Guest Writers

Pushing Through, a Lesson Learned by Elena Aitken

Click on the teacher lady's nose to find links to other people who posted in this series.
Click on the teacher lady’s nose to find links to other people who posted in the #LessonLearned Series.

I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am to all the writers who wrote posts as part of my Lessons Learned series this year. Each post has been beautiful; each lesson, unique.

Isn't she purty-ful? Yeah, well she's a great writer, too.
Isn’t she purty-ful? Yeah, well she’s a great writer, too.

Author Elena Aitken is the last writer in this series. And her piece arrived at precisely the right time for me. Because I am struggling with some serious writer’s block. Elena’s words are the greatest gift I could have ever asked for this holiday season.

If you don’t know Elena, you should. A busy mom, Elena is also a wonderful blogging friend and a prolific writer. I was fortunate to interview her when her book Sugar Crash was hot off the press, and she’s written a new book since then!

After you read her piece below, you will want to follow Elena on Facebook or on Twitter. Take a peek at her website if you’d like to subscribe to her blog. Her newest book, Hidden Gifts, would make a great present. Just like your words were to me today, Elena.

• • •
Pushing Through by Elena Aitken
When Renée asked me to write a piece for her Lessons Learned series, I said yes without hesitation because sure, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. I mean, I must have something to offer. No problem, right?
Then it came to write it.And nothing.

A gentle nudge from Renée, “Don’t forget. You promised. Um, can I get that soon?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” I said. “I’m on it. No problem.”

But…it was a problem. The thing is, ever since Renée asked me months ago, I’ve been thinking about what I would write about. I read all the other posts, and…I worried. I mean, what on earth was I going to say? What could I offer that this talented list of writers and bloggers hasn’t already said with more skill and grace then I could hope for?

I made notes. I stared at my computer screen. I started writing five different posts. I deleted five different posts.

And then, I worried some more.

I couldn’t think of a thing. Was it possible that I haven’t learned any lessons at all?

I was moments away from emailing Renée to tell her I’d changed my mind, and I couldn’t do it after all.

And then, there it was.

That voice in my head.

“Trust yourself,” the voice said.

Hearing voices in my head isn’t unusual for me. After all, I’m a writer. I hear voices all the time.

But, I’ve heard those two words before.

A lot.

• My dad said them when I was learning how to ride a bike.

• Ms. Montgomery, my junior high drama teacher, said them before I went on stage to perform my monologue.

• My mother said them when my twins were newborns, and I didn’t know the first thing about being a mom.

• My writing partners scribble them in the margins of my work when I’m wrestling with a scene, or a character that just won’t cooperate.

• My friend and training partner will say them to me when I’m nervous about a race and doubting my training.

• My husband says them to me when I’m struggling with a tough decision.

That voice in my head is a beautiful medley of all the voices from my life and its tune is constantly changing. But the message remains the same. And every time I hear those words, “Trust yourself.” Whether they are spoken aloud or quietly in my mind—I do.

Because I might not have the right answer, I could make the wrong decision, say something stupid, trip and fall, or make a mistake. But I might not. And when I shut out all the noise telling me what I should say/do/believe, and actually trust myself; it turns out that I know myself a whole lot better than I thought I did.

So, maybe I’m a slow learner, or maybe it’s a lesson worth learning over and over again, but it’s the most important lesson that I continue to learn.

What helps you push through to complete a project?

tweet us at @elenaaitken and @rasjacobson

39 thoughts on “Pushing Through, a Lesson Learned by Elena Aitken

  1. Elena! Thank you so much for being here today to close out this series — and for leaving such wise words. Sure, NIKE says: “Just Do It,” but really getting it done and doing it well are two different animals.

    I know how busy you are, writing your own books and getting ready for the holidays, so it is with much gratitude that I say thank you for making the time to share your words with me and my readers – the lurkers and the commenters, alike.

    1. Renee, Thank YOU for asking me to do this. As you know, it was much harder for me then I thought it would be. BUT it was a very good exercise for me. And I’m SO glad it came at exactly the right time for you. 🙂

  2. I have had this exact problem, Elena. With guest posts, with my own blog, with my fiction.

    I throw up roadblocks, rationalize that surely other obligations need my attention before I can write: the kids, the dogs, the husband, the bills.
    And these should be a priority. Of course.

    But then I start organizing the spice rack and cleaning out the garage and and and I find myself CREATING tasks to complete that keep me from writing.

    Because it is so scary to face the screen.
    What if the words don’t come?
    What if they come and then no one wants to read them?
    What if people do read them and don’t like what I have to say?


    So yes, you have to trust yourself. I have to trust myself.
    Thanks for the reminder.

    And now I’ve got some writing to do.

    1. OMG Julie. I do this ALL the time! When I have a deadline approaching…I also have a very clean house. 😉
      It may be the only time.

  3. Being myself is what helps me complete a project, it’s when I try to think too hard that it doesn’t happen -which is the theme of your post, I think. Well written, thanks.

    1. Thanks, Val.
      I agree. It’s crucial to be ourselves with our work. Otherwise…it’s just no good. But sometimes, it’s that honesty that’s the hardest. 🙂

  4. I think you’re right, Elena – sometimes it feels like we’re “slow learners,” but it’s because these lessons are just so resounding that they echo indefinitely.

    “Trust yourself” is DEFINITELY a mantra I should use more often. I’m glad you did, so we got to read this post! 🙂

      1. This is true. So very true. 😉 I adore you both for being part of this series. Truly. I think the quality of the writing was amazing. And so many of you are authors now. I think people who guest post on my blog get published. It’s true. 😉

  5. Nice article. I’m a guy so the voices in my head tend to get distracted by the same basic themes. Fortunately other people’s voices cause then to write and create and creativity is nicely synergistic.

    Happy Holidays to all of good will.

  6. Several people over the past few days have said those same magical, hard to follow words to me as I’ve struggled with writer’s block, self pressure and overscheduling. “Trust Yourself.” After reading this lovely, important essay, I’m thinking it may be time to listen. Thank you for your beautiful words and the exact message I needed to hear. Miraculous!

    Renee- you rock! Elena was a perfect choice!

    1. I’m SO glad that this post came up such a perfect time. It’s funny how life works sometimes. I know for me, just writing it was what I needed…
      And yes…Renee totally rocks.

  7. Great series, ladies! I’ve been impressed with how well both of you juggle all the kid, life and writing balls in your lives.

    On the writer’s block:
    Renee, if you just keep sitting down to the page, the block will ease, I promise you. If it’s too disheartening to do that, Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper” – one or two chapters a day, over the course of a month – gave me back my writing in 2010.

    1. Jenny, most times I feel like I’m moments away from dropping ALL the balls I’m juggling.
      And you’re right, if you just keep sitting down to the page…it will happen. It will. 🙂

  8. Renée, you are so right about this post being a gift … and one we all can share joyfully. In fact, this entire series has come gift wrapped in very sparkly bows!
    Thanks, Elena, for getting directly to the heart of the matter and uncovering a truth by which we can all live and write.
    Pssst, Renée … the lineup for your book is stretching well across the border to the north!

  9. I am late to this party (very late), but I still wanted to join in. 🙂 I can totally relate to this, and recently have experienced my own writer’s block. After being stymied by the blockage, I realized that, as a blogger, I felt that I could wait until inspiration struck, so to speak, and that the lack of pressure made it easier to write. But for my job, when I was aware that other people, more people, would be reading my stuff? Eek.

    So what helped me was putting aside my ego, and to accept that it was okay if not every post was the most wow-inducing I had ever written. Through continually writing, even when I didn’t feel particularly inspired, or when I felt sad (like after the shooting at Sandy Hook, when I still had to produce a non-sad post for my job), I know that I will improve as a writer, and then, hopefully, I will be able to more consistently produce awesome content.

    Thanks for the post! So glad you pushed through!

    1. I did see that post. I thought you were talking about a “not-sad” post about Sandy Hook. I would have found that very difficult.

      Although in some ways, that post does apply.

      We can resolve to start over NOW. Resolve to be better NOW. Be more kind NOW. And you are doing it with #26Acts. We can just do it all the time, right?

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