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Dumbing down, Stepping up

fieldhockeyI was a midfielder on my field hockey team in high school and, like the Cancer that I am, I thrilled at the opportunity to both defend and attack in reaction to the other players. We were quite good, but our team as a whole had one major flaw. We consistently played to the level of our opponent. If they were great, we were terrific. If they were bad, we were terrible.

It’s an interesting phenomenon – and it actually reminds me of my deadline issues: if I have a month for a project, I’ll take a month; if I have a day, I’ll take a day. What sort of mindspeak or attitude is it that makes this happen? I can’t decide if it’s a yearning towards the path of least resistance or just plain old survival instincts.

Right now, I’m working on a project that involves a stack of articles – half original and half rewrites. I started with the rewrites in order to get a flavor for the work and the tone of the company, and then I planned to move on to writing the originals. I’d been hired to do the revisions because they were poorly written, and it took me a bit to find my groove in fixing them. I felt velcroed to the mediocrity I was trying to fix, and I couldn’t peel myself away from it, unable to lift myself and my abilities over it. I was playing to the level of ‘the other team’ as consistently as ever.

So, how did I get up and out:

  • Admittedly, I gave myself a virtual ‘snap out of it’ slap.
  • Feeling that I now had the flavor for the pieces, I started working on the originals.
  • When I was filled with my own writing mojo – independent of the ‘other team’ – I went back to the rewrites.
  • In this case, the realization and resulting understanding made a dramatic difference to my brain. Often awareness is key – it brings us to clarity.

This behavior malfunction isn’t always bad, mind you. When you’re playing up to a level where you don’t usually spend your time, it can be an amazing growth experience – for your skills and your confidence.

For me as a writer, the struggle is to be the best me I can be all the time and to stay true. Tune out the other voices and follow mine as high as I can get it to go.

Image credit: Colin Purrington

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Jennifer H. says:

    Been meaning to leave a comment since I read this post a couple days ago. (It’s even better in the re-reading after having had some time to marinate.)

    What a lovely experience to read something that resonates so profoundly; to know you’ve had EXACTLY the same experience multiple times, yet never voiced it nor never heard it expressed in a way that so precisely captures it.

    I’ve been dealing with my own growth project the past few weeks and reading this made me realize I’ve been trying too hard to play to the level of the other team. As a result of reading your post, I scratched my earlier attempts and am creating something much better.

    Thanks, Julie. :-)

  • Julie Roads says:

    Jennifer – what a joyous comment to wake up to on a Monday morning!…it’s actually a perfect compliment to the post I’m writing right now! I’m so glad this resonated and I wish you the very best as you scratch and create anew…

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