Displaced Priorities

When I first started writing, I was told writers write. Everyday.   

I’ve been told the same thing about exercise and meditation—have a daily practice. My guitar teachers over the years have insisted on the same thing. Yoga and stretching as well. And so it is with any task of import: when I decide to commit, the commitment I decide to make is daily.  

But of course, I can’t do everything daily. I have time to really prioritize two daily practices, maybe three depending on the time they demand.   

So the point of writing this is simply to remind myself of that. To leave a mental Post-It: the next time I imagine I should make something a daily practice, remember, I can’t. It’s to remember I must choose my two, or maybe three priorities. To remember, any daily practice I add will displace a priority, so it better be more important. 

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Warding Off Distraction

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve been working to better organize my time. The fight that I’ve been waging is largely one explained in the documentary “The Social Dilemma;” the fight against distraction.  

But that’s not quantifying it correctly. It’s the fight against media that’s designed to demand my attention and engagement. It agitates for it. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to ward off distraction:

* Turning off my phone, placing it in Gladware, and placing the Gladware out of (easy) reach atop a cabinet.  

* Turning off the wi-fi on my computer when I’m writing or doing layouts on my computer.  

* Turning off my computer and using paper and pen or pencil whenever possible to do my work.  

That’s a lot of turning things off.  

If I have to go online, I sometimes repeat my task like a mantra until I complete it, (a tact attested to by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame). I was kind of suspicious of the effectiveness of these strategies at first, but it seems they are mostly enough to focus my intent, and ward off the feelers of Social Media/ The News. This seems to be the new battle. It’s not going away.  

Intentionally start and intentionally stop

I was speaking today with creative friends about out work today.  

We’ve each rolled around to where the work is a drag. One friend is feeling dried up. Another is struggling with back pain; it’s literally painful for her to sit. Me? I’ve been feeling worn down, dried up, and a bit overwhelmed.  

How to deal with writers block and dry spells is an age old question. The three of us met in a Seth Godin workshop. He’s in the writers write, plumbers plumb school on the subject—you won’t hear about a plumber having plumber’s block, why should a writer get to have writer’s block.   

That said, one friend pointed out plumbers take vacations. Plumbers take personal days from time to time.  

I think many writers get superstitious about taking days off. I know I often believe that one day off leads to two (months).  

The same friend suggested this: intentionally start and intentionally stop. As I’m writing this, those words seem to have all the punch of a joke you had to be there for. But the procrastination that keeps me from my work feels at best semi-intentional, and really seems to happen in a kind ritualized somnambulance. Intention feels like a real answer.  I could simply start with intention—then stop.  

The Leftovers of Laughter

I’m a big fan of the HBO’s show The Leftovers.  A couple nights ago pulled up the penultimate episode to watch with my wife. (A main character becomes the president in it—it felt relevant). But it’s the antepenultimate, or third to last episode that’s my favorite.  

I ended up googling the episode yesterday. Looking for reviews or insights—that sort of thing. I found this from Damon Lindelof talking about writing the scripts for The Leftovers: Anything that evoked laughter in the writers’ room became fair game for actual stories.

This struck me. The Leftovers can be a serious show. It tells stories of the lives of people who survive a “Rapture” like event. It never occurred to me that laughter might be part of the writing process.   

As a singer-songwriter, I’ve heard lots of writers say that they know they’re on the right track when they cry in the process of writing a song. Songwriters don’t talk about laughing at something being a good sign—but it makes sense that it could be, it’s simply a different emotional well.

Is it Courage?

I was asked the other day something like, is there courage involved in doing your Work, your writing?Thinking about it I said, I don’t know, I don’t think about it that way.  

For me that word courage is asking my writing to mantle too much. I don’t know if I can be brave, but I know I can show up. Showing up isn’t always easy, but I can do it. All it takes is sitting at a table with paper and pen, (or my laptop) and writing the first word, and then the next. Showing up is simple.  

With courage I find myself imagining horses to ride and armor to don; swords to raise and enemies to ride at. 

Showing up is as simple as sitting down. Maybe there’s a little bit of courage in hitting send, but even that—it’s a click. Merely another kind of showing up.    

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