; like your Zentangle.
    I can draw with my left hand or eyes closed. And laugh at it after.

    And by the way, this post totally had that awesome flow. (Cohesion isn’t something I have in my own posts all the time – but yours has it).
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Tuesday =-.

  12. Tara

    I do this with every new product idea I come up with!
    I call it “percolating”, but often it’s just building it up into something overwhelmingly AWESOME.
    All that awesome comes with expectations and can’t-get-it-wrongs and ….stuck!

    Thanks for reminding me that it doesn’t have to be SO precious that I can’t try it!

    PS. Knitting! There is not RIGHT way! There is not PERFECT! It’s ALL the process, baby! Even if your item fails, you know that the time you spent knitting it was spent in (mostly) enjoyment, no?
    .-= Tara´s last blog ..How did you Learn to Purl? =-.

  13. Jessica

    This happens to me all.the.time. Now that I’m following a new path, the one I feel passionate about and called to do and all that, I get stuck more often! I feel like when I write something it needs to be smart, funny and helpful because if it isn’t, I won’t be able to increase my readership (or get more “Likes” on Facebook or more follows on Twitter) and I won’t be able to make a living doing what I’m passionate about. And I’ll be homeless with bad hair. And my kids won’t love me. (deep breath) And all that turns into a loop of hysteria which isn’t very productive. Showing up is what it’s all about. Putting myself out there. Risking looking like a dumbass. And having faith that things will work out – maybe not how I plan but how they should be.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Still connected to your ex? =-.

  14. Pam

    Oh Gods I am practially a goddess at this stuff… I will make art when I get the right supplies, when I have the right time, when I have the right space, when my walls are the right colour, when my divorce is finalized, when I have the perfect pen, brush… blah blah…

    I know that I will likely never do these things. Why? Because I am afraid of failing.

    I have so much PRACTICE at failing, but I am still afraid of it.

    I write alone in my little blog, and the only thing that keeps me writing is that I have nothing “ENOUGH” to say that anyone really cares. I WANT people to care, I want to find my Tribe/my Right People, but I am afraid that I will be rejected for not being ENOUGH for them, so I only talk about things that matter to me, searching for a voice anywhere to give me that “ENOUGHNESS” to talk about what I’m good at (which I’m not entirely sure what that is)…

    I feel mediocre. I haven’t done X to make me Y yet…. I haven’t gotten a unique passion, I haven’t acheived a specialized skillset… so I wait and get frustrated.

    And so I write…. laugh…

    Keep writing… I don’t feel alone when I realize that sometimes its hard to find your passion and ENOUGHNESS
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..Judgment Day =-.

  15. Stephanie Calahan (@StephCalahan)

    Awesome posts and questions. It is amazing how perfectionism can paralyze us. I see it in me and I see it in my clients. One of my favorite questions is “What is the worst thing that will happen if I DON’T do this?” and “What is the worst thing that will happen if I DO do this?” Gives me the little kick in the behind that helps me to move forward.
    .-= Stephanie Calahan (@StephCalahan)´s last blog ..Your Priorities – Take the Quiz and See How You Do =-.

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  17. Victoria Post author

    @Rose – Love your answers to the questions! Want to know what I see as the kernel of truth (if I may be a bit of a buttinsky)? That you love making art. It’s part of who you are.

    @Jessica – Oh yes…the stuckness definitely doesn’t go away as we start to do our Thing (unfortunately). “And having faith that things will work out – maybe not how I plan but how they should be.” There is so much wisdom in that, and at the same time maintaining that faith is probably one of the hardest parts of going after our Thing.

    @Pam – Ow…that is a lot of hard. And of course you’re afraid of failing! We all are, no matter how much practice we’ve had, because failing is painful. It’s normal to want to avoid pain. And I absolutely had a hard time finding my passion and enoughness, so you are definitely not alone in that. Hugs for all the hard!

  18. Square-Peg Karen

    Ah, Victoria — I came over here to see what you’re up to (in preparation for our interview later – which I’m SOOO psyched about!!) and I see that you’ve been reading my mind – grin.

    Wow – you so perfectly described both what I’ve been going through AND the antidote (or prescription or kick-ass change or…) – thank you!!! And thanks for your honestly; even if I weren’t going through the same damn thing right now your words would’ve grabbed my heart because of your open-hearted vulnerability!
    .-= Square-Peg Karen´s last blog ..Out of Frustration – Guest Post =-.

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