Don’t Try So Hard

August 29, 2011

“Hey, let’s go for a walk! We might not be able to once the storm hits tomorrow.” Quickly grabbing sneakers and hoodie, clad half in sweats/loungewear and street gear, I realized that I had inadvertently assembled an outfit that was truly unique and what I would have intentionally chosen had I not been in a circumstance requiring unchoice. It is ironic that the times I try to pull together an outfit for whatever the occasion might be, from non-formal to casual to formal and non-casual and everything in between, it is a struggle that does not always produce the desired effect, which at the end of the day, no matter what the occasion, is comfort in my own skin.

The same is true for writing: trying to write according to a topic results in forehead wrinkles, squinted eyes rolled towards the ceiling, gum chewed in double-time, and too much coffee. And rewrite. After rewrite. After rewrite. Whereas, just writing to write, typically, no edits are needed, and it is easy, it flows, and it is what I would have wanted had I tried harder.

Handwriting: the same thing. Trying to write neatly, it doesn’t happen: not without a struggle, or not without it looking a little too stiff. But jotting something down, a list just to myself, letters are perfectly formed, consistent, and expressive.

Maybe there is something to the anti-ambition of someone like Emily Dickinson, who had no desire to publish her brilliant poetic insights–not having the pressure to perform perhaps resulted in finer work than had she tried to please a faceless public. I always appreciated one of her poems in particular:

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

I’ve decided I’m going to try hard not to try so hard. So, how exactly does that work?