Writer Satisfaction and Self Sabotage

Satisfaction is another way of saying, “I quit.” Or at least that’s what I’m going to be telling myself from here on out. 

The thought occurred to me as I watched the analytics for the blog climb. More and more people are making their way here, far more than I honestly anticipated. Sure, I started the blog with the idea that it would be a way to reach out to others and make connections in the world of writing, but deep down I expected it to be a failure like so many other projects I’ve half started.

In fact, along the way I’ve tried to sabotage myself by saying things like “Oh, well those are just people I know who are nice enough to stop by.” Or, “Mom must have found a way to drive up page views.” And then there’s the, “Well those people aren’t really hanging around, they stop in for a second, think it’s a bunch of rubbish, and then leave.” But the numbers keep going up, and I’m finding fewer and fewer ways to dismiss them, (and trust me, I’ve tried).

So I went and found a new way to try and sabotage myself. “The blog is doing so well, why do I really need to keep worrying about getting my work published? It’s such a hassle. Why not be satisfied with what I’ve already accomplished?”

I stopped myself. Realized what I was doing. I was trying to get out of taking a chance, to turn something else into a non starter. After all, as an old soccer shirt of mine once said, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot.” And if you score, well, people might expect you to score again. Or what if you don’t score the next time? What will they say? It was just a hat trick. Nothing really special about that guy.

Then again, if we never shoot, never score, never try, we can never be told that we are not great. We can always fall back on, “Well, I could have gone places if it hadn’t of been for that knee injury.” And you know what, no one can say, “No you wouldn’t have.” And therein lies the beauty of never really trying.

“If I just wouldn’t have waited to the last minute to do that paper, it would have been great.”

“If I would have left on time for that interview I would have landed that job.”

“If I just would have gotten enough sleep the night before I could have won that race.”

Admittedly, being satisfied is a good thing. It brings a great deal of peace to our lives. We just have to be careful with what we decide to be satisfied with, or more aptly, why we choose to be satisfied. If you decided to be satisfied with the amount of money you earn because frankly the extra hours to make more would take you away from your family, I’d say that’s a good reason.

It’s hard to believe, but sometimes small successes stand in the way of the big ones. My small success senior year of high school was breaking the school record for the 400 yard dash. I grew cocky. Let my grades slip, dropped a class that I thought was too easy for me and then mid way through track season found myself cut from the team because of poor grades. I was able to get my physics teacher to change my grade for me after a few weeks of dedication to his class and being outright pathetic in everyone’s presence. But by the time I got back on the track I was weeks behind in training. The night before league I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning working on a Spanish presentation that I should have done earlier in the week.

The next day I broke the school record again. It was the fastest I had ever run. But it wasn’t fast enough. To this day I still hold the school record for the 400, but that doesn’t get your name on the gym wall, winning at league does. Not sabotaging yourself so that you have excuses gets your name on the wall.

Maybe there was some part of me that thought that having an excuse would help. Honestly, it doesn’t. At the time it did. Oh the excuses I made: “the other runner was a year older than me because he was held back,” “I heard they oxygenate their blood before they run,” “I didn’t get enough sleep,” “I didn’t get to train as much.” While those excuses helped at the time, looking back on it, I see it for what it was, an embarrassment.

I can even remember being disgusted with the other runner for not showing up at subsections a week later as the top two spots always do. Third place got to run in his stead. First place didn’t show because he was sleeping off a hangover that he earned from a wild night of partying at their Jumping Frog Jubilee the night before. Maybe he was sabotaging himself too. Who knows. What I do know is this, he already proved what he needed to, I didn’t.

I’ll never know what would have happened that day if I’d given it my all, if I’d come prepared. And frankly, that hurts more than the losing, because you know what, I lost anyway. Better to lose but know that you gave it your all than to always have to wonder about “what if.”  

So I ask, are you standing in your own way? Are you doing things in your own life that amount to self sabotage? If so, be wary of it. Because in the end, we all want our names on the wall but we have to write them there ourselves.


Paige Bruce said...

What an intuitive article, heh. See, that's what I like about visiting your blog - you seem to take very good stabs at the key issues surrounding what makes people successful and what makes them "wannabes" for the rest of their lives. (And why you should keep doing the blog, but at the same time focus on your goals!)

I settled for a lot of things in high school - I had good grades, I knew I was going to get into university, etc. I wasn't challenged by what was around me, so I settled and never made the effort to challenge myself or to have others challenge me. It bothers me know because who knows what else I could have achieved? There are so many opportunities for high school students to take and so many of them settle and don't go for them. Like me, they're left to try and fix this after they're out into adulthood, when many of those opportunities are gone.

(On a completely different tangent, I moved my blog to paigebruce.wordpress.com if you'd still like to follow what I've got to say too. :) )

Anonymous said...

Ah, regrets.

I used to play the "if only" game. "If only" I applied for that scholarship in high school -- I could have went to Manhattan School of Music. "If only" I had competed in the NCA -- I would be singing at the Met right now. Etc., etc.

It almost destroyed me, playing that game.

Then, during a very low point in my life, I realized that, yes, I could have had those things. But instead of dwelling on the fact that I had missed out, I began to look at what it would have cost to achieve.

Had I competed in the NCA and won, yes, I would be singing at the Met right now -- BUT -- it would have meant agreeing to break up with my (then) boyfriend. (Yes, there's a story there.) Which means, we would have never married, never had our three boys.

If I had applied for the scholarship to Manhattan, sure, I'd have a pretty BA to hang on my wall, but I would have never learned the lessons life has taught me along this path.

My realization revealed to me this: We all make mistakes, but learning from them is what matters.

Without those lessons, I wouldn't be who I am today. I wouldn't know any of the joys that I have in this life -- my husband, my kids. And because of that, I can't regret the past because it has led me here, to them.

So I don't.

I don't waste time thinking about "what could have been" anymore, because I have the "here and now" -- to enjoy, to make decisions in, to create in, achieve in, and yes, make mistakes in.

To live and learn.

Ultimately, it's up to each of us what we will do with it. But, if we're mired in yesterday's regret today, what will happen to tomorrow?

"If we fill our hours with regrets over the failures of yesterday, and with worries over the problems of tomorrow, we have no today in which to be thankful." -- Charles Dickens

Good post, David.

David Noceti said...

Darn it. Sorry Paige, I replied to your comment earlier today but apparently it didn't post. Grrr. Maybe I should make the switch to wordpress too. :) Hope you don't mind me rolling your reply into my reply to dahmijva as well.

I'd say that the key out of all of this is to learn from those missed opportunities. While we may love where we are now, that's not to say that we would have not also loved the other place we could be had we chosen the other path. We would have been ignorant of this present course and therefore unable to miss it.

That said, I still wouldn't change anything. I love where I am too. But I can learn from my past failures so that in the future I don't repeat them. There's no reason we can't be successful at what we love and still keep those we love. There's a way to make it work. I'm sure of it.

And hopefully they'll quote me on this some day: to regret where you've been is to regret where you are because you could not have gotten there any other way.

For those of you who haven't already, check out Paige's page (I know, I've said that before, but I just love the play on words). She's starting a little series (I think it's going to be a series) on how to develop female . . . er women characters. :) You'll understand the correction after you read the post.

Post a Comment