I am participating in an end-of-the-year writing prompt to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. The end of the year is an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead.
Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
I had a harsh critique of my design portfolio recently by someone in the “industry”. The industry is a vague word, but generally, it means someone who’s established in the creative field, whether they’re a designer, illustrator, photographer, video editor, etc. His basic critique boiled down to: You need more industry experience. Which is probably true. But my wounded egoic response was “omg I suck as a designer! I’m low-end. I’m not cutting edge. I can’t compete.” Who the hell am I trying to kid when I say I want to become a freelance graphic designer/web designer? I’ve been slacking on my website for months now at “80% finished”. That last 20%? Fucking scary! It means releasing it into the world. It means launching. It means taking the leap of faith. It means being judged by potential clients who might think I suck! It means the opportunity for failure. It means a lot of things I’m not sure I’m ready for.
It means that despite my crazy year of new beginnings, I’m still governed by my fear.
What does this have to do with writing? To offset, the guy said that my talent as a writer is more extraordinary than my design (which is overshadowed by a competitive market). Except that I’ve never considered myself a “writer”. Ever. Sure, I dream about publishing a book one day and being a novelist. I’ve wanted to be a “writer” since I was little. Right next to “artist” and “teacher”. But how, outside of my more-often-than-not neglected blog, am I a writer? I don’t keep a moleskin handy with my gel pen (black, 0.5 point) to jot down ideas. I don’t write daily. I gave up on morning pages (via “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron). How am I a writer when I don’t write? Not consistently.
The truth is, I don’t really do anything with 100% passion. That “80% finished” website? It’s a metaphor for my life. It’s like I have this aversion for being an overachiever or at 100%. Is it because I don’t want to be the Asian stereotype?? I don’t even know.
When I was in 7th grade, my teacher had “A Projects” which were optional projects every student could choose to do but needed to do if they wanted to get an A. You know what I did? I settled with a B. I thought A Projects were the most retarded thing ever and I didn’t want to put in the extra effort to give myself that gold star “A!” on my report card. Who cared?
As I’m growing older, I’m discovering those A Projects are still metaphorically with me, and realizing my teacher was a social genius. As much as we think we’ve “changed” since those formative years, in a lot of ways, we really haven’t.
This is the #1 thing that keeps me from being 100% on writing, or anything. My 7th grade self criticized the stupidity of A Projects and became angry. A Projects simply pissed me off. But you know what psychologists would say about that? Behind anger is fear. It’s your Little Brain (marketers who worship Seth Godin would also call this your Lizard Brain) feeling threatened and signaling the fight or flight. And so I put up this front of not caring and treating it as if achieving was for suckers who cared too much about external input.
But behind the front, I cared a lot. I wanted to be an overachiever, but I didn’t want to be associated with those labels. I wanted to be an overachiever, but I didn’t want to care so much about being “successful”. These are the themes that I’m still faced with today, on the onset of starting my own business.
Do you want to be an overachiever or underachiever?
A Projects are still haunting me and I realize that I do want to be an overachiever. I won’t settle for average and mediocrity is boring. I want to be exciting. I want to push boundaries. Challenge status-quo. Be extraordinary. I want to resonate all of this with my own business but still I downshift and criticize and settle for my B. I give myself excuses that I don’t need recognition. Notoriety. Fame.
“The Industry” is corporate and I gave up working for the man a year ago, before I set off for Asia to start from scratch. When my friend said I need more industry experience, I say I just need more experience. I’m through with that rat race but I don’t want to enter another entrepreneur rat race just to be left out in the dust because I’m not innovative enough. Creative enough. Bold enough. Or Gutsy.
I don’t want to be rich, either. But I’m doing myself a disservice if I think I can survive another year with my dwindling bank account of less than $3,000. This year, the universe has given me cheap breaks and I was able to spend less than $1,500 the entire year. Most food, accommodations and even travel fare completely free and taken care of. But I’m getting derailed here. I need to make money, and I need to keep my wits about me to do it. While part of me desperately wishes I don’t need money and we lived in a values system society, the truth is that we live in an economy and no matter how much I try to escape “status-quo” and normal society, I still have to play the game.
Being an overachiever is a conscious choice and I need to take the conscious step if I ever want to see my business take foot. Slacking, which is a symptom of fear, won’t get me there. But motivation will… Eliminate my fears and my writing, blogging, and overall business will flourish. I may not consider myself a writer today, but I’m going to write each day to reflect and reverb.
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