Never, Never, Never Settle
This coming week is chock full of activity over here. Not so much at Whiskers on Kittens, but in my life. I will be proctoring the ACT test for a homeschooling high schooler, getting the ball rolling with another homeschooling high schooler for her Latin, English, and Art studies, and, in the down time, I’ll be starting my third edit of my first novel, I’m Glad There Is You (see post here).
Now, while preparing my lesson plans in Latin, I came across one of my favorite verbs to conjugate. Paro, parāre, parāvi, parātus. This verb has gone through an evolution of meanings, but the definition I always teach is to prepare. How appropriate that this word would catch my attention as I’m preparing for such a busy week ahead. In truth, administering the test and teaching the classes doesn’t bother me. I kind of look forward to that bit. However, the third edit has loomed before me rather dauntingly (I think of it as, THE THIRD EDIT- yep, I went all caps there; I can almost hear it sung by some tenor, like the one who hits that penultimate B note in Nessun Dorma. Yes, I think about this that dramatically).
I don’t know why this is exactly. The third edit entails simply reading the manuscript from cover to cover, not making corrections, but just noting where I feel the narrative slows, gets boring, gets repetitive, or feels unnecessary. Easy peasy, right?
Yet, I’ve been shying away from it because, truth be told, I’ve been afraid. Having accomplished the completion of the novel and gone through two big edits already, I’ve been faced with the internal mantra: can I do this again? do I have it in me? will my re-writes be successful? will I convey what I want to convey? really, can I do this?
Of course, when I get over my emotional high horse, I realize how ridiculous that mantra really is. I mean, I’ve written the novel and survived the first two edits. With each edit, the novel is coming into a truer sense of itself, sloughing off the extraneous so that the heart is more readily seen. Yet, those pesky emotions keep tripping me up.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. If I had let fear have free reign, I would not have written the novel in the first place. I wouldn’t have made it through two edits. I wouldn’t have started Whiskers on Kittens. I wouldn’t be writing my second novel.
Fear is debilitating. It will talk you out of your dreams if you let it. And, here’s something I’ve learned in the last weeks as I’ve marshaled myself to face this particular third edit fear: fear thrives in your comfort zone. What’s the comfort zone? Well, I’ll give you mine. I have this book I’ve written and I love it. It’s pretty good. It has a lot of quotable and lovable bits. I re-read them when I feel a little low and come to love them all the more. I’m attached to them. And… I really hope I don’t have to edit them out because they make me smile, and I like them, and, and, and, and… My comfort zone is settling into what I’ve already accomplished as though I don’t have anymore to learn. But, I have miles to go before I sleep, dear readers, and I can’t settle for almost good enough. I can’t fear constructive criticism. I need to learn how to grow in it or else I’ll never produce anything.
Here’s another definition of parāre. To produce, to provide, to supply. Not to get all biblical, but there’s a pertinent portion of scripture regarding growth and comfort zones that ties into parāre.
Let me translate: you will never really, truly grow unless you get uncomfortable. For example, if we wish to become physically fit, we must tear down our muscles while working out, feed our bodies all the appropriate healthy, nutritional foods to rebuild, get enough sleep, and stay consistent in this regime until we see the results.This is not a comfortable process. Yes, we can grow to love it, but, if we’re honest, there are days when its just not what we want to do. Netflix and a bottle of wine or tub of ice cream sound way more comfortable. However, the end game is well worth the discomfort. In fact, the discomfort is essential. Point being, dear readers, is if there’s no resistance, there’s no growth. If there’s no discomfort, there’s no production.
Growth cannot happen in one’s comfort zone. We’ve seen innumerable quotes concerning this. I used one the other day by Eleanor Roosevelt (see post here). American author John A. Shedd’s quote has lilted through my mind during these musings.
My husband will tell you this; it’s the sailor in him. He’ll echo Teddy Roosevelt’s idea that a ship should not be left to rust and rot in port, but should be fulfilling its purpose out on the seas.
A ship was made to launch out into the deep. It was designed and engineered to traverse the vast unpredictability of the oceans. Waves and storms and squalls and any number of frightful things are potential encounters. But, if a ship remains in harbor, it will never go anywhere. Ever. And it was built to go places.
We, each of us, are like ships. We, all of us, are purposed to go to our unique places. More often than not, getting to those unique places is fraught with cark and care. The unknown usually is. But we must be intrepid. My dearest friend, April, says it like this: DO IT AFRAID! Just do it. What’s something you’ve always felt a longing to do? Is it writing a book like me? Is it inventing something that solves a seemingly simple problem? Is it signing up for a class to learn something you’ve always wanted to but been afraid you’d be unable to? Whatever it is, launch out and do it. We, all of us, are afraid at times, but we must grab onto the mane of courage and saddle up in spite of it.
So this week while I face one of my fears, I hope you, too, face one of yours. It doesn’t have to be some huge, life changing moment. Great changes rarely start that way. However, I challenge you to take the leap this week and do something that launches you out of the harbor and into the deep. As a pragmatic sailor’s wife, I would encourage you to check the weather forecast and be responsible as you set sail. But do it. Launch your little ship from out of the safety of the harbor. And know, you were built to take on waves. You were engineered to sail the seas. You were made for this. So hoist your sail (or start your engines) and set out.