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Progress Not Perfection

This is what writing looks like for me:

It’s typically in the morning, except on days where I don’t have to work. I might put it off until, or pick up a little extra in, the afternoon.

I get cozy – a sweatshirt and yoga pants (or pajama pants or no pants). I clear off my white roll-top desk and open my iPad, setting it in the center.

I might light a candle if I’m in the mood. I might brew coffee or make some tea if I need a warm drink, then I set my mug in just the right spot at the left-hand corner of my desk. I’m an Enneagram 4 so it’s all about setting the perfect scene.

I grab a soft blanket and drape it over my shoulders like a cape or around my legs like a skirt. Then, I sit.

I open Google Drive and scroll through the projects I’ve started. I grab a pen and make a list of pieces I could work on, and then, after much debate I pick one. I pick one, open the doc, and stare. I stare at the screen and wonder, “What the heck I’m supposed to do next?”

I might type a bunch of gibberish just to get the juices flowing. Or, I might spend 15 minutes reading and editing what I’ve already written, all the while taking sips of coffee and getting up to get snacks every 16 seconds because its just something I need to help me write.

Eventually, I’ll get on a role (roll?) and I’ll type a whole paragraph, maybe even two! I’m well on my way to paragraph number three when suddenly I remember! I need to know how far it is from my apartment to Montrose Harbor. I might go for a run this afternoon and if I don’t find out the best route right now, I might never find out what it is!

I stop the writing. I walk over to the couch and pick up my phone. I forget that I was going to look up my running route and instead look at Instagram. Someone on instagram posts a picture of some delicious looking cookies so I decide I need to find out the recipe. I wonder if I have time to go to the store today and pick up the ingredients. Do I really want to make cookies?

Apple News notifies me that Trump has said something else absurd about immigrants so I need to find out what that was. I read the article, skimming parts until I get to the bottom of the screen where I see another article that promises me a startling slide show of 90’s child actors and what they look like now.

Oh my gosh, I have got to see this.

I click through the slideshow. It’s disappointing so I close the app and lock my phone. Wait…wasn’t there some reason I opened my phone in the first place?

Yes…yes there was. Montrose Harbor. How far is it? Open Google Maps. 2.4 miles down the lakefront trail. Yes, that will be a nice run.

I close my phone and take it to my bedroom where I will be sure to leave it alone for the rest of the morning. I sit back down and attempt to write again. A few words here, a few words there. I stand up, I go to the kitchen. I sternly tell myself to sit back down because there are 500 words that have yet to be written.

Rachel Clair. You stay in your seat until you finish your work.

Therapists say its good when you finally learn to parent yourself.

Eventually, the word count is reached, but the project’s not done. What should have taken 20 minutes has now taken me two hours.

But friends, I share this because I know I’m not alone (and because it’s kinda funny). Some of you out there are way worse than me! You take three hours to write 150 words where my 500 comes in a measly two.

But let me ask you this – how many words were you writing one year ago? What about two? How many days were you creating six months ago? Three years? Five?

None? Very little? It was all just a dream?

Something I’m trying to focus on these days is celebrating the little progress I see instead of berating myself for the failures that are blazingly apparent.

Two years ago, I wasn’t writing much at all so I made a commitment to wake up early one morning a week and get something done. So I did. Every Tuesday I set my alarm for 5:00am. I was out of bed by 5:15 and at Peet’s Coffee on Clark Street by 5:30. I sat in the same seat next to the same real estate developers who read the paper and quietly talked local politics over dark roasts and buttered croissants.

I found a rhythm that worked and became something fun. The rhythm eventually shifted to Sunday afternoons and the occasional morning or evening. I started writing on Saturdays, in the wee hours of the morning, just after sunrise, before Dan awoke to make us breakfast.

Today, I write nearly every day. There’s currently no set rhythm, just projects and deadlines to keep my feet moving forward. There’s parts of the story that you still don’t know. Like how for a-year-and-a-half I lived in a burnt out fog, anxious and striving. It took a trip to New York to shake me out of my sleep and nurture me back towards the creative life I dreamed to live.

I could write this same post about my spiritual life – about the ups and downs of knowing God and living a life of transformation. I could write it about marriage or mental health or discovering a dream and pursuing a passion. But the lesson would always be the same:

It’s about Progress not Perfection.

The phrase first came to me so many years ago – when I was a recent college grad sitting in a therapist’s office crying over things I didn’t yet know.

“Remember, progress not perfection,” she said.

The phrase has circled back to me now, reminding me to be gentle, to celebrate. I am further than I once was, though I’m not where I want to be. But I’ll get there. Even if progress, right now, looks more like a baby, scooting across the carpet on her diapered butt because she just hasn’t learned how to walk yet, than a gold medal winning track star. I’m getting somewhere, and so are you.

Rachel ClairComment