A Big List of Things I Suck At
It’s just so tiring — the resolutions and accomplishment-parades of January.
You know them; 9-square collages of radiant couples on the beaches of Instagram, children smiling adorably at holiday tables, lists of the best this and that.
It’s always the other side of things that I find interesting. What didn’t work? What isn’t growing? Where did your inevitable awkward humanness play out this year?
For me 2018 was a year of getting really honest about my flaws. Man, there are a lot of them. When Firefly was just me in my living room, it was pretty easy to avoid the things I was bad at, or to gracefully side-step their consequences. When there are 10 things on your to-do list if you suck at 10% of them, that’s just one thing. You can still get a lot of good work done.
But then we grew. And now there are 200 things on my to-do list and 10% of that is twenty things. AND those things are projected out onto a precious team and a beautiful community. If I work through my inbox at 2am, I’m not just losing sleep, I’m creating a culture of 2am emails. That’s not the culture I want to nourish.
I’m also just learning that being unconsciously bad at things makes me really tense. On the other side of that tension is clear-eyed, humble-hearted honesty. When I know what I’m bad at, the sting goes out of it, and I can get help, or delegate, or laugh at myself and lower my expectations.
There’s just so much freedom in loving our weak spots. Being able to see, articulate, and apply kindness to those places is allowing me to step into 2019 with way more confidence, clarity and joy.
So, in honour of another perfectly imperfect year, I want to share a different kind of list with you…
Things I suck at. (A very abridged list.)
1. I suck at prioritizing my own writing.
Sigh! It’s true. Even though I spend my days helping people loosen the grip of their creative insecurities. Even though I see over and over how far we can all travel when we believe in our voices. Even though I know that the vulnerability of the creative process is cyclical and inevitable… I still tumble into my own self-made slumps of feeling like my work doesn’t matter and isn’t worth my effort.
At our team retreat this year I shared a piece about my insecurity about writing a novel and I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. Coughing, snorting, out of control crying.
Truthfully, I loved it. The violent sobbing reminded me, on a visceral, animal level, how much writing matters. I was glad to feel it, even if it was wildly uncomfortable.
All the coaches have some version of this. I mean — of course we do, right? Why in the world would we be able to side-step that fear? And how would we be able to help people if we didn’t also feel it?
So, I hired us all a writing coach this year. The creative firecracker Whitney French is going to be working with each of us to help define our goals and work towards them. Because we, like you, need someone in our corner. If this isn’t final proof that “we’re all in this together” I don’t know what is.
2. My work day is unbridled, distracted, and inefficient.
Y’know, having this much enthusiasm is very inconvenient. I’ll be half-way through an email and an idea will land for class tonight, then I’ll start planning the class and I’ll remember a line from a poem that I need to look up this instant because it might be perfect for the next newsletter. The delicious, complicated project of creating Hello Writer every month has made this 1000% worse. After a full day, I tumble out of my office thinking “What just happened?” My brain is clouded and it’s really, really hard to transition into anything else.
After realizing that this is a major area of suckage, I’m running an experiment called “Woods and Wings.” It’s about breaking up my work day into 1-hour chunks of time that are either devoted to immediate to-do’s, (“woods”) or to the bigger picture planning (“wings.”) Each morning I figure out how many hours I can apply to each, and then breaking my day into uber-focused 60-minute deep dives.
When I’m done, I’m done. Lights out in the office.
I’m only in week three of this, and it’s very imperfect. Sometimes I have to fight myself off of answering one more email. Sometimes I do it anyway… And then another. But my head is a little clearer and I think my work is stronger, so the experiment continues.
3. I’m in WAY TOO in love with my inbox.
I love words. And I love Firefly. Give me an inbox of Firefly people and I’ll rev it like an engine all afternoon. I’m the master of reaching out, checking in, touching base, being there.
But where is “there”? In 2018 my presence in the world came largely through pixels. I forgot about phone calls. I lost touch with friends. My email voice became stronger than any other. I don’t like that.
So, I’m trying to schedule more meetings this year. I’m getting better at just typing what’s needed. With my team, I gather up my thought all week and send a “Monday Digest” with everything I want them to know. This is opening up some room to connect with more presence. It’s so nice to see faces again. Hi. I like your face.
4. I forget to use “delight” as an operating principle.
One thing that changed when we made the leap to a storefront was that a whole dump truck of expenses emptied onto my lap. For a while, it was all I could think about. The pressure of being The One Who Pays The Bills left my worry-brain sputtering and startled.
It took me a while to realize this, but it was making me way less fun. I was taking less chances. I was wary of new projects. Right when we needed to grow, I was making us shrink.
I needed to hold more space for fiscal irresponsibility. I made some good moves towards this in 2018. I initiated our Writers In Residence program. (We’ll be announcing our 2019 cohort next week!) We started hosting Open Mic nights. I cut online classes just because they didn’t feel right.
Miracle of miracles, bills still got paid, and we all had more fun. It was a great start, and I want to take this further in 2019. I want to trust more, and make delicious, not-financially-sound decisions just for the sake of of it. I want to reach for my calculator less. I want to surrender to the heart of this big thing we’re doing, and let it take the wheel more often.
5. My spelling is terrible and I forget everyone’s birthdays.
I don’t even have a plan to fix these ones. Maybe in 2020. Please do not expect a birthday card, or think I know how to spell your last name. But the love’s still there, whole and unfiltered.
Okay, how are you right now?
My hope is that this list will loosen up some space for you to see your own weaker places with love. There’s so much wholeness to be had when we don’t reject any parts of ourselves, and this is where writing comes from; our awkward edges, our undressed wounds, our full spectrum.
I fully recommend making your own version of this list. It’s an oddly wonderful little writing activity.
Thanks for being with us, sharing our humanness, loving our weak spots, not hiding. Here’s to another beautiful and imperfect year.
All the heart,