My friend recently posted about Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast “Magic Lessons,” and I started listening to the episodes yesterday in the car while driving from one end of town to the other and back again. I read Eat, Pray, Love probably seven or so years ago – soon after I got my divorce and was still processing all of that – and I liked it, but it wasn’t revolutionary to me or anything like that. But I’ve been following Liz on social media for a few months now and I feel like she’s been rocking my world at least every other week. You know that feeling where someone articulates something that you’ve been feeling deep down in your soul but you haven’t figured out how to express it yourself yet, and then you hear it and it gives you chills because there’s so much truth in it? Yes, recently Elizabeth Gilbert has been that truth finder for me.
So I guess I wasn’t too surprised to find that her podcast is full of little nuggets and gems of truth and wisdom that speak to me. I’m only halfway through the episode where she talks with Cheryl Strayed because I had to turn it off when I picked up my kiddos due to a couple of f-bombs. (Yes, the struggle is real to connect with adult media while you’re home with littles all days!) But right before I had to turn it off, they hit on a topic that I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while: “Good Enough.”
I started a blog a few years ago called the Mama Manifesto, and I intended for it to be a space where I could write about pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood to complement my doula and childbirth education business. And I had a couple of posts that I’m pretty proud of. The problem is that there are a total of five posts. Why? The answer is easy: High standards. Having worked in publishing and then in the schools as a language arts teacher, I feel an extreme amount of pressure for my words to be profound and my grammar perfect. I’m supposed to have an exhaustive vocabulary, all of my points should be thoroughly researched and documented, and every English professor I’ve ever had should be beaming with pride to claim me as a former student.
Yeah, so you can imagine how often I was able to find the time, energy, and opportunity to write to those standards. The answer is a big, fat ZERO. Even the couple of posts that I’m pretty happy with aren’t anything brilliant or earth shattering. Just honest ramblings from an exhausted mom. So instead of embracing this outlet for my ideas, I continually put it off because I didn’t have the time to do the quality of work that I did as a student or full-time professional who was able to give 100% focus to my work. And that, sisters, is how you write five whopping blog posts in three years.
But when 2016 rolled around, I was feeling inspired to start over with a new focus, something less about treating mothers as a distinct, segregated part of society and more about connecting women at all points in their lives. And honestly, I went into it ready to make the same stupid mistake I made the first time: I had grand plans for these perfect, extensive posts that would be polished and beautiful and perfect.
But here’s the difference: This time around, I was too inspired to stick to my ridiculous standards. My first post was completed by hunching over my phone while my husband drove us to his parents’ house for New Year’s brunch. And after one cursory glance for spelling and grammar, I hit “Publish.”
It’s taken some getting used to. Putting something as intensely personal as writing out there for the world to see is terrifying, and a veneer of perfect grammar and well constructed sentences provides a false sense of security that makes the whole process a bit easier. But I learned the fundamental truth that my choice was not between writing perfectly or writing half-assed. My choice was between writing half-assed or not writing at all.
And you know what? I now have well over twenty posts in less than three months instead of five posts in three years. I’ve let go of my “I-was-an-English-teacher-so-everything-has-to-be-perfect” standards, and in return for that vulnerability, I’ve received the joy of creating and expressing myself on a regular basis. Yes, I’m sure you could look through my posts and find a thousand things to criticize, but at least there is something to critique at all. I’ve become comfortable with “good enough” – as Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed suggest – and it gave me back the ability to connect with my creativity.
I think it’s easy to see how this topic applies to the arts. To painting, music, etc. But how does it apply to the rest of our lives? In what ways are we holding ourselves back and not expressing ourselves at all because we feel we have to do it perfectly instead of just doing it “good enough?” How are we holding ourselves back from loving and mothering and sistering? Thoughts for another day.