When everything goes wrong

Ice on the window on a gray morning in winter

I'd rededicated myself to my creative pursuits. Tomorrow morning, bright and early I was going to begin (again) to make, to express myself, to write and paint. Before bed, I set up things I would need so that I wouldn't be fumbling when the time came. I smiled in satisfaction as I flicked off the light in my creative space.

And then my son came to me in the night. "Mom, I don't feel good."

Just like that, my well-laid plans were gone, evaporating like mist in the sunshine. The next afternoon, I shuffled back to my bedroom and found myself sitting on the side of my bed, head in hands. "Why does this always happen? Why is there always a wrench thrown into my plans for creativity?"

Do you ever feel like that? As though there is some maleficent force out there waiting to snarl your thoughts and ideas, to rain on your parade? Or for you is it an internal force? The overly-loud critic who won't be silenced enough for you to write a single line of poetry or put down a rough sketch on the paper or compose more than two bars of music?

What do you do when things don't go as planned?

What do we do when everything goes wrong? When all of our plans are thrown out of whack by an illness, a sudden change that throws our schedule into a whirlwind or an unplanned for event out of the blue?

Life happens. And unfortunately, even our best-laid plans can become nothing more than hopeful musings.

But that doesn't mean that we need to throw in the towel or that we throw up our hands in defeat. It means that we stop for a minute or two, breathe deeply, and go with Plan B. This may not look or feel as good as Plan A, but it's better than nothing. Perhaps instead of an hour spent in the studio in the early morning, you take 10 minutes to paint. Rather than three written pages, you write only three paragraphs.

In other words, instead of "perfect" you go with "good enough." For recovering perfectionists like me, this thought might bring an instant sense of unease. "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right." Did you ever hear this growing up? I say, if something is worth doing then do it, even if it's not right. Because something you love done imperfectly is better than the illusion of perfection that never gets done.

Next time (because there will always be a "next time")

So, here is the plan for the next time that everything goes wrong. We will pledge to not throw up our hands in defeat or weep until we're dry. Instead, we will look (creatively) for other ways to do our important work. Even if that means just five or 10 or 20 minutes, we will commit to that time.

Will you join me in that pledge? What are some ways that you can choose to do things differently the next time that everything goes wrong? 


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