for the Quiet ones Archives - Kristen Kalp

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What do you want to want?

We’re weaving through traffic, past abandoned warehouses, filthy streets, and barbed wire fences that are guarding graveyards, seeing all Philly’s least savory bits in quick succession. We bang a left and it appears: the building where I got Hermione D. Granger 5-ish years ago.

We’ve come to the shelter to adopt a kitten. SURPRISE!

I prop up a smile and grab his hand. I wander into the facility and fight tears. I’m not ready for another cat, even though this is a lovely and thoughtful holiday surprise. I’m not ready to commit to caring for another living thing, no matter how darling or charming or in need of a home that creature might be at the moment. My bandwidth currently holds a giant ghostwriting project, my own smaller writing projects, a host of personal issues, a boyfriend, one cat, one dog, and one flourishing houseplant.

I want to want it.

I want to want to walk through the aisles and choose a little fluff ball to bring home and love forever.

I want to want another animal to take the place of Big Kitty, who passed on a few weeks ago.

But I most definitely don’t want it.

I look into his eyes and ask to leave without looking at puppies (because who can stand the torture of all those sweet homeless faces, and I DEFINITELY ALWAYS want another puppy but don’t have the bandwidth for that, either), and we drive home. Quietly, holding hands, a little deflated.

Turns out, there are plenty of things I want to want.

I suspect you want to want ’em, too, if you’re over the age of 25 and you have internet access and/or a business:

I want to want to be famous. But I don’t. I don’t long for an e-mail list containing hundreds of thousands of people or dream about looking into the faces of millions of my adoring fans.

I almost didn’t go on my first date with my now-love because his roommate was a Brand Camp fan and I didn’t want to go sneaking around their house with him because…weird, right? (Spoiler alert: I got over it. Best first date EVER.)

I want to want a multi-million dollar business. But I don’t. I like being me, myself, and I — the leanest business model on the planet — hiring peeps to help out as I need ’em. I don’t want the multi-million dollar business bonanza because there’s a strong possibility that with it would come a team, and people management, and the knowledge that ten or twelve or twenty or three hundred people rely on me for their paychecks. I would crumple under the pressure, feel trapped by those financial constraints, and promptly self-implode.

I want to want to sell a big-giant-scalable program that costs somewhere between two and thirty thousand dollars. But I don’t. I really get off on writing and human connection, and can’t easily find the joy of human connection in large groups of people I don’t know really well. This isn’t to say that those programs don’t work for others or that I haven’t benefited from taking part in them: simply that I want to want to host one myself. But “NOPE” is the answer, louder and clearer than ever before.  Big and huge and vast are awesome pursuits, they’re just not my focus.

I want to want to own a home. But I don’t. I like calling my landlord and dumping issues in her lap without having to deal with them myself. It’s easier, it’s less stressful, it’s less costly, and it means I don’t have to learn to clean gutters or refinish floors or fix dryers or maintain heaters or handle any of those real-world, real-life Adulting issues related to home ownership.

I want to want babies. But I don’t. When women say they have baby fever or their “ovaries hurt” (don’t look oddly at me, guys, I’M QUOTING) when they hold babies, I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. I see cooing and lovely, tiny creatures and make silly faces at them and am never, ever tempted to make one of my own.  My open letter to moms is still very true.

I want to want to go to parties. But I don’t. Like most introverts, I want to hear about a party and think, OH HOLY SHIT I MUST ATTEND. But I never, ever do. I’m a fairly quiet homebody whose idea of a party is having a few people over for sparklers and a white elephant gift exchange on New Year’s Eve. We’ll fill out blank Cards Against Humanity cards if we wanna get crazy. 😉

So, reader-friend…

What do you want to want?

What do you, if you’re deep down honest with yourself, feel like you should want but not actually fucking want?

Because it’s okay. It’s okay to not want a seven-figure business, or a legion of adoring fans, or to hit X benchmark that everyone agrees is important. If it’s not important to you, it’s not actually important.

You don’t have to own a home or birth a child or have a seven-figure business or launch a giant-ass program or hire a team or book out your client roster a year in advance. You don’t have to adopt another kitten or dog or child or houseplant or to-do list task. You don’t have to answer all your e-mails in 20 minutes or 20 hours or even 20 days, if you find a creative way around it. You don’t have to start a Facebook group. You don’t have to found a community or try to develop passive income or buy fresh peonies for your table every Tuesday in order to be a decent human being.

Take a careful inventory of the shit you want to want — it’s an odd sort of painful, the wanting to want — and then say ’em out loud.

These things you don’t actually want lose their power when you call ’em out.

I don’t want a kitten. I don’t want to buy a house. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want a multi-million dollar business or head up a team. I don’t want to birth a child. And I don’t want to go to parties. Not ever, not once, unless it’s a wedding, because that’s a damn good excuse for loving the shit out of people and getting dressed up.

I don’t want ___________ or _______________ and most especially not _____________, even though ________ says I should.

I don’t want my life to look like ____________’s or ____________’s or his or hers or my __________’s, either.

I don’t want to ______________. Or _____________.

I have never wanted _____________________.

I still don’t want __________________________. (Not even a little.)

Being clear about the desires you don’t have makes more space for the shit you really want.

I want a shelf full of books I’ve written. I want to work with people one-on-one. I want to learn to be a better stepmom/stepgirlfriend/stepawkwardtitle. I want to travel at the drop of a hat. I want to have the option of going to sleep and watching only shitty romantic comedies when the weather is grey and rainy in the middle of winter. I want to have enough time to surprise my friends at work with lunch. I want to have enough money to make a life and inspire others to do the same. I want to teach people that business at its best is a vehicle for bringing your greatest gifts to light. I want to remind everyone who reads my blog that there’s nothing wrong with you.

It’s okay to want what you want.

More importantly, today, it’s okay to not want what you don’t want.

P.S.  As long as you’re getting rid of pseudo-desires, you might as well check out Konmari that doesn’t suck for your business.

How to write a book

I believe in the sanctity of the kitchen table.

I believe in writing as often as possible, for as long as possible, until you’ve wrung your brain dry of its contents and you’ve got nothing but the capacity for physical tasks left within you.

I believe in circling back to the table each morning, wearing pants or not, showered or not, ready to write or not, and scrawling your whole fucking heart down the length of the whole fucking page.

Whether your writing is interesting isn’t your concern.

The kitchen table is about telling the truth. All of it, even when you’re complaining about being a female and how that means you’re expected to cook meals of dinosaur chicken nuggets over and over without complaint because the kids are picky, and how men send up stunned and panicked alert flares when they are forced to cook perfect grilled cheese sandwiches on demand, slowly realizing the extent to which their children do not in any way appreciate the act of being fed at their leisure. (A stranger will overhear this conversation and call the show you should be writing, ‘Welcome to Having a Vagina.’ This will strike you as accurate and perfect.)

Your writing doesn’t have to be breathtaking.

You don’t have to scale Everest or defeat stage four cancer or earn a billion dollars in order to string words into sentences; glory is easy.

It’s much harder to capture the nuance of the everyday: all the burdens we cannot name. The strain of being constantly plugged in, tuned in, and generally aware of the events going on across the room, the state, the country, the planet. The pain of comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. The strange sorrow that comes of knowing we can’t possibly have it all, consume it all, or even read it all in this lifetime.

The constant, curious knowledge that every passing minute narrows our life choices by 60 tiny clicks — and sometimes in those clicks, we can only hear, “This isn’t what I want” chanted over and over again.

Your writing doesn’t have to be original.

Sentences follow rules for damn good reasons. You don’t have to improvise a new sentence structure like some kind of crazy-ass letter jazz. You only have to get closer and closer to saying what you mean to say.

Your writing doesn’t have to mean a damn thing to anyone else.

Coming to the kitchen table doesn’t mean other people care about what you’re saying; it means you care about what you’re saying. Writing means you’re willing to set a place for yourself at the table, to feed your deepest and darkest and most interesting bits the steady diet of a listening ear and a few minutes of your time.

Publishing your work doesn’t mean a damn thing except that you have internet access.

The kitchen table is a sacred pact between you and your own life: your ability to show up, to get the pieces down, to lay the foundation for a life of listening to your voice and then fashioning the scraps into something you find interesting.

Something you.

Find interesting.

Other people’s interest is a bonus, but by no means required.

Your poems do not have to be shown to another soul.

Same goes for your essays, stories, novels, tales: entirely yours.

Your kitchen table time, your writing time, is a respite from the constant demands of consumerism.

Each word is a tiny banner flapping “I make, I make, I make” in the face of the prevailing societal winds busy screaming “Consume, consume, consume.”

Writing affords you the surety of knowing you’ve turned up on your own behalf; acted as your own counsel; listened to your own voice long enough to discern your thoughts from the general rumpus; and found a way to express those thoughts when it would be easier to do anything else.

The kitchen table is there, waiting, inviting you not to plan a better or different or more acclaimed writing life.

The table is there, waiting for you to write.

Writing a book (whether short story collection or memoir or novel or poetry collection or epic or how-to) is the act of showing up to the kitchen table, over and over again, until the work is done.

May you choose the completely common miracle of the kitchen table, over and over again.

May you someday bear witness to all those words flapping their banners in the wind, proclaiming the steady truth of your work as you enter the castle you’ve been building, all this time, letter by letter and line by line.

Your brain is an asshole.

Like you, I get tons of e-mails every day. When I’m paying attention, those e-mails provide writing material like this: “OK, I need to think on this and get back to you. My desire is an unstoppable force and my butbutbuts are an immovable object.”

We ALL face excuses in our lives, and we’re all privy to our own inner dialogues that make those excuses seem 100% legit. Only most of the time, excuses are a bunch of horseshit. They’re little lies our minds tells us to keep us stuck, scared, trapped, immobile, paralyzed, or comfortable. I’m not immune to a single one of these, so if it seems like I’m speaking from experience, I am. ::cough::

I’m going to use a specific thing as the catalyst for all these excuses, since that’s easier than coming up with ten examples for each of the ten excuses we’re talking about. I’m going to use the catalyst of a new education experience as the catalyst.

So, there’s this program you really want to join.  (Say it’s Steer Your Ship.)  Your heart finds it and goes PINGPINGPINGPINGPING like you’re on a spaceship and you’ve just found your home planet — your whole body lights up with “YES!” — and the dashboard goes apeshit.  You want to work one-on-one with me AND overhaul your website copy AND let yourself stop hiding and start showing who you really are to your clients.


You’ve learned to override those feelings — amazing though they are — because your brain is an asshole.

Your brain is designed to keep you safe, which generally means staying in one place for as long as possible, and stable — which means doing the same thing day after day, because your brain LOVES predictability. From an evolutionary standpoint, this means you’ll be able to spot lions prowling the plain at further and further distances. This means you’ll keep your place in the tribal standing without rocking the boat. This means you’ll keep a nice, steady income for your people as you work a job for decades.

Stability is important, and safety is a totally legit concern. Only your brain is ALSO an asshole. It regularly overrides the callings of your heart because of its ancient instincts.

Let’s talk about the excuses your brain is throwing at you to keep you not only safe and stable, but possibly stagnant.

Big excuse #1: Business is sloooow. Maybe later.

You know what you want to do next, and your brain is going to kick this one up right away. Taking a business class or being held accountable for achieving business goals could actually help you out when you’re having a slump, but your brain is going to say “maybe next month” or “maybe next year.”

A new class or workshop or program or audio set or spirited dance — whatever it is you want to conquer — could mean you try new stuff, kung-fu the daily drudge work that you know has to be done to keep orders coming in, and you even resume showering daily because you’re feeling a little better about your life.

But your brain will throw “maybe later” at you because it’s a perfectly logical thing to say. We’ve all had diets that were going to start tomorrow, and resolutions that were going to happen next week, and relationships that were going to be fixed next month.

In other words, later. Only later isn’t a definite time frame, and so it never comes.

What have you been putting off until “later”? What are you currently pushing to “later” that needs to happen soon?

Big excuse #2: I feel all alone and I don’t know what to do.

If you truly don’t know what to do — if you’re at your wit’s end — then it’s time for a nap and a break. If you’re at that point, you’re tired. Let yourself be tired.

There’s power in having not a clue about what to do and not fighting it. Let your brain stop trying to come up with solutions.

Feel what you’re feeling and give yourself a break.

Once you’ve had a rest, know this: the being-in-business game isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s easy to slip into feeling absolutely alone. Don’t let yourself do that.

Whether you have to make community, join community, or just plain buy into community (some of my favorite groups are those I’ve paid to be a part of) — do it.

Also: perhaps business is slow because you’re at a loss. You’re spinning your wheels, you don’t know what to do next, and so you avoid business tasks altogether. Then business gets slower. And slower. And…you guessed it, slower, because you’re putting less and less effort into doing the work you’re meant to do through your business.

So ask yourself: would my business grow as a result of doing this thing that sings to my heart? Would being healthier, more productive, or more knowledgeable help to grow my business, despite the short-term issues standing in my way?

If the answer is yes, find a freaking way.

My guess is that you aren’t lazy or useless or slow, you’re just a bit scared. You’ve been putting that thing off for a while now. So long as you’re scared, your brain is happy to keep you in a cage of fear and worry instead of letting you out to figure out just how NOT scary that thing is…it will keep poking you with perfectly reasonable excuses for years and years. You’ve got to choose to do the thing.

And then, do the worst thing you’ll ever have to do: ask for help. You’re not alone, but you do have to ask for help from those nearest and dearest to you.

It’s your job to make sure you’ve got the support you need, so ask.

Ask your mom to babysit the kids. Ask your significant other to vacuum because you’re exhausted. Ask a friend to take the dog overnight so you don’t have to pick up poop and take seven walks around the block in the next 24 hours. Ask a delivery man to bring you pizza. Pay these people as necessary — but ask.

Learning to get the support you need is absolutely crucial to your success as an entrepreneur, and the sooner you do it — the better.

Want to hear the other eight big huge excuses your brain uses to keep you stuck?  KABLAM IT’S A PODCAST EPISODE.  (Here are all the other podcast episodes, too!)