no more material girl: on prioritizing passion

I am a woman conflicted. acs_0023

Part of me frets to be fashionable.

I like the way I look, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Je me critique. I need to try harder, spend more money, spend more time.

Then I remember–all I can afford right now is a stream of espresso. The espresso buys me something more valuable: space to write. Hours and pages to fill. Time to work in the lively environment I crave: a bit of clatter and conversation the perfect background to ideas rising like bubbles. I am limited only by my ancient Macbook’s battery life and the closing time of the cafe.

Forget the money, anyway. The real problem is the time. There isn’t enough of it, and I’d rather spend what I’ve got writing. I am hunched over my laptop or I am scribbling unsteadily on my commute or I am seized by an idea while grocery shopping that I must labor to transcribe via a tiny qwerty keyboard.

I am squinting, biting off my lipstick. I am in the zone, my appearance of no concern.img_7950

But when I am idea-less, unfocused, it is easy to see my flaws and easy to care about them. I sit, chewing a pen, taking in my surroundings. Look at her, Mademoiselle Whoever on the sidewalk, on a date, walking a well-coiffed dog. Perfectly put-together. Look at her, frozen in laughter or coquettishness on a poster for perfume.

And me. Crumbs dot my clothing (how do you eat a croissant without this problem?). My hair is not in any arrangement you could call a ‘style.’ My nail polish is chipped. I look tired.

There’s a fix, though, for all of that. And sometimes I give it my time, determining these things a worthy concern. Truthfully, I’ve wasted much time here. I’ve been a material girl, and I do know why: it can be a relief to focus on something so concrete. Change your clothes, change your life. Shopping trips and haircuts and magazines, all of it bursting with promise.

But it’s all distraction. When I spend so much time getting ready to leave my house, so much time caring about it, I feel an undercurrent of dread.

I like looking put-together; I enjoy highly impractical shoes. But this is not what I love. This is not my passion. When my appearance gets more attention than it deserves, my real dream pleads for attention.

I want to write. That’s the real dream.

They say you’re either scared of failure or you’re scared of success. I could never determine which was true for me. Can it be both? What to do when your dream feels so fragile you’re scared to pick it up?

For a long time my writing dream was sitting pretty on a high shelf. It looked good up there, shiny. I wasn’t going to sully it with, say, hard work, risk, or failure.

It was pleasant to guard my dream like a collector’s item. Better to amuse myself with fun frivolity, things of no real consequence. I’d dust my dream off occasionally, make sure it was still there. I’d write a few pages when the mood struck–and look, I could show it to friends!

But I don’t want a ceramic cherub for a dream. img_7421

That means work. That means time. That means sacrifice, letting some things fall by the wayside (like maybe my impossible hair). That means learning to silence the distractions. When the voice pops up, the one that says that my appearance (or whatever distraction du jour) is what deserves my time and energy, I tell it to shut up. I glance at my harried reflection in the window of a designer store with a shrug and a smile. I keep working.

I’m probably not ready for my close-up.

But I’m a writer.

17 thoughts on “no more material girl: on prioritizing passion

  1. “That means learning to silence the distractions.”

    No, make a note of every distraction. Give it space to resonate something deeper.

    Research the distraction like it is the only thing you care about. Find deeply why it was the distraction. Give it complete attention. Does that last photo and that researched distraction pair?

    Fictionalize the distraction through the doorway: how does it smell, where does it take the character…open up the world of sense to the imagination…retain the photographing as the still image just for you.

    Use the imagination to scribe and the world in word de-scribing dis-traction. Give what time is showing you at the moments it removes your focus. GIVE traction to ‘what is’.

    You are a write/or in the imagination which can care or not care.
    You are an author when you give time the nature it offers.

    “What to do when your dream feels so fragile you’re scared to pick it up?”

    This entire piece etched you closer to the dream because it contains everything I mention above. If stuck…revise the old; what new insights appear since writing some of your most treasured posts? The process doesn’t need method as much as process needs a foundation. The method for an author: me-thud (the impulse along with the violent wind)…colorful idea with the heavy sound.

    It’s odd, but your other option is separating the word like meth-od? Which in research arrives you at one origin: late Middle English (in the sense ‘prescribed medical treatment for a disease’).

    Me-thud is from meta- (expressing development):
    wiki: Method_acting#From_the_”system”_to_the_Method

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  2. At first I couldn’t really relate, but the more I thought about it I think I can relate to the problem of distracting yourself from the things you really want to do. It’s something that I realized I needed improvement on while I was in Japan this year – it’s actually why I decided to start a blog of my trip.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing. At first I wondered if this post would be too “girly,” for my audience, but you’re right! It’s not about makeup, it’s about distraction vs passion. Sometimes I’m scared of working hard in a domain I care about…but I’m more afraid of never doing anything with my passion (with my life!) so that wins.
      Have you found your blog has helped with that? I’ll be sure to check it out.

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    2. Diane Oui In France

      What you said about “distracting yourself from the things you want to do” is so relatable. Whether we do it consciously or not, I think many of us can admit to spending too much time doing useless things that don’t get us closer to our goals, whatever they may be. Not sure we all have or need a passion but we should spend more time on things we enjoy because life is short. Great read, Jessica, and great comment, joeygotravels.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is so true! I feel the same stress around bearing down and focusing in on my writing–am I focusing enough? Too much? Should I focus more on focusing?! But I’ve come to embrace distraction. I’ve decided that I’m not going to become a better writer ONLY by sitting at my laptop, that my brain keeps thinking about writing while I’m off shopping for asparagus, or trying on the really pretty slingbacks I probably don’t need, or running, or vacuuming; that in some weird way, those things shuffle up my thinking and make me a better writer because I’m engaging with the world. So write. But also pause. Buy asparagus. Definitely buy shoes. Be happy. And write better because of it. Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great point. I don’t know the magic ratio of engaging with the world vs thinking/writing about engaging with the world, but balance is important. Even the mundane parts of life are more enjoyable when I remember that I can go write about them later. Ideas are everywhere!

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  4. Maniac Mangus

    “For a long time my writing dream was sitting pretty on a high shelf. It looked good up there, shiny. I wasn’t going to sully it with, say, hard work, risk, or failure.

    This hit me SO hard today! Wow, your post popped up on my feed at just the exact perfect moment. Isn’t is beautiful how the Universe works that way? I’ve got the same dream, coiled in my chest, always squirming, sometimes roaring, and often I do that same thing: tiny details to tend to, convenient distractions to avoid going after what I really want.

    Thank you not only for the reminder, but for the resonance, the knowing that I’m not the only one.

    Liked by 1 person

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