The raising of kids. Self-improvement. An exercise regimen. The writer’s craft. Doesn’t matter what it is.
Commitment — making a fixed decision toward achievement and allowing no other option — is the #1 factor in whether or not we make good things happen. Or really, whether things happen at all.
I was floundering. After my participation in 2014’s National Novel Writing Challenge (that I didn’t “win” but during which I wrote a lot), I vacillated between whether I should continue down the path of novel writing, or try to focus more on freelance work and the contribution of my personal essays to various websites and publications.
I have a desire and aptitude for both, my reasons for choosing one or the other varying. (Though balancing them together is not an option, not while working full-time and being an involved mom.) But because I was open to both, and couldn’t make a decision about which should be my priority, I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Doing nothing, as far as writing goes.
So then I expressed the lack of direction to my writing group. Put my thoughts out on the table, so I could get feedback, and view it from all sides. Really take a good look and make an informed, progressive decision.
It was hitting on the realization together — thank you, V.K.! — that it all comes down to commitment that cleared things up for me. I had to choose something, plain and simple. And then I had to decide that I would be committed to that choice, even on the days I don’t want to be, or when it’s really, really hard.
That’s it. Truly.
It was a powerful epiphany for me, and so I committed. I picked that I will continue down the path of novel writing, which led to an instant rejuvenation for my current WIP. Decisions regarding the manuscript and the integrity of the story asserted themselves. My verve to actually sit down and write returned.
I’ve written 5,000 new words toward my novel in the last two weeks, and the progress feels awesome. It feels solid and justified.
But really, it’s the commitment. That feels awesome, too.
Know any young women preparing to marry? Have you talked to them, given your counsel, any words of advice? Me? I’m not allowed to talk to brides anymore. Nope. Lost that privilege.
Why, you ask? Why would an author like me who’s more than willing to share her experience with the younger crowd be banished from the discussion?
Quite simple, really. Last time someone asked my opinion, I jokingly compared marriage to eating vegetables. I am a gardener, after all. Makes sense my analogies would run through the produce aisle. “Marriage is easy,” I said. “It’s like choosing your favorite vegetable—the one you want to enjoy ALL the time.”
She screwed her expression. “There’s no vegetable I want to eat ALL the time. I like variety in my diet!”
So much for analogies. I like variety in mine, too. “Yes, but there’s more than one way to cook a tomato—healthy and raw, chopped and marinated, sizzling fried, saucy and delicious!” Yes, well…you get the point. Mixing it up helps prevent same-old same-old from settling in, much like we moms do with dinner.
“Potatoes, again?” the children whine. “Can’t we have something different?”
Nope. We married a potato, we’re having potatoes. Period. “Now go put your ‘right attitude cap’ on and enjoy the meal.”
Granted, marriage is more involved, but truthfully, it comes down to commitment. And a sense of humor.
The young woman continued to peer at me, as though expecting some kind of brilliance to erupt.
Okay, let’s try this a different way: Careful what you wish for—you just might get it. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of the institution. Married for twelve years and two kids, I love marriage, but there’s one thing you need to know before you get married, if you expect any sort of success. “Marriage is hard work. If you accept that going in,” I told her, “you’re good to go for the long haul.”
“Oh,” she returned, somewhat discouraged.
Apparently, this wasn’t the insight she expected. But ever the positive one, I linked my arm through my husband’s and added, “Not to worry. Look how happy we are!”
My husband sweetly agreed. “Yeah, what she said.”
He’s a real card, isn’t he?
The lovely young couple left us but the woman returned a short while later. Courageous little thing. “But is there really a difference between living together and marriage?” she asked, her tone urging better news. Seems they’ve been living together for that last couple of years and she believed this to be key to their ultimate success. “It can’t be that different, can it?”
Uh, oh. She forgot the “careful what you wish for” rule. But she asked, so I smiled again (it’s always best to deliver hard facts with a soft edge) and replied, “Here’s the difference: When you’re living together, you always have that back door – the exit door – as in, ‘if he doesn’t do this or doesn’t do that, I’m outta here.’ You can always leave if he’s not living up to your expectations.” I leaned ever so closer. “When you’re married, you have to close that door, lock it, and throw away the key.”
Her jaw dropped.
“It’s a shift in attitude. You must be willing to work through the hard times, you know, like you do with family. We all have those members with whom we don’t see eye to eye, may even go without speaking at times, but eventually, we come back together — because it’s family. They’re not going anywhere. You’ll see them at Christmas.”
She nodded dully, but I could see this was not what she wanted to hear. “Do you want kids?” She shook her head to the contrary. “Then continue dating,” I advised. “There’s no need to change your name.” You’ve already changed your address.
Take heart. While marriage can be tough, it does give provide reason for that romance novel addiction we have. Escape is good. Really good. Why, I’m pondering where to go for spring break this very moment!