The Breaking Point

One of the best things about growing up is that I have a lot more opportunities to do things I want to do. The hardest part of all of that is figuring out how to get myself to actually do that. 

My favorite example of this is the first time I shot an AR-15. I had always been curious what it was like to shoot a gun, because I grew up thinking that the world was silly for needing guns. But when you grow up, you start to change your mind about things, or even sometimes change your mind back. So my husband took me to a local shooting range and we rented an AR-15 (because that's the one I wanted to try) and bought some ammo and went out to shoot.  

Shooting guns is a lot louder than I would've thought. It's really loud. Movies now seem slightly sillier to me. AR-15's are even more loud than the regular guns. And I don't like loud noises. I'm a quiet person, and always have been. Crowds and noise aren't my cup of tea. They're more like my cup of Metamucil, where I don't want to actually have to drink it but if I need it, I need it. 

My husband shot first, making me even more nervous. It was really loud, and there's the kickback to consider, and if I am doing it right, and if I might accidentally kill someone (we were the only people in the rifle shooting lane section.) 

He handed it to me, made sure my hands were in the right place, (he's such a good husband), and waited for approximately 20 minutes while I had to talk myself into actually squeezing the trigger. He is a really good husband too, because he didn't make fun of me for giving myself mini-lectures and triple-checking the mag. 

I finally, finally, finally shot the AR-15. 

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The kickback was minimal and manageable. The noise was sharp but it passed quickly. 

If you can't tell from that alone, I don't like to take too many risks. I think you have to, if you want to get what you want out of life, and I agree some risks will happen whether you decide to engage with them or not. That doesn't mean I go running after them or enjoy them all the time. 

So when I decided to really try - something that doesn't happen too often, really - to be a writer, I found I reached my breaking point pretty quickly. When you're like me, you don't really just write, although there's a whole bunch of trickery involved in getting me to get that done. There's also the marketing, scheduling advertisements, and all the pretty things like book covers and getting my manuscripts professionally edited that make me excited. I'm running a small business all by myself, essentially, and I am ready to fire myself for any number of things, including insubordination, tardiness, slacking on the job, poor financial habits, and poor management. 

I have a profound amount of respect for small business owners because of this experiences. I can't even imagine having to afford taxes and healthcare and paying employees. I can't even really support myself. As time has passed, I have gotten better about where to invest my time and money and interest. I have had some better luck in getting myself to cooperate with deadlines and writing quotas (I blame my characters now if I don't meet them. Hey, part of success is knowing who to blame, the casts of characters running around in my head are all pretty willful.)

But it was a risk, and I took it. And it's an ongoing risk, too. I love the results - I am a writer. I have something to say to the world, and I think the world would benefit from what I am saying. But I hate the work. I'm sitting here right now, blogging in order to get out of housework, because I hate housework, but I need a clean house to write in, otherwise I won't write as well, and ...

And it's a vicious cycle of sorts. I've had to risk again, and I've reached my breaking point again and again and again. Picking yourself up after disappointment is one of the bravest, hardest things I think a person will ever do. Even with God by my side, I don't always get that chance to move forward immediately, or on steady ground, or even with both feet. I have to crawl forward until my hands get too tired and my stomach is tired of dragging on the ground before I find the strength to stand up is less than the strength I need to deal with the irritations along the road that are rubbing me the wrong way.  

I like how Donald Miller says how one of his friends, Bob Goff, quits something every Thursday. In some ways, I feel like quitting something is easier than trying new things. In other ways, I know I'm equally bad at both, especially if it's something I love even though I hate it. 

As a writer, I know I risk rejection a lot. I've cringed at some of the reviews people have left for my books. As a Christian, I know I have to make risks, too. I risk my pride, my ambition, my leadership, my pleasure-seeking center ... 

I could go on. But that's the thing about the things you want and the things you chase and the things you love. You have to take the good with the bad. I have to take the good with the bad, and there's no guarantee that the good will outweigh the bad. You risk a lot when you commit. I have to learn to live with my choices and myself. 

So right now, as I am sitting in front of a sea of laundry, if I am going to write well, I know I'm going to have to fold it and put it away. I'm looking at bills, and I know if I am going to be a writer, I'm going to have to learn from some of my mistakes with money (probably starting with the idea of spending less). If I'm going to be a writer after God's own heart, I better read my Bible more and Facebook less (let's face it, I have to read Facebook way less) and finally actually really do the things I need to do.

That's enough of a to-do list to make me depressed. 

Oh well. Better get started. 

C. S. JohnsonComment