I borrowed the term “The Ugly Middle” from a writing blog I follow called The Write Practice. You can read the original blog post here. That post refers specifically to writing, but as with so many writing related topics, the lessons can apply to much more.
Beginnings are exciting. Endings can be triumphant.
The middle though…sometimes the middle is the mess.
It’s far enough from the excitement of the beginning that you sometimes forget why you started. And so far away from the end that you wonder why you started in the first place.
I’ve now, in earnest, been writing fiction for over a year. I know, for some of you a year sounds like nothing, and in the scope of a writing career I’m aware it’s a drop in the bucket. BUT a year in I realize that I seriously underestimated the sheer amount of effort, work, time, and mind-space it would take to actively pursue writing. A few months shy from publishing my first short story I’m realizing the magnitude of what I’m trying to do. In many ways, I’ve entered the ugly middle.
But the ugly middle is where things get done.
If you’re changing old, dysfunctional patterns, the ugly middle is where your actions catch up to your heart.
If you’re moving toward a physical transformation, the ugly middle is that space where your body is strengthening itself on the inside but the changes aren’t yet visible on the outside.
If you’re a creative, the ugly middle is where your character finds its voice, where your art takes on personality, and where you separate yourself from the hobbyists.
Did you catch that? It’s where you, where we, separate ourselves from the hobbyists. It’s where we say “this rewrite sucks!” and begin working on the next one. It’s where we say, you know this is really good. And where really good becomes enough.
And since this is life, the ugly middle is where we live it. It’s the day-to-day stuff that feels mundane and repetitive, but it’s the stuff we do that results in our children being loving and compassionate. The ugly middle is where life-long friends are made, where faith is tested (and passes), and where we understand that our lives are blessed – regardless of our current circumstance.
Whatever day it is for you, don’t give up. There’s a wide open road in front of you leading to a triumphant ending if you can just make it through the ugly middle.
Editor’s Note: A version of this post first appeared on the website Women at Forty.