This morning, while shopping for coffee, eggs, and bagels at the grocery store, I heard Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball thumping from the speakers in the ceiling:
“I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls” (Mozella et al.)
My mind flashed back to 2013, to that handful of weeks when she dominated every conversation–news outlets, Youtube videos, television, the blogosphere. Every time I logged on to the internet, people talked about her. When I met friends for dinner, someone couldn’t resist working her into the conversation.
I remember my jazz-loving parents discussing her in the kitchen while sipping martinis. I couldn’t imagine how they’d ever heard of her. Turns out my dad enjoyed watching Hannah Montana with his grandchildren. He was a fan.
Eventually, I knew the Video Music Awards performance would become old news, and people would return to conversations about her music.
This morning, while trying to decide between a 12 or an 18 pack of eggs, I listened carefully to the lyrics, finding myself captivated by the imagery:
“I came in like a wrecking ball
Yeah, I just closed my eyes and swung
Left me crashing in a blazing fall
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me…” (Mozella et al.)
Have you ever watched a wrecking ball in action?
A wrecking ball crashing into a structure is a powerful visual, symbolizing intense energy and violence. Like a train wreck, an accident on the freeway, it grabs our full attention, inspiring terror, awe, and a strange curiosity.
On my way home from the grocery store, I passed the empty lot where one of my favorite Colonial homes stood only days before. Although I never saw an actual wrecking ball blasting through the walls, I witnessed the aftermath of that magnitude of force. The entire structure disappeared in less than two days, the ground leveled to make way for progress. Today, a bare patch of brown earth stands in its place.
Obviously, someone considered the land more valuable than the home. I still remember the elderly woman who lived there, her frail form kneeling in the garden, tending roses from May to September. After she died, the family sold the home to the highest bidder.
I thought about the house with its handmade wood shutters, the chimneys on opposing exterior walls. I thought about the formal garden in the side yard, about the two-hundred years of families living under its roof. There must be a good reason to demolish a perfectly-good home.
Whether I agree or disagree with the destruction of a beautiful slice of architectural history, however, is immaterial. The home blocked someone’s plans for progress.
I thought again about the wrecking ball, about its immense power and potential. Ultimately, a wrecking ball clears the path for progress, enabling renewal or transformation.
I thought about my writing, about the daily challenges blocking my progress. If there ever stood a wall worthy of destruction with a wrecking ball, what would it be?
For me, and I suspect many other writers, that wall would be fear.
Besides draining our energy, positivity, and productivity, fear changes us physically.
First, fear activates the sympathetic nervous system, triggering the body’s fight, flight, or freeze response. As the bloodstream fills with adrenaline and cortisol, our hearts beat faster, and our blood pressure increases as well, directing blood flow away from the brain to prioritize the muscles.
Unfortunately, these physical effects, designed as temporary adaptations, can linger, causing long-term complications:
As the fear increases, the cycle continues, sparking cognitive rigidity–an inability to think flexibly. Given enough time and repetition, fear eventually leads to avoidance behaviors. Soon, we find ourselves stuck:
- We put off writing altogether.
- We spend hours researching without actually writing.
- We wait for inspiration before tackling our daily word count.
Fear stifles creativity, and it certainly keeps us from reaching our full potential.
And fear is far too common among creatives.
I’m no exception.
I fear failure. I fear success on someone else’s terms. I fear the unknown. Some days I fear being misunderstood, worrying that my words will somehow betray me. Other days I fear running out of time, money, or energy to meet my goals.
I could fill several pages with rational and irrational fears. If I could destroy them forever with the swing of a two-thousand pound steel ball, I certainly would.
But fear is elusive, crafty, always mutating into subtler forms, showing up as inconsistency, complacency, negativity, boredom, and perfectionism.
So how do we truly conquer fear and its many faces?
We look for solutions, and some of them work (some of the time).
For me, however, as a writer, it comes down to one simple solution:
We commit to our work.
We pull up our chairs, and we roll up our sleeves.
Every day, whether it’s for a few sentences or a few dozen pages, we write.
Not knowing where it will lead, without promises or guarantees, we show up to the page.
Over time, those paragraphs become blog posts or chapters. The chapters become books, and when we publish, we get to do it all over again.
Our wrecking ball is commitment.
And too often, we forget what that looks like.
Commitment means dedicating ourselves to the craft, striving to improve, adding additional effort to make sure our work is the best it can be. This translates to continuing education, trial and error, seeking feedback, and handling criticism.Commitment means dedicating ourselves to the craft, striving to improve, adding additional effort to make sure our work is the best it can be. This translates to continuing education, trial and error, seeking feedback, and handling criticism. Click To Tweet
It involves showing up day after day, especially when we don’t feel like it. It means setting goals and honoring deadlines. When we fall short, we forgive ourselves and persevere. When we make mistakes–and we’ll continue to make them–we learn from them.
Commitment requires us to work through writer’s block, to overcome procrastination. It forces us to listen to those intuitive nudges, to those voices whispering more. We give all that we have because it’s our name on the line, our honor, our reputation. Our writing represents our unique voice in the world.
Commitment is what separates the amateur from the professional writer. This means finishing what we start and honoring the process–no shortcuts, no excuses, no bullshit.Commitment is what separates the amateur from the professional writer. This means finishing what we start and honoring the process–no shortcuts, no excuses, no bullshit. Click To Tweet
So, how would you gauge your level of commitment?
That’s a trick question. 😉
There aren’t any levels; levels imply conditions.
There’s no such thing as conditional commitment for a writer.
You’re either committed or you’re not.
A commitment is a pledge, an agreement to complete an action.
Are you there yet?
Maybe it’s time for a wrecking ball?
This brings us to today’s writing challenges:
What’s standing between you and your writing goals?
Join the conversation below.
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