Doing Hard Things: What’s in Your Swamp?

Some thoughts on doing hard things, compliments of Randy Ingermanson, with interspersed comments from yours truly:

Everybody has projects in their life that they don’t want to tackle. Hard things.

Maybe there’s a part of your yard that’s overgrown with weeds, and it just gets worse and worse and worse every week. Yup, I can see it through the window right now.

Maybe your garage is overloaded with junk you don’t use, don’t want, and don’t even dare look at because it’s too depressing. Nope, that’s Blaik’s.  Except for my gardening cupboard.

Maybe there’s a relationship in your life that’s gone south and it seems unfixable. Relationships are largely good here.  But my office?  Even Randy I. has no idea how much of a Hard Thing my office has grown to be.  And my Relief Society table, because there’s no room in my office. 

I call things like these “the swamp.” The swamp is any part of your life that you don’t dare touch because it just seems overwhelming. Because it’s too hard.

There are two ways to handle the swamp.

  • You can ignore it forever.
  • You can go through it to the other side.

Those are the only two ways I’ve ever found for dealing with the swamp. Ignoring the swamp is easy. Going through it is hard. Yup.  I conquered one piece of my Office Swamp a few months ago, but alligators still lurk in the deepest depths.

But doing hard things builds character. (It’s much easier to say this when you are not about to enter the swamp. But it’s also true, so it bears saying.)

Here are a few other things that are also true:

  • The swamp doesn’t go away by itself.
  • In fact, the longer you ignore the swamp, the worse it gets. True dat!
  • The only way to go through the swamp is to go through the swamp. You can’t go around.
  • The first time you go into the swamp is the scariest.
  • The swamp is never quite as terrible as it seems.
  • There is no feeling as wonderful as coming out on the other side of the swamp.

This is a short column because there’s really not much to say about the swamp. You can either hide from it or you can go through it to freedom. You get to choose.

So besides the Office and Gardening Cupboard swamps, I also have the newly-formed Clear-Out-The-Entire-House-So-We-Can-Downsize swamp.  And that doesn’t even address the Marketing Swamp of indie publishing, or the swamps that are lurking in my mind that I’m not recognizing yet.

So I hereby acknowledge that decluttering the house, including my office, is a swamp that I must go through.  There is no way around. It cannot be ignored.  

I am currently prepping for a trip to Maryland at the end of the month, writing and brainstorming with an author friend plus teaching a children’s writing workshop.  I’ll return around Halloween, so on November 1st, along with the excitement that is NaNoWriMo, I pledge to enter the swamp.

What swamps do you have in your life? What swamps have you successfully conquered?


PS–the excerpt from Randy Ingermanson is from his free newsletter and comes with these two paragraphs of his:

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 17,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
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2 Responses to Doing Hard Things: What’s in Your Swamp?

  1. Jill Garvin says:

    I just tackled and beat down one of my many swamps and feel really good because I was afraid of it. After falling (which I don’t do lightly at my age) and almost going headfirst into a deep pond, I put off going back to it for nearly three weeks. But the pump needed repairing and I’m the designated repair person here. Today, thank you, Jennifer, I put on my raincoat and gloves, told myself I can do this and picked up my tools. It took a while but stubbornness won out. So upward and onward.

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Wow, that’s huge–congratulations! And thank goodness you did it without falling again. I think I’m going to collect everyone’s “swamp” successes and use them for encouragement for mine.