Category Archives: Motivation

Why Quitting is Perfectly Okay.

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It’s always the same story for me: I start a project, a class, an idea, or a story. I eagerly rush in, align my pencils, lay out my notebooks, and make delirious plans in my calendar. That first day, ideas and dreams pour out of me.

Then four days pass. I waver, tired. My calendar seems oppressive. The new habit loses its stickiness against the watery pulse of time and circumstance.

I lose another day, a week, and slip behind.

Last Spring, I started Hannah Marcotti’s beautiful Spirits of Joy and did ten days of paper crafting, collage making, glue bending. The drawing ignited in me a new set of doodles; the ripped paper and tacky glue nudged the sleepy muse inside of me.

And I ran from the class to my journals, getting lost inside of my own writing project. The crafts lay quietly on my desk for the next three weeks.

I used to beat myself up for not finishing things. Like the fits that “Crazy Eyes” has in Orange is the New Black, I’d cringe and mentally beat myself up each time I found another project laying around the house, paused or half-done.

It was a pattern so familiar, I started to observe it.

What was happening? Why was I quitting?

Life happened.

Things got hard, they got rough: deadlines built up. Real work pulled me in. The need to take a run and take care of my body surfaced. The competing pulls of attention and focus and deadlines wrapped me in their compelling arms.

But something else was happening, too. Ten days of paper-crafting with a beautiful spirit course led me to building an entirely new online program of my own.

Skimming the lessons in a business-building mastermind opened up a new way of creating sales pages. Reading half of a book propelled me into my next project.

And then it hit me: what if I was getting exactly what I needed?

What if I was getting exactly what I needed? These courses and events served as inspiration for my soul, and my soul nudged me when it was time to begin working.

Like a creative coach blowing the whistle, she stood on the sidelines while I soaked in knowledge until they stepped in and said, “Okay, Sarah, go make that thing. You heard the whisper. Now make.”

What if my ego was the only part of me that really cared about finishing?

You don’t have to do everything to get something out of it.

Twelve half-finished books is still reading six full books. (Many books are inflated lengths anyways and should be shorter). Some things are meant to be finished. And some things don’t need to be finished.

You don’t have to finish your meal. (In fact, not finishing might be better for you). Or your art project. Or the class you signed up for after you get exactly what you need out of it.

We think we know what we need in advance.

The more I plan in advance and then later watch my life take shape completely differently than my plans, the more I realize that planning ahead can be a flimsy wish at best.

It gets our foot in the door. We often underestimate how much time things take, or assume we know all the steps we’ll take before we get started.

You can pause. You can wait. You can enjoy the space.

You can quit.

You are allowed to leave things half-finished and undone. You can walk away.

Writers who join my programs always fall down. This is life, it happens: we get sick, we get tired, we have late nights. Instead of beating yourself up, I remind them to build in “life” days.

Want to blog? Make a plan to do it weekly, with a free pass to skip one week a month for when life gets a bit frenetic.

No one said you have to get 100% done and be perfect to enjoy the fruits of your progress. In fact, if you write two essays, that’s more than zero.

Somewhere in the quest for perfect, we forget to acknowledge that something is better than nothing.

An apple is better than no apple. A walk is better than sitting. Sometimes, some days, I say to myself, just walk around the block. Just write a little story. Just make a couple of lists.

And here’s the secret grace: when you let go, you make space to return.

When I feel the pull again, I get that half-finished notebook of Hannah’s off my shelf. I collect magazines and glue, snippets and scraps, words and graphite. I work into the late evening, wine by my side, lost in messy piles.

My book, a 30-day project, might take me 180 days. I may never finish. What I need is not a 30-day check mark of completion, but the grace to return to crafting whenever my soul calls for it.

And what if, instead of a routine, you let yourself come back in?

I always hear new writers tell me stories about giving up after failing to stick to a routine (the same is true for people beginning a new exercise routine).

But what if, instead of betting yourself against a routine, failing, and then quitting — instead you took a breath on the off days and let yourself come back in?

Like writing morning pages to warm up for writing, the little movements are what bring us back in to our greater works. The biggest dreams are sometimes the hardest to start.

It’s hard to feel progress in the tiniest of moments, but it’s not about the goal. We can’t fathom the experience in its entirety. The peak is a representation of the work, a moment.

By letting go of the deadline, the need for perfection, my ego’s need to complete everything I’ve started, I allow myself the space to come back in.

Because it’s always about making.

Come back in.

Come back in. Whenever you want.

When you fall down, break your routine, or stop writing: notes on re-starting.

The rhythm breaks. The routine falters. You write, so diligently, and then a week slips by. Getting back into the structure of things — writing — is even more challenging when traveling, moving, changing. I can make a million excuses; writing and making time for writing is and always seems so hard. It’s easier when I’mContinue Reading

Are you in love with the product? Or the process?

“My job is to do, not to judge.” — Dani Shapiro Sometimes, as writers or as makers, we become obsessed with the outcome. The work itself as object, as product — not as process. We judge, criticize, and refuse to do the work when we see the outcome as one great failure. Push publish anyways, IContinue Reading

When you’re tired, worn out, beleaguered, scared, underfed, miserable, alone: a reminder. #dosomething

I don’t care who you pretend you are. I don’t care so much who you pretend you are when you’re well fed, well dressed, well slept, put together, prepared, And so called ready… When the polish is fresh and the face newly painted, airbrushed layers covering freckles, pock-marked skin with storied layers hidden; the script lockedContinue Reading

The problem with thinking too big…

“Dream big. Reach for the stars. The only limit is in your mind.” How often do you hear these words? We’re filled with the power of positive mantras in motivational texts, books, and seminars. The problem with expansive thinking, however, is that too big can be just as much of a problem. The problem of thinkingContinue Reading

Words to fill your mind: the power of a mantra.

The words that fill our minds… We all have words that we cycle on repeat in our minds—from worries about being late to songs we sing or words we repeat. Don’t be late, don’t be late, don’t be late, we repeat to ourselves as we rush from subway to office to meeting to appointment. Gotta finish, gotta finish, gottaContinue Reading

Are you letting the numbers deflate you?

The thing about numbers is, we give them far too much power to make us feel bad. “Only” have 100 people reading your blog? That’s like speaking to a jam-packed coffee shop or on stage at a live speaking event. Alexandra Franzen reframes the expectations we have around blogging (and online writing) and I thinkContinue Reading

When your ego starts yelling at you… remember this:

Ever have those voices in your head, while you’re working or trying something new? That ego. The voice that tells you, whispers softly, cruelly inside of your mind: “You aren’t good enough. This wasn’t very good. Why did you bother? You’re not in shape enough. You should go to yoga class, but it’s not goingContinue Reading

A little note on letting go…

Clear your plate. Let go of things that don’t serve you. That don’t inspire you. Give up things that aren’t working. Release. Let out a deep sigh. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Take a shower. Dunk in a waterfall. Wash it clean, letting water drip down around you, pour over your head. Feel the world rinse you off, like aContinue Reading

Hustle is a dial, not a way of being.

There are appropriate times to hustle in your business. Sometimes you’re hustling for a year or two on the side, creating your escape route and freedom business to jump ship from your corporate job. Sometimes you stay up late and hustle the night before a course launches, or when you’re putting the final tweaks onContinue Reading