Monday, June 19, 2006

Why do I always do this?

The post I set out to write in the wee hours of Saturday morning got shanghaied by my meandering mind and digressed so far I couldn’t bring it back to the intended point without deleting all but the first paragraph and setting off anew with my toes pointed at the target. But that would have meant not posting at all that morning as I had run out of time. As it was--and a close look at the timestamp of the previous post will show this--I was breaking my new schedule’s rule to not return to the Internet again after 6AM because every minute I stay awake past six-thirty is like pulling a brick out of the wall of my carefully structured blocks of time built to support the ladder that reaches for my goals.

This is more true of Saturday morning than of some others because it isn’t just my schedule and my goals that are impacted by my arriving at Grandma’s on Saturday afternoon sleep deprived. So when I came out of the trance of writing to notice that it was fifteen to seven, I hastily tacked on that last sentence--which also became the new title--and hastened out to the living room with my laptop on battery power to save time and ensure that I would not be tempted to linger. I was back in bed in less than half an hour.

But I digress yet again. That opening paragraph about going to the library was supposed to help me segue into a discussion about books and movies and another major insight regarding my new schedule, blogging and writing in general that the day’s events had given me. This awkward substitute for the pretty essay I had pictured as I wrote that first paragraph yesterday morning is distressing me more and more with every keystroke. I’ve more than half a mind to trash it and move on. But that is the perfectionist in me that constantly tries to convince me that it is better to do nothing at all than to be caught making a mistake or making a mess.

I am writing this post while closed up in the bedroom at Grandma’s without Internet access. My intent was to get a jump on Sunday night’s session since I may be so sleep deprived and otherwise distracted by the weekend’s events that it will be difficult to get something ready to post before I have to get off line Monday morning. And thus another brick will falls out of the wall. So I am not going to tank this either. As awkward and ugly as it is, it serves the purpose of setting the context for what I want to say.

I’ve lost track of how many light bulb moments the past two month’s reassessing of my goals and revamping of my schedule have generated but there have been many and though some have been as significant as the one I had Friday this one has to be in the top five percent--right up there next to the realization that I could not sustain flipping back and forth between graveyard and day shift every weekend. In my failed attempt to get a post written and ready to go before I went online Friday night, I recognized a pattern of behavior that I saw as a failure of will and further proof that I didn’t deserve to reach my goals since I was nothing but a dilettante of a writer with one hand full of wishes and the other full of spit. Why, I asked myself, do you always do this? Why can’t you stick to the plan? Why can’t you just…..

And I broke off, suddenly cognizant of the tone of harangue typical of my harassing harpies. Why, I shot back in a professorial tone, can you not ask that question as though you truly desire an answer you don’t already think you have and not as though you are shoving your answer down my throat? The better to gag you with, my dear, she sneered. Ah. And about that time my laptop got cranky again and insisted on a nap (restart) to install updates and clean the cobwebs out of its RAM. So I had about fifteen minutes to sit and contemplate the question. Why? Why do I always do this?

Then the habit of questioning assumptions developed in the last couple months took over. First of all, what is the ‘this’ that I ‘always’ do? And is it truly always? And what do I know about myself that can explain it? The ‘this’ in this case was not being able to get something worth posting written on a timely basis. Regular, consistent creation and posting of new content for my web sites is one of the rungs on that ladder reaching for my goals. But it is one of the more important ones since it is fairly low down so if I can’t establish a solid foothold on it, I will never get very far off the ground. After all, without content there is nothing to promote and without consistency you cannot grow a devoted audience.

As to what it is that I know about myself that could explain this inability to create content on demand? Could it have anything to do with that pesky perfectionism? Well sort of. Peripherally. Because I was trying to come up with something to write about, something important or profound or unique or wise or creative or… anyway, at the very least, readable and interesting. But my mind was like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower and never landing on one long enough to compose a sentence let alone a paragraph.

Oh, but wait. There was one flower it kept hanging out on but I kept swatting it off. It kept coming back to thoughts about the library, the walk there and back, having missed having it for the past month and fears of not having it at all by this time next year mingled with hopes regarding the better facilities slated to open next summer and all stirred up with images of book covers and DVD cases, with anticipation about starting certain of the books I brought home that day and anxieties about spending time with the books that have to go back next Friday and the novel I am in the middle of that was due Friday but which the librarian was kind enough to renew through Monday so I could finish it over the weekend. All of this is what I wanted to think about but for some reason had deigned unworthy of writing about. But why is that? What could be more worthy of a post on a blog called Joystory with a subtitle that reads in part, ‘musings on reading, writing, thinking and being’, than musing about a trek to the library and the books one has encountered there and the importance of libraries in every reader‘s, writer‘s and thinker‘s life?

There is another thing I know about myself that helps explain the difficulties I’ve been having with consistent content creation and this was the big Ah ha! I do not easily switch gears. Psychology uses the term ‘slow to warm up’. It explains shyness and so much more. It is difficult for me to get started in something but once started and heavily engaged, it is just as difficult for me to quit. It is hard to wake up. It is just as hard to go to sleep. It is hard to get in the pool, or the shower but once in it is hard to get out. It is hard to engage me in conversation at first but once I am engaged it is hard to shut me up. This has been true of me since before I started school and it was the bane of all my school years, that necessity of switching subjects every sixty minutes or less and from sixth grade on switching classrooms as well. It was excruciating for me.

But the good news is that I have understood this about myself ever since I took child psychology in college twenty years ago and learned that it can be a strength and not a weakness. If you accept it as a given, as a trait that is hardwired in your brain and nervous system and thus no more changeable than the color of your eyes or your handedness, then you can adjust your expectations and create an environment that not only accommodates it but capitalizes on it. For one thing, the focus, once engaged, is incredibly tenacious. And that is a good thing for any serious writer, reader or thinker with complex and long-term projects like books, blogs or webzines to write, edit and promote.

The next obvious question then was how do I accommodate this trait and capitalize on it in regards to regular and consistent posting on Joystory? The answer is to stop trying to change the subject when I sit down to write a post. There is always something engaging my mind and since the subtitle of this blog covers all of my obsessions and passions, it is certain that whatever has engaged my mind is worthy of blogging on here. So if I am as successful at implementing the accommodation for this quirk of mine as I was at implementing the new schedule recently, you can expect more posts here and more variety. And if life throws another series of importunate events at me to test my resolve as it did last month then you can expect that I will be less reticent about blogging about them as they occur, musing on how they impact my attempt to stay focused on my goal to create an environment that nurtures my passions for reading, writing, thinking and being.

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