Friday, August 26, 2011

As if that's the way it's been all along

Welcome to another Life List club post, Today I have Sonia with me (yeah!) and I hope you'll check out my post over at Pam Hawley's blog.

Here's Sonia:

Growing up, I was always a storyteller. I started telling stories as soon as I could put a few sentences together. And the minute I could write them down, I put them on paper.

All the way up through high school, I wrote like mad. I wrote on anything I could get my hands on. Receipts, envelopes, backs of spent ticket books from my waitressing job, fliers, and my arm if I had to. I spent hours in front of the computer.

The words, although probably not spectacular, flowed.

And then they stopped. Not all at once but not a lingering death either. I started college and stopped listening to the stories in my head.

For fifteen years, I wrote nothing more creative than last-minute term papers, memos, and shopping lists. Although there was a occasional sputter of words and there were still ideas rattling around inside my head, I couldn't seem to turn on the flow any more.

I kicked myself in the mental rear a lot. If only I hadn't stopped. If only I'd kept writing. If only. If only. If only.

How easily those if-only's pile up. If only we'd kept eating right. Kept exercising. Hadn't stopped speaking up for ourselves. Hadn't stopped being ambitious. Saved more money. Worn sunscreen. Hadn't stopped writing.

All those if-onlys crowd around us, pointing their fingers. Taunting us. Reminding us how much harder it is to fix something than to maintain it. Harder than building something new sometimes.

Over the years I spent as a writing couch potato and after, when I finally started getting off my creative butt, I let the if-onlys bully me. Then I found a marvelous piece of advice in Victoria Lynn Schmidt's Book in a Month, to work "as if".

Working "as if" means that you keep writing--that you keep moving forward with your story--without stopping to rewrite every time you change your mind about a character, plot or setting detail. Instead, you take notes...[and] stay on task while still remembering changes you'll need to make later.

Keep moving forward as if you've already made the changes. As if you never stopped. As if that's the way it's been all along.

Fear, regret, and guilt are useful when they let you know you've strayed from your path or that you're about to take a new path. They put you on alert so you can be aware of danger or let you know how you got so far off track.

If-onlys are like the inner critic's voice popping up just as your story's taking shape. They steal the momentum. Derail the narrative. If you let them, they'll kill your story. If-onlys only hold you in the swamp of fear, regret and guilt so that you can't ever move on.

If-onlys leave you stranded at the foot of a mountain looking up, wondering how you'll even get to the top.

They're hoping you'll just give up and walk away.

Don't let them talk you into giving up.

The only time we can rewrite the past is when we're telling a story. We can rewrite to our heart's content, after we've finished the story. In life, we can't go back an erase our mistakes or keep ourselves from straying off the right path.

We can't change what we've done before but we can change what we do now. We can move forward as if we've already made the changes. As if we never stopped running or writing or eating healthy. Because we'll never get anywhere good if we stay stuck in the if-only swamp. We can't rewrite our history but we can keep going as if we already are who we want to be.

What if-only's have been holding you back? And what does "working as if" mean to you?


Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She's the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at WordPress, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy. When she's not wandering along the tangled paths of her wild imagination, she wrangles home life with one fabulous husband, two amazing, homeschooled children, three dogs, one frog and two cats who battle each other for world domination
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