3 Ways to Avoid Despair as You Pursue Your Hoped-For Work

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This post right here? It’s a timely one. I’ve just come off a couple of weeks of working full-time hours for my part-time job. Even though it was expected and planned for, when I’m working overtime + making sure people get fed and clothed and picked up and cheered on from the bleachers and consoled, you can count on some ugly aftermath.

You can count on a house that looks like a Category 20 hurricane swept through it. You can count on a wife and mom who is tired and cranky. You can count on this same exhausted woman to do something completely irrational like paint the living room that has knotty pine walls and has thus far required three coats of primer and can she just pretend she never started this job?

And you can count on her wanting to abandon her hoped-for work because she hasn’t written in ten days and therefore no longer feels like a writer. She knows starting is the hardest part but ohmygosh, the starting doesn’t ever get easier.

I have cleaned the kitchen, scrubbed the toilets and walked the dog this morning. It’s called “productive procrastination.” It shows up every time I have lost the will to write and also before I need to pack for a trip.

I’m oddly thankful for these adverse circumstances. They remind me that pursuing our hoped-for work isn’t all writers’ conferences and art shows and a thousand likes on social media. It’s not all perfectly steamed lattes at the coffee shop and thoughtful contemplation and art that flows off fingertips.

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Presently I’m writing on my porch while also spraying poison on a patch of ants that showed up out of nowhere. And I have a child with a fever on the sofa in the living room with half-primed walls.

Sometimes pursuing my hoped-for work looks like duct taping my pajama-clad self to the chair and writing already, even though I don’t feel like a writer and I want need to finish painting the living room and my kids have been sick and out of school a lot this year.

The most epic battles are often fought on everyday soil. Fighting for our hoped-for work in the midst of our messy right-now lives is no different.

Today I give you three ways to keep your perspective and fight despair when you’re barely hanging on to your hoped-for work:

 

1. Don’t envy another’s work life.
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I struggle with this one in embarrassing ways, believing the lie that if only I had her circumstances or his capital, I could meet my goals and do my thing. I’ve believed this just today actually. And every time I find myself sliding into the pit of envy, I have a choice to make: surrender to resentment or receive my own life.

Ironically, the challenges of the everyday usually become my inspiration. Frustration is often the fuel that gets me writing in the first place. This entire series on work — it’s been born out of my own wrestling. I thought I needed a spacious writing life to be the writer I wanted to be. God is showing me otherwise. It’s messy. But the mess is my medium and God makes art out of it anyway.

There is freedom that comes in receiving your own life instead of envying someone else’s.

And don’t be fooled by the seemingly grand and spacious lives of others. There are unique struggles that come with each stage of success. Keep working at your own pace, on the canvas of your own life.

I will never stop needing this reminder from Henri Matisse:

Much of the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium.

 

2. Accept abrupt transitions.

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When I was in college, I ran the 10,000 meter race in track. That’s 25 laps around a 400-meter track. Please don’t be impressed. I literally needed half of those laps to get warmed up. I was never a sprinter. It was true of my running life and it’s true of my writing life. Sure, I can hustle when I need to. I can crank out a product when I’m called on. But hurry comes at a cost because I’m a contemplative at heart. I’m a long-distance, slow-paced runner living in a world that spins a bit too fast for my liking.

I don’t have the personality where I can easily switch from task to task and embrace interruptions. I have the personality that might glare at you with violent eyes if you interrupt me while I’m in the middle of deep, thoughtful work or when more than one person is audibly asking for something at the same time.

This is why I live in a perpetual state of whiplash. My right-now life doesn’t accommodate my slow-paced taste and my need for long runways.

I try to get up early because, again, it takes me a long time to adjust to wakefulness. Plus it gives me time to align my spirit with the heart of God and embrace the day’s work before the rest of the house wakes up. Because when that happens, I’m jolted into the world of squabbling siblings and “Mom! Are you making oatmeal?” Then we stumble out the door and rush three kids to three different schools. By 8:15 in the a.m., I need a nap.

Each day is a mashup of paid work, housework, writing work, family work, kitchen work, and unexpected work. Stop times and start times are not always under my control. I may be deep in the writing zone and then pow! My littlest guy gets off the bus and I am quickly zapped into the world of Pokemon trades and after-school snacks.

Changing hats so abruptly throughout the day is not my jam. But it is my right-now life. And change hats I must.

Sometimes we can use abrupt transitions as an excuse. “Well I only have an hour so it’s not worth sitting down to write.” That hour is still an hour of hoped-for work. And while it may not be enough time to finish anything, it reminds you that this is what you do. It’s the daily discipline of reclaiming your identity and relaunching your hope. It keeps you in the game and serves as a deposit on deeper work that may show up later.

 

3. Tell someone.

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The land of hoped-for work can be a lonely place. Too often, we dream our dreams in solitude and do our work in isolation. We languish and lose momentum and tell ourselves we’re crazy. It’s the rare person who doesn’t need some sort of accountability to stay the course.

Community, whether it’s two people or twelve, helps keep me going. I’ve dared to speak my hopes out loud and I’ve had the privilege of cradling the dreams of others. Part of the reason I sat down this morning is because I told my “someones” I would keep writing — my writing friend in New Jersey who I vox and e-mail with, a small community of creatives across different time zones that I talk to regularly {thank you technology}, my husband who gives me Saturdays to work on a writing project. And you.

Yes, you. You take time out of your busy life and meet me here. And sometimes you tell me that what I wrote made you feel normal instead of crazy. You allow me show up in your life and serve you. You remind me that this hoped-for work is my offering.You guys are my “someones.”


 

My next post will have a few more tips to keep you going. And then I’ll have a wrap-up post with my favorite resources to share!

Thanks for staying with me. Y’all sure know how to keep a sister going.

What are your greatest obstacles to pursuing your hoped-for work in the midst of your right-now life? 

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If you’re new around here, we’ve been winding our way through a series on work. Here are the other posts in the series:

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How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if it’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

One Gift Your Right-Now Work Is Giving You, Even If You Smell Like Marinara Sauce

4 Simple Ways to Create Time When You Don’t Have Any to Spare

4 Reasons Why Your Right-Now Work Matters to Jesus {even if it doesn’t matter to you}

2 Ways to Give Your Hoped-For Work a Voice. Right Now.

3 Ways to Avoid Despair as You Pursue Your Hoped-For Work

“Never stop starting.” And 5 Other Truths to Keep Your Hoped-For Work Alive in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life

8 Favorite Resources to Help Make Your Hoped-for Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life

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Comments

  1. says

    Marian, you are my soul sister and possibly doppelgänger. My life sounds so much like a version of yours, a few years back. (Because I don’t yet have teenagers, amen.)

    This? Was good, good work. Get it, girl.

  2. says

    Just recently I was encouraged by these words written by Emily Freeman on how to write a blog post, “Serve your reader. And if you don’t have anything to write that will serve your reader, wait until you do.”. This has freed me up in so many ways. I feel “guilt” when I’m not writing regularly on the blog. But sometimes waiting for the right words to form is the best thing I can do for my readers. All 10 of them 😉. Life with our people is the real story. It’s a bonus when HE gives us the words to translate what we’re learning with our people into something that will hopefully help someone else along their way.

  3. says

    Thank you! I missed your voice last Friday because it is usually when you have been posting these, but today’s read was the perfect timing for me. Your posts are often a “manna moments”. And I love the Henri Matisse quote too. When I started writing and creating I had no idea the amount of support I would need to push through different obstacles and mind sets, but God knew and he graciously gave me some amazing support and mentors! love and prayers for God’s continued grace in your writing projects.

  4. says

    Very good timing. I know exactly how you feel. Im juggling working 23 hours a week, homeschooling full time, keeping house and being taxi to the 4 teenagers in the house. There seems to be little time for writing.
    My biggest obstacle is doubt. Does this small amount of time going to be worth anything?. Am I wasting my time? Will I ever get to write that info product so I can entice my readers to sign up? Will I ever write that book? let alone a weekly post.

  5. Sara W. says

    Yes. Yes. AND YES. I believe your point about not envying others because everyone has struggles and messes is so key. And to embrace the mess. My Type A personality strives to wrestle the world around me into submission, and God constantly reminds me I have no business even thinking that’s an effective strategy. In fact, I am repeatedly reminded of that on almost a daily basis when my attempts to control my environment come crashing down. ;))

    Right now I am upstairs working in my office with piles of laundry downstairs (and a load of laundry finished in the washing machine that I have now washed twice because I forgot about it yesterday), my hair in a messy topknot, no makeup and sloppy workout clothes on (which will likely result in another lost workout by the end of the day) and plenty of pressing deadlines and needs from all directions. I try to remember to take a deep breath and pray for calm and peace and acceptance that life is indeed a beautiful mess. xoxo

  6. says

    You’re scratching where I itch, sis (please read that with the least creepiest mind possible). Thanks for this. I needed your words.

  7. says

    Awesome words of wisdom and advice. Your words are so timely and meaningful personally. I am glad that I came across your site. I applaud your efforts for creating such a beautiful and inspiring blog. You definitely have inspired me to write more creatively. Thanks again for the motivation.

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