The Expectation Barrier

In elementary, I played the piano.

I loved it. The sound of each note, the click clack of the keys beneath my fingers. My feet could barely touch the pedals. I would listen to music and ache with an intense hunger to know how to make something so beautiful. But I dreaded recitals, performances.

In middle school, I started horse riding.

I grew to love the smell of leather, the tack room, the soft velvet of a horse’s nose. The freedom I felt when riding, how my stresses were trampled away under thundering hooves. But my riding instructor wanted me to compete, said there was no point riding otherwise.

In high school, I did cross country.

This time, I knew it was a competitive sport. I knew that the goal was to run fast, to win the race. But once again, I didn’t see it in that way. I loved the harmony of my limbs moving together, the adrenaline spike after a long run. I hated the timers, the metrics, the comparisons.

Today, I don’t play piano, I don’t ride, and I certainly don’t run.

Today, I write fiction.

I love the adrenaline rush of a new idea, of new characters unfolding. I love the freedom, how it burns away my stress. I love writing those climactic scenes that make your heart ache.

Writing gives me everything my previous hobbies gave me, and more. It’s the ONE. It matters.

Yet… I stopped writing recently.


Last month I talked about the lies I told myself: that I didn’t have time to write. I realise now that it’s my responsibility to change the status quo, and part of that will involve holding myself accountable.

Thinking back, I fell out of love with the piano, riding and running once they became competitions. Once I became good enough that either those around me — or I myself — began to expect more. Once I realised that I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be. That I might never be as good as I wanted to be.

Every time I’ve set myself targets (x number of words per day, finish the novel by this date, etc) — I’ve hit a wall, and failed.

And now that I’ve been struggling to write, I wonder: have I hit this same wall? The barrier of my own expectations, the pressure to win?


So I’m going to start small, and promise myself one thing: Tuesday night is writing night. It doesn’t matter how many words I write, or which project I work on.

I’m not here to win anything; I’m here to rediscover why I love writing.

Because, after all, writing is THE ONE.

6 thoughts on “The Expectation Barrier

  1. Pingback: A Lesson from Crete | A.M. Harte

  2. Do you think that running a web-fic serial leads away from writing for yourself, or for the story, and more into writing for your audience? Building an audience with regular posts isn’t always going to match with, say, the need to re-write the last 4 chapters as you realise that your character is not quite who you thought.

    Which is not to say it is necessarily an issue for a reader, or even that it creates less “worthy” writing, simply that I wondered if it changed the focus for you, or for other writers.

    For myself, I’m all for whatever makes it enjoyable, exciting, sometimes challenging or frustrating, but ultimately successful for you. If you are happy, I’m happy – and if that also involves writing and (in its own time) reading, then so much the better.

    I know you have the talent, so hope you have regained the passion.

    • Thanks for your kind words :-)

      With a serial, my focus was very much on “post something every Tuesday”. The pressure there for me was that if I didn’t post regularly, readers would get annoyed. Because the story was available for free, I was less worried about “artistic value” and more about “enjoyment”.

      As a result the editing process was quite a headache as I basically rewrote Above Ground. On the flip side, it made me realise that I can in fact write a novel.

      Hungry For You was such a different publishing experience, not only as it was short stories but as people had to buy it to read it. I was a lot more concerned with writing content that had some kind of literary merit. And to this day I still think it contains some of my best writing.

      What I have struggled with now is to reconcile both experiences – write a novel readers will enjoy, that has beautiful writing. At the same time I’m battling with the idea that I should be publishing more regularly as otherwise people will forget me!

      Basically I think I need to chill out on a lot of fronts!!

      • Having edited your own and others’ work, you probably need to let go of the polish too, until you reach the right point.

        I’m sending you wishes for “flow” and beetle’s wings!

  3. Pingback: Why Change Is A Good Thing | A.M. Harte

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