This is a post by Lou Heinrich.
The fridge light clicks on and she peers inside, the whitegood hum filling the kitchen. She closes the door and paces; there’s something she is supposed to be doing. But she isn’t going to think about it. Instead, iced tea must be made.
She fills the red kettle. Clicking the stovetop gas on, she watches the flame billow and listens to the water simmer and tries not to think about writing her five-year plan. The kettle whistles and the tea is steeping and once again she must contemplate sitting at her desk with a blank sheet of paper, the conceivable future sprawling and empty before her.
Everything has been fine without a plan. She reads what she wants, she clicks things on the internet and scribbles in reaction. Some days she feels like Carrie Bradshaw, typing thoughtful analogies with her elegant legs crossed, sipping from a jumbo coffee from between tousled white sheets. Other days she is a whale that opens its enormous mouth and captures her entire twitter feed, and then regurgitates it in an opinion piece.
A vague life plan to ‘get published’ hasn’t changed so much in the past few years. Now there are variants on the original: Get published more. Get published in better magazines. Get published and get paid.
She never consciously avoided making goals. It’s just that the word ‘career’ is an ocean, and she has barely stepped off the shore. Wouldn’t it be better to be carried in a friendly stream, bobbing alongside logs under the patterned shade of leafy trees? It would probably look like the light-hearted journey the kitten takes in Milo and Otis.
The tea (Berries of the Enchanted Forest) streams crimson from the teapot spout. This five-year-plan is for a grant, and the closing date is zooming towards her. Unfortunately, vague plans cannot be measured by a panel.
At her writing desk with a glass of berry-coloured tea, tinkling with ice cubes, she looks at the being sitting next to her. Her fear is like a Studio Ghibli demon; half terrible but half companionable. It is very tall but also overweight and has soft fur.
The fear demon strokes her cheek and reminds her that there is a good chance that she will never accomplish all she sets out to do. That the higher she gazes, the further there is to fall when, inevitably, failure comes.
Standing abruptly, she stalks out and slams the door. She yells at the door. She puts on her bikini and a floppy hat and takes her tinkling Enchanted Forest tea to lie in the midsummer sun, refusing to think about anything except the wind running its fingers through the jacaranda tree.
When her teeth are red from berry tea she feels fierce and returns. She grabs the furry fear demon by the scruff of his huge neck (tenderly, for they are quite fond of each other) and drags him into a wardrobe in another room. He doesn’t protest too much; he likes the dark, she thinks.
At her writing desk, she visualises the contents of her untidy mind – the vague hopes, the cloudy dreams. She begins with the big ones. If everything went well, where would she be in five years? There, she can see an image of herself flickering on the cream wall like a projection, wearing a navy skirt suit with golden buttons, sitting at a desk with her back straight, a stack of publications next to her. She might even be signing books.
After a while of visualising, her hand stops shaking and her pen is steady. She breaks her daring vision down into tangible steps, and it becomes less intimidating.
Instead of floundering and aiming blindly, she articulates what she desires and shows herself how to take what she wants. She is channelling her energy into a clear path, disciplining her mind. Instead of the word ‘future’ freezing her insides, it provides her with the determination of a marathon runner.
As she evolves from large to small in scope, her goals become more defined, until finally she writes the habits she wants to build.
- write every day
- stop procrastinating
- be brave
She can no longer hear the fear demon banging in the wardrobe in the other room.
Lou Heinrich is a stone cold bibliophile who writes about pop culture and women. As well as being the Film Editor at Lip Mag, she drinks far too much earl grey, and celebrates life daily. Find Lou on twitter here.