Feb / 27

Staying in the Moment

By / Jessica Leake / 6

There is nothing like the anxiety and obsessiveness of a writer. Whether we’re querying, participating in a writing contest, or on submission, the amount of time spent checking our phones and emails is exhausting. But we just can’t help ourselves!

Uh, hang on...gotta check my email...

Uh, hang on…gotta check my email…

Some of us even get a rush from the anticipation of a writing contest…or even from the possibility of hearing back from an agent or editor. We’re future-focused–always waiting on the next thing in our writing careers: an answer to a query, a request in a contest, a call from our agent about an editor making an offer.

And writers aren’t alone in this. Most of us live our lives in anticipation of the next exciting thing. We’re basically always in a state of waiting–simple things like waiting on a phone call or waiting for dinner to be ready, and bigger things like anticipation for the birth of a baby or a big vacation coming up. I have so many exciting things coming up this summer, I can’t even stop myself from daydreaming and obsessing about them: vacation in Destin, FL (first time going to the beach in YEARS), my husband graduating from pharmacy school, moving back to SC, renovating a house, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, housewarming party…it literally goes on an on. And, of course, the thing I’m most obsessed about is the status of my novel on submission (Just ask my CPs/Husband/Mother ;)).

Anticipation isn’t a bad thing, per se; it’s an exciting part of life. What IS bad, though, is all that time spent dreaming of the future causes time to fast-forward. I have a 20-month-old and a 5-month-old. They learn new things and do adorable and funny things every day. Every minute spent obsessing about something else is a minute taken away from the present.

You know how people say, “Where did the time go? How is my baby five already??” It’s because we’ve primarily been living in the future and not being really present in the here and now.

The distractions we have now don’t help either. So many times my husband has gotten irritated (rightly so) because I haven’t heard a word he said. I’ve been messing around on my computer or phone and just haven’t been entirely present in the conversation. It’s something I have to work on daily because active listening is a skill–and usually, it’s a difficult one.

Staying in the present moment is one of the most important coping skills I taught while I was a therapist because a lot of anxiety can be traced back to obsessing over the future. It makes sense, too. I can’t tell you how anxious and miserable I am when I’m constantly checking my email for the news I’ve been waiting for!

That’s why I really want to work on my active listening. I could do it with absolutely no problem when I was a therapist. But with my own family, I may as well have ADD. It’s one way to stay in the present, and so is putting away my phone while I’m playing with my toddler.

There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future and daydreaming about fun stuff coming up, but the majority of time needs to be spent in the time I’m in right now. The present.

Comment (6)
  • Mandie Baxter / March 5, 2013, 7:10 pm  

    Wait…what was this on? I was checking to make sure my email was working! 😀

  • Jessica / March 5, 2013, 7:25 pm  

    I’m checking my email AND texting you…right this minute!! 😉

  • Margo Kelly / March 6, 2013, 9:34 am  

    Seriously. Right? When my kids were little, I worked hard to stay in the moment, because EVERYONE said, “It goes too fast.” And then BOOM, two boys graduated from high school last year, and my daughter is dating. Where’d the time go? I was present. I know I was. I made a significant effort. But the time does go quickly for things we’re ENJOYING. Strange how time goes so slowly for things we’re WAITING for … like a call about that submission! The only solution for waiting to hear back from an agent, editior, whatever, is to move on to the next story. Get to the writing and revising of the next great project. 🙂 I wish you the best with your submissions!!

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