You must give up something for Lent. Chocolate, caffeine, sweets, sugar, soft drinks, red meat, salty snacks, social media, and smoking. I didn’t find out that these are popular things to give up for Lent from research. I found out on Ash Wednesday every year, when friends and colleagues had long, in-depth discussions over what they’re giving up for Lent. Here’s the problem: you aren’t supposed to be talking about it. Your Lenten sacrifices are supposed to be a personal “fast” that takes you away from selfish distractions and closer to the Lord. If you’re loudly reminding people of what you gave up everyday, then you missed the point. I’ve found in my adult life that Lenten sacrifices have become more drama and theater than actual spiritual enrichment.
I tried giving up things for Lent, but got away from it for a different reason: I felt I was more focused on what I gave up than on what I was supposed to gain from the sacrifice. That too is a perilous distraction from the greater purpose, so I wisely decided that if I couldn’t focus on it properly, then I didn’t need to do it. You know you have a problem when complaint replaces gratitude and prayer.
I’m not saying it’s useless. This practice has survived for over 2,000 for a reason. I just hope that somebody is getting something out of it out there, somewhere, because I certainly don’t see it happening around me.
Write every day. This well-intentioned advice that real writers write every day (no matter how good it is) doesn’t serve as the kind of encouragement that people think it does. Why? Because creativity doesn’t work that way. Forcing yourself to turn out a word count every day is treating the creative process like a thermal well – just inject more words in there, and maybe something good will steam out of it. The problem is that creativity is more like a water well: it has to flow naturally through proper nourishment in the core of the creator. If you’re tired, burned out, sick, anxious, depressed, or worried about something, then forcing out a word count every day is only going to frustrate you further because you wasted time writing crap that you’ll delete later. I don’t care what they say, quality does matter. You can’t break through writer’s block by forcing more writing any more than you can force a broken bone to heal faster. Creativity takes time and patience. If the conditions aren’t right, it won’t work, so stop trying to force it. Take a break if you need to. Trust me, the inspiration will return, and when it does you’ll more than make up for any missed word counts.
If it doesn’t bring you joy, let it go. This is the most dangerous advice I’ve ever heard. Why? Because people don’t understand that it’s context-specific. It’s one thing to decide to get rid of that ugly lamp that you inherited form a relative that died when you were an infant. It’s another thing to make a major life change because there’s one thing that’s driving you crazy. Here’s a true story of the misapplication of this: many years ago, I worked with a person who quit a great job because she didn’t get along with her boss. Two months later, the boss quit. Of course, the agency wouldn’t hire her back for her old job or her old boss’s job, because if you’ll quit once, then you’ll quit again. She was popular too, and this one action turned her friends against her. She let go of a good thing because of one thorn in her flesh. As far as I know, she never got another job back in that place again.
I wish I could say that was the only time I saw somebody do something this drastic because of one irritant in their life, but the fact is that I’m seeing it at an increasing level. Just over the past year I’ve heard stories of people quitting jobs without notice, selling houses and moving to a new city on a whim, purchasing things they can’t afford because it made their heart skip a beat, marrying somebody after a first date – it seems people are getting more spontaneous. Unfortunately, it’s for major life decisions, and this kind if instability is dangerous. Actions have consequences, and people making these impulsive decisions don’t realize that what makes you happy today can make you miserable tomorrow. Case in point: how can you retire when you haven’t had a stable job to save up money for retirement? How can you build up equity and a solid financial house when you buy new homes and cars every two years? How will a divorce affect your personal life, finances, and family when you realize that Mr. Wonderful isn’t wonderful three months later? That’s the problem. Today’s happy doesn’t care about tomorrow’s security, or even how it affects other people.
Seriously, get rid of the lamp if it’s hideous and you can’t stand to look at it anymore, but if your job pisses you off then remember: nothing in life is perfect, and all things pass in time. Trust me, I’ve been in the same job for over 21 years. I’ve seen a lot of seasons and you know what they all had in common? They passed. So be visionary, consider the costs, embrace stability, and look at the big picture before you make a big change.
It’s not that this is bad advice, it’s just that it’s so misapplied that I feel it’s better to not give it or take it at all. But then
again, I suppose you could say the same for all advice. Anything can go bad given circumstances and/or intent.
That’s all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a wonderful weekend.