Thursday, January 31, 2019

Less Is the New More by Stephanie Dees

I don’t know about you, but since the first of the year, I’ve been inundated with information about decluttering. Everyone in my facebook friends list seems to be talking about it. Netflix made a show about it. Even retailers are getting in on the action by sending emails and flyers about upgrading my storage. I had no idea my laundry basket needed a makeover!

I guess we’re all tempted to look at a new year as a fresh start. A new beginning. A new “us.” A slimmer, more organized and decluttered “us.” And that’s all well and good. It’s great to use the fresh clean pages of a brand new calendar to inspire us to do more and better things, but sometimes we get so caught up in the desire for a new us, we forget to appreciate who we already are. So, I have a few suggestions--four things we might want to consider decluttering this year. 

The first thing we need to kick to the curb is doubt. It’s normal to feel some trepidation when we send our work into the world, but doubt keeps us stuck where we are. If we’ve had rejection, doubt can make us wonder why we’re even bothering. It tells us us we can’t reach that goal we want to reach. But it’s important to realize that doubt is a liar, or as William Shakespeare said, a traitor, which makes “us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” So this year, let’s make it our goal to declutter doubt, and remember every step is a step in the right direction because we learn from all of them, even the ones which seemingly move us backward.

The next item for the discard pile is procrastination. Most writers deal with procrastination in some form or another. My theory is we’re afraid that today--whatever day today is--is the day when we’re going to finally run out of words to write. It’s a lot easier to watch videos on youTube about how to create a smokey eye (No? Just me?) than it is to stare at a blank page with a flashing cursor. Don’t get me wrong--it’s fun to watch videos and play on social media, but if we’re procrastinating to keep from feeling insecure about what we’re actually supposed to be working on, it’s time for them to go. And now that I think about it, getting rid of procrastination will be a lot easier now that we’ve decluttered doubt from our lives!

The third thing we need to declutter this year is fear. Now fear isn’t always a bad thing. It’s the thing that keeps us from walking off a ledge or committed to wearing our seatbelts. The danger with fear is we can become so risk-averse that we stop taking chances and let fear become the boss. 

When I was a little girl, my grandmother owned a restaurant. I remember her telling me one time that the way to carry a full cup of coffee without spilling it is not to focus on the coffee (and the fear of it sloshing over the side of the cup) but to look ahead to the table. As writers, we know our best, most exhilarating work happens when we stop playing it safe. Listening to the voice of fear holds us back, but not in a good way, and the way to get rid of it is to keep our eyes focused on the destination ahead.

Finally, this year, we need to let go of comparison. It’s so incredibly tempting to look around us at others on a similar path and find ourselves lacking. He got a contract. She got an agent. Her book got more reviews. His won more awards. We see all the amazing things people around us are accomplishing, but what we don’t see is the painful parts of other people’s lives--their doubts and fears and insecurities, the hours they spent procrastinating. We try to measure our struggle to their successes and that’s a sure way to feel like a failure, even if it’s the farthest thing from the truth.

So how do we ditch comparison once and for all? Remember that our path is our own and just because it’s different doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. Everyone struggles. Behind the highlight reel we see on social media of authors we admire is a messy life just like ours.

Okay. Now that we’ve decluttered some of the things that could hold us back in 2019, we’ve got some open space to work with and there’s one big question remaining. Now that the doubt and fear and insecurities are gone, how do we fill that space?

Well, with certainty.

The certainty that we are each a child of God. As we use the creativity He gave us, there’s no need to look left or right, no need to ever entertain doubt and fear again. 

We are fully known and fully loved by Him. 

And no external success can even come close to that.

So how about you? Have you been inundated with decluttering messages? Done some literal or figurative decluttering this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

The Marriage Bargain

Jules Sheehan will do anything to keep custody of the two orphaned girls in her care-including a marriage of convenience with their uncle. Cam Quinn crosses the globe as a travel writer, but he's ready to settle down. Now tough, tender Jules is offering the home he's secretly longed for. Can this marriage in name only become a family of the heart?

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Award-winning author Stephanie Dees lives in small-town Alabama with her family, two spoiled dogs, and a very bossy cat. A Southern girl through and through, she loves sweet tea, SEC football, corn on the cob and air conditioning. Her latest book, The Marriage Bargain, is available now.