Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Writing and finishing books is really important to me. But sometimes, it becomes more important than everything else, and I lose sight of what really matters. 

I have been struggling with completing a project I thought would take just a few days, and I have been really behind on some other projects - things I am working on on my own and some that I need to deliver to others. I have been feeling a lot of pressure to finish everything quickly. But at the same time, I have really high standards, and the projects I am working on are all ones that are difficult because they are in areas that are new to me. I am taking risks and moving out of my comfort zone. 

Bottomline - I am working on things that are hard, they are taking time and I am not making progress as quickly or as easily as I would like, and I am getting frustrated. 

And sometimes I take that frustration out on others. 

Lately, I have been cranky on the phone with my parents, or calling them up and sounding out my problems, but not having the patience or time to listen to anything going on with them. I have been feeling very irritable, and even things out of my control, like the weather, is getting to me. I chalked all this up to just the stress of getting things done and perfectly normal. 

Till it occurred to me that working on books and large projects was a choice I made. I love working on books. I love doing research and putting something together. And being cranky and crabby all the time isn’t a price I want to pay, and its not a way to work. I know many people who work that way, in jobs they can’t bear, hanging on by looking at the size of their paycheck. I might be in that position one day, but I don’t have to be now, not when I am my own boss. 

And I realized that I was taking everything too seriously. It is important to do good work. I do believe that high standards are important. But I can’t make progress, or take on difficult challenges by being afraid to make a mistake, by being afraid to just play, to do the work and see where it takes me. And I can’t do that if I am tense, if I am watching the clock and trying to hit somebody else’s measure of productivity. I just have to do the best I can each day, and that’s it.

Besides, I am writing a book. It is meant to be informative or entertaining, not supposed to save lives. No need to get so serious here. It is ok if I make a decision that doesn’t work so well. It is ok if I just rush through this draft and fix what I can. It is ok if some small mistakes pass me by. I am not advocating shoddy work, but it is always possible to go back and fix things.

This lesson was underscored even more because I spent a little bit of time the last couple of days doing a copy-edit on a book I had already published and edited several times. I am working on a companion workbook to my book on study skills, and I found many little typos and errors, so I spent some time going over the draft again and fixing what I could. And that felt good, but also made me realize that no matter how perfect I try to make something, many errors will slip by. Some I will catch, others I won’t. But it isn’t so bad. This is a book that everyone who has read has really liked, and obviously they did so despite the few remaining grammatical and spelling errors (mostly differences between British and American spellings). The best thing about publishing it myself is that I can change my manuscript when I find something that needs fixing. 

So anyway, I realized that it doesn’t hurt to take a bit of time out to be present in the lives of my family, to read a book or just cut myself some slack. I still have a lot to do, I still have obligations and projects that need completing, but maybe I can do them with a lighter touch - on my work and on myself. 

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