Embracing mediocrity

Where am I? What am I doing? I’m sober; let me get that out of the way. Not really thinking about alcohol very much, to be honest, which is why I’ve not been posting much.

But, well, this is also about the Everything Afterwards, so I’m back to talk about that.

Everything, at the moment, for me, is about trying to make a career out of writing. It is the thing I have loved forever and that I haven’t even allowed myself to do for the past few years, and it is so crystal clear to me that if I allowed alcohol back into my life, I would lose the writing again. That’s no bargain at all: that’s not even an option. I said to LH last night that over the years, I have walked around reciting a mantra of gratitude for my life: lovely husband, wonderful children, financial security, good friends, healthy family dynamic, good health for all of us, a luckier life, by far, than that which most people are afforded. But, I told him, the reason I was reciting the mantra is because it never felt like it was enough. I would try harder at the things I was doing. I would exercise more, redecorate the house in imitation of the interior magazines, cook elaborate meals, plan wholesome activities with the children. And none of that filled the hole that I never felt I should even have, because how selfish and grasping must I be to want more than the abundance that I already had?

I don’t have that hole any more. I tried to fill it up with alcohol, of course, but that never works. And then I took the alcohol away, and I started to write, and the hole isn’t there any more. That missing lego brick, the slice of pie, whatever the metaphor is the end result is the same, which is that I feel whole.

However. Of course it’s not that easy. Turns out, and this is crazy, that suddenly deciding to live a creative life is actually quite difficult. Especially when you have absolutely no formal training in writing whatsoever, let alone all the other journalistic and marketing skills that come along with that. In fact, I have gathered subtle hints here and there that quite a lot of people want to be writers, which seems unreasonable but I am assured is true.

So where I’ve been is, I’ve been on the steepest learning curve of my life, if we discount the time that an actual human being came out of my body and cried a lot and then I was allowed to take it home without a license or a manual or anything. I’ve been doing courses, blogging, sending millions of pitches out to a largely unresponsive audience of editors. I’ve been networking, researching, interviewing. I’ve been tweeting and updating my website and buying domain names and I spend hours every day reading the news because I suddenly need to know everything at once, all the time.

And what I’m getting from this is a bucketload of rejection.

I was a very smart child. I was the sort of smart that adults notice, right away, and despite their best efforts, it became the thing that I was; the thing I used in order to impress people, because that’s how I got praise and attention. The result of this, and this is apparently extremely common for gifted children, is that I have always been extremely bad at being mediocre. I give up very quickly, or I don’t try, because I will only do something if I know that I’m going to succeed at it. And more than that; I only count something as success if I accomplished it more effortlessly than most people. Not because I’m lazy, but because achieving something in the same amount of time, or with the same amount of effort, as other people, has always counted as failure for me. If I didn’t excel, I expected to see disappointment on the faces of the grown ups.

This is very much how I approached sobriety. I expected it to be easy, and I got angry with myself for not ‘doing it better’ than anyone else, by which I meant…I don’t know; finding serenity and grace within days, perhaps? I expected to be the best person at getting sober who had ever got sober, and once I started this blog I expected to be the best person at running a sober blog that had ever run a sober blog.

I am none of those things, and that is alright. I am also not entering the world of paid writing in a blaze of glory, and that is alright too.

This time, it’s different. I am telling myself that this period of rejection is normal for new writers, and it is, but I am also telling myself that this also applies to me. I lost my Smart Kid Get Out Of Jail Free card a long time back. I am telling myself that if I’m getting this many rejections, then I am getting something wrong, and I am going back and doing more study in order to improve.

I am starting to realise that my greatest strength is not my intellect but my stubbornness. When I told a friend, a couple of months into sobriety, that I felt like I wasn’t doing it very well, she pointed out that I wasn’t drinking, and by that measure, I was doing it perfectly. Sometimes, it is actually all about showing up every day and doing what you’re doing,.

So today, I am writing. And I am not drinking. And I am not doing either thing particularly spectacularly, but I am doing them nonetheless. That will have to be enough, because it’s all I’ve got.

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13 thoughts on “Embracing mediocrity

  1. I can so relate on a writing level. I still remember my sense of utter devastation when my book – which I thought was incredible, great writing, insights, etc – was rejected! It took me quite a few months and a whole lot of ‘growing up’ to do and time re-writing and re-evaluating what I had written before I built up the courage to submit it to publishers again.
    I love the following site because it makes me feel less lonely as a rejected writer and the end part is so encouraging!
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/stmartinspress/20-brilliant-authors-whose-work-was-initially-reje-7rut

  2. Well done! I can relate to this as well. Since I gave up drinking I’ve found myself creatively in a way I never expected to. And I won’t trade it for anything!
    Love and light!
    Phoenix

  3. It’s interesting you use the word ‘mediocrity’ and pit it against ‘spectacularly’.I believe that perhaps one of our common trait combinations particularly – when we choose to be AF – is simultaneously wanting everything to happen now ( but taking each day a day at a time??) whilst also expecting perfection/brilliance in what we do and how we feel, look etc.
    The pesky perfectionism and high achievement need does perhaps blight a lot of us. What we probably have to learn is patience and the value of small wins. I am the least patient person I have ever known but I am learning to be just that. I have to write and publish in my career and when it’s not going well which it certainly didn’t the last few years that I was heavily drinking things spiralled and I used alcohol more and more to try and subsume the negative thoughts this generated. Now things are very different, slowly I am regaining my reputation and what I have learned is this all reviewers are fickle – after all they’re only human! Why not try different avenues/networks – publishers in different countries perhaps? Different media? Stubbornness is good, tenacity is also very good but it’s perhaps not worth thinking that you are mediocre – you’re the best that you can be at this point in time- and who knows how much better we will all be down the line xx

  4. What a wonderful post this is! I used to feel this hole and only now I fully realise it’s gone, indeed ! I’m no writer, nor do I something else that I didn’t do before I became sober. (I do the things I already did easier and with more pleasure)
    So, I think the hole WAS the booze.
    What a sorry mistake..Trying to fill the emptiness caused by alcohol abuse with alcohol.

  5. You’re a good writer, and someone will see that soon. Keep going. You could try a different tack and try writing a fictional allegory.

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