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Just to be Understood

I get easily distracted. Very easily. I resolved to read more this summer. And write more. But in addition to being distracted by silly websites and watching TV, lately I’ve also been struggling to stay focused on a writing a blog post or reading a book for long enough to get through it, before moving on to another post or another book. I stay at home most of the summer and don’t go to camp or get a summer job. My friends don’t know why I do it, they get bored during the two weeks between the end of school and the beginning of whatever arrangements they have for the summer. Whereas, in my ‘doing nothing’, I feel that I have too much going on. I find myself with at least five unpublished drafts sitting in my “All Posts” page, and I’m in the middle of at least two books, with what feels like a million others begging me to read them.

This so-much-ness leaves me overwhelmed and paralyzed. Earlier this month I was participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned a million times, but I’m not even sure, because I can’t even remember which posts I’ve published and which are still just drafts and what I’ve even expressed in which post. I quit that, because it was stressing me out and I felt I would spend my time better focussing on things I enjoy — namely reading and writing. But then, with so many options for optimum enjoyment, my brain just explodes and I end up doing nothing. I resolve to write first thing when I wake up — before I do anything else. I did this with my NaNo novel and I’ve been doing this all week with a still unpublished blog post I’ve been struggling to write. Rather than help, this resolution generally tends to lead to wasted days, trying to psyche myself up to write, not letting myself enjoy any other activities before I do and eventually finding that it’s four in the afternoon, and I’m still in my pyjamas.

And, of course, by the time I do sit down at the computer, my family is all home from whatever awesome things they do with their lives and they start distracting me. My sister comes in and tries to steal my attention, just as I’ve finally given it to what I’m working on or my brother will ask me for a ride somewhere — I, as the oldest and the only sibling with a license, being the family chauffeur.

The worst is when my mom asks me to do things for her and I constantly disappoint her by being a scatterbrained idiot, who forgets to do those things. She’ll call when she’s out asking me to do something minor that should take about thirty seconds. I’ll get her call while I’m at home, agonizing about the fact that I should really be writing, and then I’ll forget about what she wanted as soon as I hang up the phone, due to the fact that I’m preoccupied with the battle going on in my brain. She’ll then arrive home — always just when I’ve started writing and am finally getting really ‘in the zone’ — and she’ll get upset that I haven’t done what she asked. And then she’ll call me downstairs and (after she’s expressed her intense disappointment) she’ll ask me to go run some errands and will think it’s just too likely a story that I’m in the middle of writing, just that second. What were you doing earlier? she’ll ask. Why are you always on that blog whenever I need something? I wonder the same thing. And when I tell her I’m working on a blog post that I’ve been struggling to write all week, she’ll discount my blog — because it isn’t as if I’m doing work for school or anything important — and she’ll tell me that it’s no excuse.

I’m painting a very harsh picture of my mother. Probably even a biased, angst-y, immature picture and that isn’t very fair of me, as she has got to be the best mother in the entire universe and I don’t deserve half of the wonderful things she does for me on a daily basis. She’s an incredibly supportive mother and believes in me and my writing abilities far more than I do. She’s the kind of mother who suggested that rather than take the practical approach and be an English teacher when I grow up — because what else am I supposed to do with the English degree I plan on getting? — I should “just be an author”. On the bestsellers list. Because that’s what happens to every person who takes it into their head to pick up a pen (or keyboard) and write. I’m not even exaggerating — she believes in my talents to a fault.

This is pretty much the antithesis of MY parents.
Still not sure if that’s a good thing.
Photo credit: glasbergen.com

But still, for all her perfection as a mother and cheerleader in one respect, we are very different people and a lot of the time, she just doesn’t get it. I know, I know. That has got to be the biggest cliché in the history of the world. A teenager who feels misunderstood. By her mother. Where (and how many times) have you heard that before? In the past week?

But, perhaps somewhat uniquely, I feel that her belief in me is part of the misunderstanding. I hate when people (especially my close relatives, who are obviously extremely biased) tell me that my writing is going to make me famous one day. It’s an absurd notion, completely misses the entire point and if I do end up publishing fiction as a career, I wouldn’t want to write the nonsense that tends to comprise the bestsellers list. My mom thinks that’s absurd and even snobbish of me, but I really wouldn’t want my writing filling the bestseller slot that’s been filled by the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey and other such silliness that’s sensational today but will be forgotten and covered in dust by tomorrow.

My other problem with such high and unrealistic praise (I’m not talking solely about my mother anymore, just generally my relatives who love me very much and misunderstand me in an equal proportion ) is that I feel the need to refute it. Both out of modesty (whether that humility it is sincere or affected) and because I like to think realistically about my talents to avoid inevitable disappointment. The problem with this, is that I feel like I regularly put myself down, to balance how much other people sometimes ‘put me up’. And that isn’t so good either.

I’m not saying that praise is a bad thing. In fact, I love showing my work to my family so I can hear them say nice things about it. And furthermore, I think that where constructive critique is involved, positive comments are just as beneficial as needs-improvement comments. However, fluffy, insubstantial, you’re-absolutely-brilliant-and-going-to-be-famous-one-day style praise helps no one. The helpful comments are the ones that highlight specific aspects that are done well. Like techniques that are used effectively or content that’s relatable.

This post has gone on longer than I expected it to, and has gone far more deeply into my deep-seated issues than I had intended, but I hope it was still somewhat relevant to you and you enjoyed it in some way. If not, at least I’m glad I was able to sit down and focus on it for long enough to get it out. Perhaps it was a little self gratifying, as a fellow blogger talks about in her thought-provoking post here. But even so, maybe the family members who shower on the praise will read this piece of writing (in raptures, I’m sure) and at least it may succeed in helping us all understand each other a little better. Because isn’t that all everyone really wants? Just to be understood?

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8 responses »

  1. I totally get how you feel, you want to do so much and end up doing nothing, story of my life, haha. But seriously, my summer holidays and the breaks of uni were spent that way, when I didn’t have to do an internship at least and after the weeks I was disappointed that I hadn’t even read the books which were sitting on my shelves for so long calling for attention. And I used to forget all the little things my mom asked me to do while I was at home, like starting the washing machine or taking out the dishes but no, I was mostly preoccupied with watching TV those days. Well, I miss the time between school and uni where I had complete freedom of wasting my time. I guess I’m just a procrastinator by nature 😀

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the link here! The desire to be understood afflicts all ages. I really enjoyed this post, and I think you write well. Your words flow, your transitions are smooth, and I forget I’m reading (something I notice because I struggle with mine). I can absolutely relate to forgetting to do things that should take 30 seconds. If I’m distracted or stuck in my head I forget any request almost immediately. It’s just my husband instead of my Mom who has to deal with it now. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the specific and realistic praise 😉 I love reading your blog, so I’m happy that you like my post and think it’s well written. And that’s exactly it — I don’t just get distracted, I get stuck in my head (and can’t find my way out)! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Reply
  3. Pingback: The passion to write | Write right

  4. “…with so many options for optimum enjoyment, my brain just explodes and I end up doing nothing.”

    Yes! This! It gets awkward when my husband comes home from work and asks what I did all day, and I can’t figure out an answer.

    Reply
    • I know what you mean, I hate when people ask how I spent my day and I’m just like, “Ummm… Hmmm… What DID I do today?” I’m glad you could relate! Thanks for dropping by 🙂

      Reply

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