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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

God Is a Midwestern Hostess


Stock PhotoBy Rosanne Bane

Lately I’ve noticed that I have so many writing and writing-related projects that all seem like top priorities that I can’t focus on any one of them long enough to make significant progress. Many of my writing colleagues, students and clients share my frustration with having too many intriguing ideas and too many tantalizing projects on top of a full, and sometimes demanding, collection of personal commitments and family and friend relationships to nurture and maintain. 

Any kid whose parent let her or him run wild at the State Fair, eating cotton candy and watermelon and root beer and a milkshake and chocolate chip cookies and foot-long hotdogs and corndogs and French fries and a seemingly infinite variety of food on a stick, then riding the rides at the Midway and ending up revisiting all that food in reverse motion in the intimacy of the public restrooms can attest to the simple and hard truth that too much of a good thing is just too much.

Talking with one of my coaching clients today about the rushed, desperate, not-enough-time feeling that comes from trying to do too much, I had an epiphany: The reason we struggle to choose among too many wonderful possibilities is because God (or the Universe or the Divine or whatever form of address you prefer) is a Midwestern hostess.

In some parts of the Midwest, a hostess will keep offering food until the guest leaves some on the plate. The premise is that if the guest eats everything on the plate, she or he hasn’t had enough. It gets a bit tricky when the hostess thinks that politeness demands giving more and more food and the guest was taught that politeness means clearing the plate, that leaving food behind shows you didn’t like the meal.

The Universe is inherently abundant. As Auntie Mame said “Life is a banquet.” The upside of that is that we get to choose. The downside is that we have to choose.

Damn. I really can’t have 15 top priority projects. Some of those are going to have to on the “Maybe/Later” list and some may even end up on the “Don’t Do” list.

I told my client about this phrase we have in my family, one my mother taught herself when she was a child as her way of politely saying “no.”

“Thank you. I’ve have sufficiency, even abundancy. Anything more would be superfluous to my delicate constitution.”

Just repeat that to your Divine Hostess the next time you feel the urge to take on yet another project or commitment. Be a good parent to yourself: remind yourself that you can eat anything you want at the Fair, but you can’t eat everything you want.

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