• Emily Johnson

How to be a Beautiful Work in Progress.

Quit with the all-or-nothing attitude and f*cking write.

Do we throw away our ice cream cone before starting to eat it because we don’t think we could possibly finish the whole thing? Do we pull over on the side of the road and park because we’ll run out of gas before we reach our destination?

No, of course not, that’s silly. We would eat as much as we can and we would stop to fill up for gas.

So, why do we choose to quit before we even start? Why do we set goals for ourselves that we give up on because we had a moment of weakness (or joy) and ate one piece of dark chocolate caramel with sea salt on a low-carb diet?


Or, to share the biggest thing I’m grappling with, why do we feel like we should give up on the creative pursuits that we’re passionate about, like writing, because we don’t feel it can pay the bills or we aren’t getting published (yet)?


These are patterns of perfection, self-sabotage, and instant gratification. They run deep—in myself, my family, and society as a whole. There is this notion that things should come easily and if they don’t, we should just forget about it—or quit. Our work ethic, putting effort toward what we want most, has gone down the crapper.

These patterns aren’t serving us. They are making us lazy and unhappy, and we’re not living up to our full potential.


The first time I recognized these patterns in myself was in elementary school. I remember clearly the day I quit swimming after receiving second place instead of my usual first. For a couple of summers in a row, I had won first place in all the swimming contests. Once I wasn’t “number one,” I quit and never competed again.

I remember that the reason I’d competed was because it came easy and I didn’t have to practice much. After getting second place, feeling like a failure, and realizing I was going to have to put effort toward being better, I gave up.

But, why did I give up so easily? Why did I believe that success should come easy? Was I too young to see that putting effort, time, and energy into it could make first place feel even more rewarding?


How can we change the culture around this? How can we teach our children that persistence, perseverance, dedication, and tenacity is what it takes to create meaningful lives for ourselves?

How can we break the pattern of needing instant pleasure? Or, sabotaging ourselves because we can’t handle the discomfort of not having it all right away?


Can we allow ourselves to be beautiful works in progress rather than failed masterpieces?

About a month ago, I came across this pattern again. I started the Elephant Academy writing class to “Find your voice.” I signed up, feeling ready to take the next step on my writing journey—to learn more about writing, give myself permission to write more, get published, and maybe start making some money doing it.

But of course, before even starting the course, I was throwing my computer in the garbage.

Who am I to think someone wants to read my words or hear my stories? And what the hell am I going to write about?

I was feeling a strong case of impostor syndrome coming on—I felt like a fake. Even after the first week, it felt like it was going to be a permanent condition.

But instead, it was relieved and almost cured by all the writing exercises, homework deadlines, editing, and committing to jumping in with both feet and giving what I love a full chance. I gave myself a prescription to just f*cking write.

This class has been a real learning lesson for me, wherein significant growth has happened.

After my first writing assignment was rejected by the editors, I almost threw in the towel—well, I actually did for a few days. But then, instead of going further to destroy the towel as I usually would, I picked it back up, I learned to wash it, wipe my tears with it, dry myself off, and hang it up for reuse.

In other words, I got upset and allowed myself to have my emotions, but I didn’t get stuck in them—I let them flow, came back to my intention of writing, and continued to share my stories.

Most importantly, I didn’t give up.

More of us need to do more of what lights us up and puts a fire in our hearts. This is what the world needs—more people doing what we feel we are meant to do. Let’s put the pen to paper, or fingertips to the keyboard, and put some words together—regardless of whether we think it’s good or not.

That is what I believe is the cure all:

Stop the excuses, quit the all-or-nothing attitude, eat the ice cream, and just f*cking do it.


Check it out published on elephant journal: https://elejrnl.com?p=2175216



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