Friday, March 18, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Details

I've always been pretty good at catching typos and grammatical errors in the things I'm reading. I notice missed apostrophes, misspelled words, and incorrect homophones (your/you're, they're/their/there, it's/its). 

About a year ago I read an advanced copy of a book written by a fellow writers conference attendee and I noticed some errors. I offered to send them to her by email so she could correct them in the final version of the book. I sent what I'd found in the first part and she was surprised at what I'd found. "You have a good eye for this," she wrote. She said it was helpful and offered to pay me something. "Oh no, that's okay," I declined. I told her I just wanted to help and I'd never edited anything before so I didn't want to get paid. When I finished, I was proud of the work I'd done and realized I had really enjoyed it.

Several months later, I noticed quite a few errors in an ebook written by another friend. I offered to edit it for him and he was thrilled. He offered to pay me, and told me how much he was thinking. I was shocked at the amount and started to protest. "No," he said, "The cheapest I could find out in California was $1200, so this is much less than that." I said I'd see how long it actually took and we'd decide later on an amount. I took his book and started to edit it, but it didn't seem to be as much fun when I knew someone was going to pay me for my work. All of a sudden I was worried about missing a typo. I doubted my ability. I edited part of it and then set it aside for a couple of months, feeling guilty every time I saw it. I kept apologizing to my friend when I saw him, but I didn't work on it. Finally, I got it out one day and realized that I was about halfway done. I took it to Florida with me and finished the job. He is going to pay me, I charged him a little less than the generous amount he originally offered.

I recently started editing his second book. I don't plan to take nearly as much time with this one. My confidence is growing and it's becoming fun again. I could see myself taking on more editing jobs in the future.

This experience has caused me to notice some things about myself that I don't like. I think I tend to procrastinate and put things off when I feel pressure to perform or if I'm worried about doing something wrong or disappointing someone. I can have fun if I'm just doing something for myself (writing, playing piano or guitar, volunteering my time for some project) but I get stressed out when I get paid to do something. 

Ooh! All of a sudden I flash back to when I had to quit teaching Spanish a couple of years ago because I got sick from all of the pressure I put on myself to make sure the kids liked me (some didn't) and that I was doing it "right" (I couldn't). It makes more sense now.

Noticing typos in a book or newspaper is great, but noticing every flaw in myself just keeps me stuck in a very frustrating place. Why do I do that? I encourage others and I don't hold their flaws against them, but I tend to beat myself up about my flaws daily.

Sorry, this week's post seems to be more of a therapeutic journal entry, but maybe it can help someone else notice a similar tendency. We all have to do our best, but when we make a mistake we need to brush it off and move on, not focus on it and stay stuck because we're afraid we'll do it again.

We can't drive a car well if we are focused on the hood ornament. Sure as anything, we'll end up in the ditch if we're that focused on our own vehicle. We also don't stare at things along the road or next to us, otherwise we'll start to veer in that direction. No, we look way out ahead of us, don't we? With our peripheral vision we notice side traffic, our own vehicle's path, pedestrians waiting to cross the street, and traffic coming toward us. Looking ahead allows us to keep our vehicle between the lines and make progress as we drive along.

I'm beginning to suspect that it might be that way in life as well. If we're just focused on ourselves we'll probably crash. We need to look out ahead. We need to have one focal point. Could that focal point be God? With our eyes fixed on Him, we can move forward, noticing ourselves and those around us, but not focusing on any one thing so much that we veer off course and wind up in the ditch.

"...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NIV)

Do you tend to focus on too many details? How can focusing on God help you to move forward instead of staying stuck as you notice your own flaws?

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