Every gripping story features a villain. It could be a human bad guy, a hostile environment, an oppressive regime, or a life-threatening illness. I wouldn’t necessarily describe my life story as “gripping”, but I have identified an antagonist.
My nemesis is me.
This thought came as surprise-at least to me. Others may have already suspected the truth. The stars haven’t (yet) aligned to bring me fame and fortune and a recent vacation gave me a chance to step back and evaluate. Why haven’t I finished my novel? Will I accomplish my writing goals? How could I improve my productivity? What techniques still need improvement? You know, the type of questions I avoid in my daily attempts to reach word counts or finish class assignments. After consideration, I realized I can’t solely blame outside circumstances.
Of course, I have responsibilities that don’t involve writing. Of course, I suffer from the obligatory self-doubt and lack of confidence. Many authors have faced and overcome those obstacles and it comes as no surprise that I must also find a way through the maze. However, other forms of self-sabotage can be trickier to recognize and may even masquerade as helpful traits.
As I posted previously, I have a LOT of ideas. (Read my posts here and here.) Ideas for BIG projects that take a long time to finish. In my enthusiasm I often overestimate my attention span and underestimate my available time. Before I know it instead of editing, (come on-it does get boring) I have several books to read, topics to research, photos to label, recipes to try, and blog posts to write.
Under my tires, any ordinary activity can bloat like roadkill. I signed up for a quilt class in 2011. Each month I received material and instructions. The idea was to go home, construct the block, and come back the next month for another one. However, a fellow student suggested making an extra block each month. What a great idea! In the end I would have enough blocks for TWO quilts. Aren’t two better than one? Once I started, I realized I had enough scrap fabric to make three sets of blocks. THREE sets. Three full-size blankets to assemble, layer, quilt, and bind. I finished the last one this year. It’s 2018-six years later.
This wasn’t an isolated incident. I don’t only find one book to read, I find a series. I haven’t rewritten my work-in-progress once, I’ve done it five or maybe six times. Unfinished projects become ongoing frustrations. I get distracted and find it difficult to choose between them.
Sometimes I run out of time. When a holiday, a vacation, or an immovable deadline approaches, projects are pared down. Non-essential elements are tossed like ballast out of a balloon basket. The end product is less glorious than I imagined, and I’m dissatisfied with the results. Since I don’t have a contractual obligation, the novel is easy to put aside and forget. Each time I return to it, I feel as if I’m starting over.
Yes, my nemesis is me. I tend to over-work, under-value, and harshly judge myself. I underestimate the time I need to finish projects and overestimate my ability to stay on task. I have a poor memory and worse handwriting. (What is that scribble, a word?) I tend to be my own worst enemy. Yet, there is hope. I did finish those quilts!
What obstacles have you thrown into your own path? Share in the comments!