Monday, May 8, 2017

Still Crafty

As you can see, I haven't given up on the glorious Persian Blanket.

At this point, giving up really isn't an option, I don't think. Even though I have miles to go before I sleep (with it).

This is Square #6. There are 24.

So you might say that I'm a quarter of the way through, except that isn't really true.

Because in addition to the squares, there's a whole lotta edging that has to happen. Shortly after I stitch all 24 squares together.

So I guess we could probably say I'm about an 1/8th of the way through. But who's keeping track?

I do enjoy working on it, so that's good. And I started it with no illusions that it would proceed quickly. Because I knew it wouldn't.

Meanwhile, though, the writing is going quite well. I finished Joli Jensen's Write No Matter What and thoroughly enjoyed it. It helped me reconnect with some writing strategies I used back in grad. school and it offered additional insights that I've combined with Cal Newport's insights in Deep Work--and the result has been quite good.

In particular, it's helped me feel less "stuck" on a couple of projects that, for whatever reason, seem to be taking far, far longer than I ever planned. And at least some of that is because Jensen's advice helped me to rethink and reframe the way in which I was spending my writing time.

Instead of beating myself up for not spending ALL of my time writing, I've figured out how to better use my energy because, as Jensen points out, "we should treat our energy as a reliable renewable resource. We can learn how to use writing to energize us for other aspects of our life" (32).

This used to be my attitude towards writing years ago, but for whatever reason, I fell off of that particular wagon, probably when the stress level in my life ratcheted up because of illnesses in my family and stress at work.

So my commitment has been to return to this mindset--to not continue to immerse myself in a situation in which, in Jensen's words, "urgency--as indicated by my anxiety levels--determined my priorities" (35).

Perhaps more importantly, Jensen has reminded me that "Productive writing involves an ability to focus on our project rather than ourselves" (53).

I had drifted away from this mindset, in large part because I had a few projects in recent years that have taken just shy of FOREVER to shape up in a way that I'm happy with.

And without realizing it, I had been getting pretty down on myself about that, instead of thinking about what it was about the nature of the project that was causing me to lose focus and addressing that (much more manageable) problem.

As Jensen points out, "If we focus on just doing the project, and on mastering the skills we need to do it well, the more write-sized the project becomes" (54).

So this has been my focus over the past week or so: to implement the skills I have, nurture the ones that need a bit of help, and keep working in short, cheerful bursts on the project that's on the "front burner" of my writing activities right now, while also fueling the ideas that are on the "back burner," awaiting my attention in a few weeks.

Perhaps the most helpful advice in Write No Matter What has been this: "stay committed to short daily writing bouts that have a distinct beginning and end" (126).

Because when writing sessions are infused with that level of clarity and sense of purpose, the work not only goes more smoothly, but also shapes up more rapidly.

And that is a wonderful feeling.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."