This Woman's Work

I really didn’t think anything could bludgeon my particular affection for this little space on the web but it turns out writing a book could. If I’m honest, I was afraid of that, and it’s one reason I hemmed and hawed on the outskirts of writing a book for so long. I love blogging. I hate the term but I love the practice. It has been such a singular act of faith, powerful tool of sanctification, and helpful habit to keep for nearly twenty years now. (Twenty years? Yes, Sayable’s first iteration is some livejournal page somewhere in the deepest recesses of the web. No, I will not tell you its name.)

In the aftermath of 60,000 words on a subject I feel even more woefully inadequate to talk about now than when I started writing, I find the words come in fits and starts and feeble falls. There are more unfinished drafts in my folder than there have been in a long time. The thing is, I know this way and I’ve been here before. Not exactly here, here, but here enough. I know the way through is the way through. Just write and keep writing and press publish even if it’s dreary and rambling and nearly embarrassing to have written. I say nearly because I am even less impressed by myself than I want you to be by me. Sayable has always been an exercise in shamelessness (And by that I mean an exercise in saying, “Here I am, such as I am, today, maybe tomorrow, but probably not.).

I’ve been having conversations with my peers lately and there’s a lot of talk about passing the baton to the next generation of writers. We the pioneers in the blogging and online writing world, making space for the settler’s offspring. I like that picture but I loathe the idea that I’m somehow ahead of others. I have always been an early adopter and late bloomer. I love the idea of making space for risk, experimentation, ingenuity, and try, try agains. But I also take a long, long time to see if this thing works.

I used to think there would come a point in writing at which I would have felt arrived. A pitch from a certain publication. My name on a cover. Paying work (!). But the truth is, arrival never happens, does it? I’m not asking you as much as, in the words of the great Kathleen Kelly, “Sending this cosmic question out into the void.” There never comes a time at which we feel totally accomplished. Did the pioneers always feel like pioneers? Does the blood of explorers always run fast and far to four corners of the earth? Does a proclivity toward risk always leave one wanting more? Or is this just the human condition? The endless pursuit of being like God and knowing all?

Like I said, this is a question for the void and not for an answer. I know the answer, after all, at least the Sunday School one (which doesn’t make it less true even if it’s more cliché). Here’s what I do know, the more I work at my work, the less adequate I feel at it. I think this must be true of everyone and most of us pretend it’s not. We pretend at being the masters or mistresses of the work of our hands, but I wonder if we all feel that irksome doubt just one glance over our shoulder.

My husband and I have been talking about the imaginary ladder we all mingle around. In the vernacular, “The Five Year Plan,” or, if you’re a really good pretender, “The Ten Year Plan.” I really mean it when I say I’m doing good if I can nail down a week or a day. A month feels insurmountable most of the time. A year almost impossible. Five years unthinkable. Ten years a lifetime. Ten years ago this summer I was laying on my snot soaked carpet denying the God I didn’t think existed, standing up a few hours later an agnostic (at best). Any “plan” I might have made at any point upon my life (pick a point, any point) would not have led me to where I am today.

That’s not to say I’m discontent with today. I have an enviable life. I envied the life I have now five, ten years back. I know the blessing of this day, the gift of it. But I would be lying if I said it comes easy, every day a joy, a total delight. I feel like a great pretender most of the time. And I think most of us do. At least most women, almost every woman I know. Imposter’s syndrome. Even the most successful of us still has that irksome friend Doubt forcing them to play the game as best they can as long as they can.

Today’s episode of The Good Enough Podcast has three of us on it, three women you might look at and say, “Well, they seem like they love their work, have plenty of opportunities, and never feel confused or like a failure about it.” I guess I just wanted to take a long, rambling path to telling you that simply isn’t true. We all doubt ourselves and our work and our adequacy again and again. It’s one reason I love the name of the podcast, “Good Enough: Finding the Good in a Never Enough World.” Because I think most of us struggle with that concept, being good enough or doing good enough or even being okay with things being good enough and not perfect. But I guess I just wanted to say sometimes Good Enough is just what I can do today. Good Enough is just sending this missive out into the void.

Newsflash: you don’t even have to read it, but I needed to write it, so thanks for receiving it.

this woman's work