There’s a terrific Hanukkah story called Herchel and the Hanukkah Goblins wherein a traveler (Herchel) comes to a village where the residents are being terrorized by goblins who hate Hanukkah. Our hero outwits the goblins and all is restored. There’s a wonderful scene where he tricks the goblin in getting his hand stuck in a pickle jar. Goblins love pickles and this goblin is so greedy, he tries to grab ALL the pickles, and of course, can’t remove his hand from the jar.
I have often felt like this—unable to let go of what I am so desperate for, but because I’m holding onto it so greedily, so fearfully, it traps me.
Learning to let go is a lesson I seem to need repeatedly, since every time I think I’ve gotten it down, something comes along and there I am, stuck with my hand in the pickle jar again.
It may be a cliche, but there is truth to the saying that we are our own worst enemies.
So what is LJ learning to let go now? Two things come to mind: Comparisons and expectations.
I’ve recently gotten hooked on the television adaptation of THE EXPANSE novels. So much so, that I wanted to get the books. In the airport on the way to Iceland last week, I bought the first two and never even opened the kindle. My husband did, and was instantly hooked. He raced through the two books and bought a third during our holiday and he RAVED about the story and the writing.
I’m not proud of my reaction. It was driven by envy and insecurity. In my own mind, every time my husband praised these books, it meant that mine were less-than, that I wasn’t good enough. And so, I was afraid to read them because I knew I couldn’t measure up. MY books aren’t selling by the truckloads. MY books aren’t being made into a TV series or a movie. MY books aren’t racing up the charts.
In the midst of my personal whine-fest, I paused and took a deep breath. I realized that I was irrationally angry at my husband’s enjoyment. Instead of sharing it with him and geeking out together, like we do with so many other things, I was acting like a spoiled three year old. And those emotions came out of a place of fear.
Which leads me to the second thing I’m learning (again) to let go: insecurity. It’s insecurity that mires me in the loop of self-doubt and self-loathing. It’s insecurity that pushes me to compare my work with others. It’s insecurity that whispers ‘it’s all a fluke’. It’s insecurity that tries to make me believe that not writing for a week means I’ll never find my writing rhythm again.
We just returned from a week’s holiday traveling through Iceland. (An AMAZING place, btw. I’ve totally fallen in love with the country and its people.) Other than keeping a handwritten travel journal, I didn’t do any writing. I didn’t start any editing. I didn’t even pen a blog post. As the week progressed, I found myself getting anxious about losing writing days, even as I was soaking up incredible experiences (hiking out on a glacier, exploring ice caves, riding Icelandic horses, seeing the Northern Lights).
It was insecurity—fear, really—and letting it have power over me not only makes it nearly impossible to be in the moment of an experience, it ruins the aftermath of that experience by linking it with the negative emotions in memory.
The reality is, those fallow times are absolutely essential to the life and cycle of creativity. I can already feel how the landscape of Iceland has seduced me and will definitely find its way into some story. I don’t know the how of it yet, but that doesn’t matter. Because I trust that the process works.
And trust is the antidote to fear.
I have to trust both in the process of writing and in my ability to do the work. My experience has proven to me, over and over, that I can. I sit down and I do the work. I create worlds from words. Other people purchase the books I write and experience those worlds. If they also experience other worlds, it doesn’t diminish the power of mine.
Learning to let go.
Now I think I want a pickle.