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I'm working on a new writing project. I don't want to say too much about it at the moment in case I crush the rush of creativity that I am frolicking just now. I'm loving every minute of it. But right at the edge of my vision, like a ghost in an MR James story, there is the spectre of Measurement. For which read: 'How many words have I written today?'
I'm fortunate in that I can write lots in one sitting. Two or three thousand words in a day is not unusual.. I realise this is an enormous gift, because I have friends who struggle to grind out 250 words in a week.I am lucky - I just download the pictures in my brain. (My problem always comes with the next phase, the redrafting, but that's another story.) Once I have decided my hands can't pound away any more, I always, ALWAYS do a word count. I can't seem to help it. Try as I might, its an addiction I can't seem to overcome.
And then I judge myself on the result.
Have I done enough?
What is enough? In our society, where everyone is judged on how much they've done, I watch the children of friends exhausting themselves with out of school activities so they will have something to put on their CV, pushing themselves beyond endurance to do scouting badges, ballet lessons, Duke of Edinburgh awards, amateur dramatics, work placements and volunteering, on top of numberless GCSEs, to prove they are 'well rounded candidates' for whatever job or University place they aspire to. Once upon a time, I was one of them, although I admit the pressure was not so bad then. Trouble is that I am still judging myself on how much I achieve, instead of appreciating that my life can't work that way anymore.
We all need to recognise that our value lies in who we ARE, not how much we DO.
I need to recognise this. When I measure myself, all the joy goes away. I end up frozen into SHOULDland, my creativity stifled by a sense of obligation. That is how I have been for most of the last year with my writing, unable to work. I knew I OUGHT to be working on a rewrite of an existing work because that was what everyone around me wanted. I was using other people's measuring sticks. (They'll only love me if I finish this for them.) Its not their fault. It was how I interpreted their encouragement. And it is amazing how uninspired you can get with that kind of obligation bearing down on you.
Only when I stop judging myself against a measuring stick, and start BEING instead of STRIVING, will my current state of continual, chronic stress go away. Only when I start concentrating on the present instead of always worrying about the future or ranting about the past, will my life start to make real sense, and my creativity truly be released. It's easy to do for an hour or maybe even a day, but to manage it consistently takes a sea-change of attitude that I am trying to implement right now. Every new moment requires the same choice, over and over again:
I choose not to measure myself. I choose not to judge myself. I choose to be myself.
(Oh, and can someone throttle the bastard who invented the CV please? He's responsible for more misery than the entire Tory party put together.)