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

3 ways avoid despair work header

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.
boy w hands on face

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.

ortho shoe

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.

phone

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

2 ways hoped for work voice I have a small index card that I’ve lost and found again at least six time in the last couple of weeks. This tiny card boasts my scribbled out notes for what was to be my next post in the series on work. Notes in the form of bullet points that I hoped to flesh out later with real sentences. But life hasn’t allowed for real sentences, much less paragraphs-turned-blogged-posts lately.

Sometimes life only allows for bullet points.

I’ve been writing a series on work and I have loved it. The more I write, the more I realize I have to say about the subject. Last week I asked a question on the blog’s Facebook page and I was surprised by the quick and thoughtful responses. Your questions and frustrations only fueled the content I hope to share.

But my right-now life and my hoped-for work and not in sync at the moment. I can resent that. And I have. Or “I can see my limits as a gift instead of as a liability,” as my friend and fellow writer Emily Freeman puts it.

The truth is, my next post on work was supposed to go out a week ago. But I’ve had some limitations to reckon with. Time and space are in short supply. I’ve had several moments of external panic and many more moments of internal resentment over the whole thing. I’ve been tempted toward two opposite extremes:

1. Steamroll my way through my task list anyway, fueled mostly by fear and anxiety.

2. Give up.

I’ve done both of these in the past and am tempted to fall into either ditch even today. But on Monday morning a funny thing happened. My husband and I were talking about the upcoming couple of weeks and he could sense my edginess. And by edginess I mean the slamming of kitchen drawers and yelling for kids to get in the van already and “Where is my COFFEE?!?”

Thankfully he was a kinder soul than I was in that moment. He asked what I needed, what he could do for me during these next couple of weeks that are going to be extra hectic.

The morning school commute gave me time to sit with his generous question and to figure out what, exactly, I did need.

valley view

“I need time to write,” I said. “Writing makes me feel like my truest self and connects me to God.” I need to find the time and space to keep writing, even though it’s going to be crazy. I don’t want to lose my creative work and my momentum.”

I felt instantly better. There is power and freedom in voicing our needs and allowing someone we trust to help us carry both our burdens and our longings. But there was something else, something even more remarkable. My “art,” my writing, my hoped-for work — it stood up for itself with a voice I hardly recognized:

I matter. I am not merely a hobby or a selfish indulgence as she is prone to think. I am food for her soul. I am the thread that connects her most deeply with her Maker. I am the therapy that helps her sort through the rubble and clear out the cobwebs. I am her offering.

That was on Monday. Today is Wednesday. By the time you read this it’ll be days later. I knew I wouldn’t get to write until a couple of days after that conversation. But I was able to bear both the busy-ness and the lack with a bit more peace.

Why? Because my work had wedged her big ol’ audacious self into the space of that real conversation and said to my husband {and to me}:

Girfriend needs to write. Are you gonna give her a room up in this place or not?”

 

This week, my hoped-for work sounds a little bit like Madea and looks like an index card.

It doesn’t look like completed blog posts or a finished series on work or a lead magnet on my blog or a turned-in book proposal.

But it does look like promise and it feels like a priority. The bullet points matter. They serve as shorthand arrows that point to a deeper story.

Today, I searched through a pile in my office again for the holy grail index card and thought to myself, “There it is. My big important work scrawled in bullet-point form with smeary pencil + two different colors of ink.”

Sometimes our right-now life means our hoped-for work looks like bullet points instead of books.

My right-now life means that I run around a lot and write half-coherent thoughts on receipts that end up in the bottom of my purse with gum wrappers and sloshed coffee. It means I dump my favorite purse onto the kitchen counter and attempt to soak up the coffee from the leather while trying not to cuss in front of my kids as I salvage my precious thoughts. {True story. As in, this very thing just happened yesterday.}

purse contents

Here’s what I’m trying to say.

My hoped-for work — the writing I do in the wee hours of the morning and in the last minutes of the day — it’s not exactly magical. It’s messy. It’s limited. It is literally sitting in scraps all around me waiting to be turned into something a bit more masterpiece-ish.

But those scraps are important because I’ve said so. I’ve cleared off my desk and put the junk on the floor.

desk and mess

The contents of my dumped-out purse are still on the kitchen counter. My e-mail can wait and so can the dishes. Why?

Because I need to sit down right here and tell you something:

Don’t give up on your hoped-for work just because your right-now life feels like a bully. Friends, we don’t have to be all or nothing about this.

Just because that guy has figured out a way to jump ship on his right-now in pursuit of his hoped-for doesn’t mean you have to put all your eggs in one basket like he did.

Just because she’s been blogging for less time than you and has a book deal and you still have two subscribers — one is you and the other one is your mom — doesn’t mean you quit writing.

Just because you have more ideas than your precious brain can hold and zero time for those ideas to come to life doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t worth scribbling down and dreaming about anyway.

Here are my two bossy takeaways:

1. Do what you can. Right now.

It begins with giving your work a voice so it can speak up for itself. This is another way of saying, “Prioritize.” Maybe your work’s voice sounds like deep and broody like Johnny Cash. Maybe it sounds British and bawdy like Adele. You already know that my work’s voice sounds like Madea because she is old-school, means business, and is funny. I need Madea on my shoulder because she tells all the other voices to “shut the _____ up.”

Your work has a voice. Listen up. {And you might want to share what you hear with someone else who loves you.}

2. Use what you have. Right now.
  • A notecard when you don’t have time for a blog post.
  • A piece of furniture from the thrift store even though you really want to have your own fixer-upper.
  • A friend you meet for coffee when you don’t yet have the courage or time to create the larger ministry you envision.
  • A children’s class at your church while you wait for a teaching degree.
  • A little league gig when your real dream is to coach for a living.
  • An iPhone camera in your diaper bag because your fancy Nikon can’t fit between the wipes and the sippy cups.
purse w flower pin

Sometimes we think our longings have to take a certain shape or they can’t take any shape at all. But that’s not true. Perfection is the enemy of Possibility. I 100% believe that there are right-now ways to practice our hoped-for work. Your ideas, your hopes, your dreams — they are still allowed to dance even if they haven’t received an invitation to the ball.

Your right-now life may feel like a lean and barren place. What could possibly grow there?

Anything. But new life always begins with a seed. And seeds tend to be tiny.

My bullet-point index card, my “Exhibit A” of “I have no time to write” — it turned into this post I hadn’t planned to write. I looked at it with discouragement and said to myself, “My creative work has been reduced to bullet points right now.”

Writing through this unexpected object lesson has been its own serendipitous consolation.

The bullet points testify that your right-now offering is enough. They serve as a deposit on what may one day grow into the vision that’s dancing about in your head.

But first? Take what you have right now and give it a voice.

index card

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:

“How to Pursue Your Hoped-For Work When You’re Busy With Your Right-Now Life”

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

4 simple ways to create time

I don’t know how long I’d been complaining, mostly to myself, about how I didn’t have time anymore to be a writer. I had a long list of excuses — both valid ones and ridiculous ones — to justify my bouts with self-pity as I envied the generous writing lives of others. I camped out in my certain failure and assumed that I’m light years away from reaching a single goal, all because of time limitations.

That’s where I was in January. But more on that in a minute.

If you’re reading this post, perhaps you’re curious about how to move forward with possibility into something else — whether it’s something creative you long to do on the side, a ministry or volunteer opportunity you’d like to pursue, or how you can keep your day job while moving into other work that feels more in line with who you really are.

You know you need more time and you hope this post will tell you the big juicy secret.

I don’t have a secret. But I do have a story — my own story as a wife, mom, employee, and hopeful writer whose current season of life is bursting at the seams. Yet somehow, somehow, I’m recovering bits of time to write in the margins. From this right-now story, I have takeaways that you can implement right where you are.

Two things before we begin.

1. Ironically, I have a long history of being terrible with my time. It goes without saying that I am not an expert on this matter. Which is its own special qualification because I know what it feels like to be bad at this whole time management thing.

2. There are countless awesome resources on time management and how to pursue the work you love, books written by actual gurus. {I’ll list some of my favorite resources at the end of the series so stay tuned.} But here’s the thing. I haven’t read most of the guru books. I’m not looking for “40 days till my dream job” or “how to make six figures in six months.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of that but I don’t want to turn my life on its head in order to reach a certain goal. My husband and I have three kids who are growing up all too quickly; these four people in my life come first. I also have a sweet part-time day job that I work on when my kids are at school. So I’m looking for everyday ways to lean into my hoped-for work even as I’m busy with my right-now life. I believe that’s where most of you are as well.

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staircase

Here’s what happened in January:

I read this post by Ann Voskamp — “How to Make Time and Space for the Life You Really Want.” It was a re-post I’d read before. But something about it clicked.

I was sick of letting my limitations boss me around. I was tired of telling the ideas in my head that they would have to wait to be born into words, that maybe they would never be born at all.

I was tired of self-pity.

Instead of feeling guilty about not using my time more wisely, Ann’s post about the young soccer players of Ko Panyee challenged me to make time with the ingredients I have on hand instead of wishing for the ingredients I don’t have. If a bunch of barefoot kids in a developing part of the world could run toward their dreams by building a soccer field out of floating trash, surely I could wring out some extra writing time throughout the week.

ko panyee field

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God gives us everything we need for space — but we will have to make space.

God gives us all the ingredients for time — but we will have to make time.

God gives us everything we need to live — but we will have to make a life.

No one just gets space. 

No one just gets time.

God gives you the raw materials — but you will have to make your life.

~ Ann Voskamp

 

I decided to make peace with imperfection and to receive the raw materials of my own writing life, even if it came to me in pieces instead of in plenty.

We’re halfway through March and I can tell you that it’s working. It’s messy and imperfect. But it’s working.

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So here are the 4 takeaways — how to create time when it doesn’t seem to exist.

{Keep in mind that these apply to any new tasks or goals you have in mind, even if they’re not work-related.}

1. Do the things that only you can do. Consider how you might outsource the rest.

I’m the only one who can be my husband’s wife and my kids’ mom. I’m the only one who can write the words that are burning a message in my soul. Because I’m personally contracted with an actual job that pays me real money that our real budget actually depends on, I’m also the only one who can meet those obligations.

golf brothers

{I’m not outsourcing watching my boys play golf together.}

 

Everything else is negotiable.

  • I can pay someone else to really clean my house once or twice a month. We’re not doing this yet but we plan to in a few months.
  • I finally taught every child how to do their own laundry and I decided not to micromanage any aspect of it. Because micromanaging takes time.
  • I gave up making the kids’ lunches every day. The cafeteria does the cooking.
  • Dinner is so simple right now — tacos, spaghetti, anything I can do in the crock pot, etc. We order pizza once a week. My goals are basic: dinner around the table together, easy prep, easy clean-up, something everyone will eat.
  • I’m on the e-mail list for an online grocery ordering service when it comes to our newest supermarket. Order my groceries online and then pick them up at the store without leaving my minivan? Yes please.

 

Sometimes we know we need help but our thinking is stuffed inside a box. Get out of that box and look around. There are almost always creative solutions. Maybe your kids want to earn some cash? Or a neighbor kid would love to get paid for doing some housework or mowing your lawn? Perhaps you can barter things with a friend? Maybe online grocery ordering is totally worth the time and energy it saves? {Bonus: No impulse buys.} These are just some ideas to get you started.

 

2. Create a new rhythm.

Once I finally felt inspired to “make time” where there didn’t seem to be any, the first action step I took was a game-changer. I decided to go to bed even earlier than I already did so that I could get up earlier. Maybe you’re in a season when you can stay up late and sleep in. Also, if you have babies or toddlers, you probably need all the sleep you can get. Different seasons of life rule out certain options. The point is, what are your options during this season?

My forty-something brain is not the same as my twenty-something brain. And my forty-something schedule is radically different too. This brain right here becomes illiterate after dinner. For me, right now, mornings are where it’s at. I love being up before the sun and before my kids / I hate getting up before the sun and before my kids. Translation? Waking up has always and may forever be painful for me. But the reward of having that daybreak time alone and giving myself a long runway to drink coffee, become coherent, read, pray, write, etc. before I have to go upstairs and make breakfast is a game-changer.

morning work

A scene from “morning time.” It’s dark outside and the house is quiet. Glory. Also? There are dead flowers but this is not the time to tidy.

This morning space clears out my brain’s cobwebs and sets the stage for the work that begins after I drop the kids off at school. Psychologically it says to me, “You are taking your work seriously. You are making time for important things.”

Here’s another idea. Depending on the kind of work you hope to do, consider blocking out all or part of a weekend every now and then. This is something I just did a few weeks ago and plan to do again this month. I went to my parents’ house 30 minutes away, hunkered down in a guest bedroom, and worked for most of my Saturday. It’s amazing what a gal can get done without refereeing fights and acting on the sudden urge to paint a wall.

 

3. Honor the sacred yes and no. {And don’t feel guilty about it.}

I have two writing goals I’m working toward. Because I’m saying yes to them during this season, it means I’m saying no to most everything else.

This is essentialism, something I define as “the art of editing your own life.” In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less {highly recommend}, author Greg McKeown says this about editing as it applies to our commitments:

a good editor is someone who uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot, and characters. Likewise, in life, disciplined editing can help add to your level of contribution. It increases your ability to focus on and give energy to the things that really matter. It lends the most meaningful relationships and activities more space to blossom. 

To create time where none seems to exist, you have to get downright bossy. An edited life may not be popular or easy to come by. It’s painful in the moment to say no. But when you’re able to live in the assurance and abundance of your truest “yeses,” it’s worth it. Living like a bossy editor isn’t necessarily a forever thing. It’s just a right-now thing.

 

4. Wherever you are, be all there.

We’ve all heard this, right? In an age where tiny computers in the palms of our hands invite us to step through a thousand simultaneously opened doors, being present takes discipline, a word I sort of hate.

squinting girls

Recently, I read these words on Instagram from my friend and fellow writer / wife / mama / plate-spinner, Elizabeth Maxon, and they struck a chord:

Balancing an unconventional job as a writer and mommy / wife role isn’t always easy. Honestly, it’s messy. Here’s the best I can do — When I’m with them I can’t carry any guilt about what I’m not doing as a writer and when I’m writing I can’t carry any guilt about what I’m not doing as a mama. Being completely present is key. Wherever you are today, be all there.

I’m the worst at being “all there.” I blame part of it on my brain which has always fired a thousand thoughts at once ever since I was a child. Busy brains make it hard to be present. I blame part of it on my own propensity to feel guilty about pretty much everything. And finally, I blame it on not cultivating the habit of committed presence. Habits take practice. And one of the habits I hope to cultivate during this season of life is “all-in-ness.”

If I’ve set aside time for writing, I try to be “all in” and only write. I limit the distractions and don’t feel guilty that I’m not doing something else with that time. If I’ve set aside time to watch a movie with my kids, I try to be all in and not feel guilty for not writing or not cleaning up the kitchen. During this season of life in which the hat-changes are many and the energy is in short supply and the limitations seem to have the upper hand, the simple but challenging practice of presence is the key to making our time and energy count.

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I’d love to hear your ideas. Let’s talk about them in the comments or on the blog’s Facebook page. This is the good work of community; we’re better together. I plan to list all sorts of resources at the end of this series. I’d love to include some of your ideas on how to create time and save energy.

This post is part of a series: “How to Pursue Your Hoped-For Work When You’re Busy With Your Right-Now Life”

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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