The Rehearsal Hall

Where the magic happens. You may notice the Linear Calendar on the wall, it was a kickstarter buy from a really cool designer from L.A. named Jeff Schwarting. Look him up!
Where the magic happens. You may notice the Linear Calendar on the wall, it was a kickstarter buy from a really cool designer from L.A. named Jeff Schwarting. Look him up!

There are a lot of ways to work. And there are even more kinds of work, but most have a few things in common. To be as elemental as possible; they happen in some kind of space, and they require your brain. So it stands to reason that the shape and quality of that space will come to bear on the performance of your brain, and impact the work that you get done. To that end I’d like to share the experience I’ve been having in my own recently rearranged Brain Space.

I alluded in a post last week to having spent a fair amount of time rearranging the furniture in my home in some kind of combined procrastination and thoughtful improvement to my circumstances. The result is my fairly compact domestic existence fits completely within my bedroom, dining room (now serving as living room), and kitchen. This leaves free the entirety of my largest room (the living room, if you were counting) free to be my workspace. Previously the living room was a living room… you know, couch, arm chair, TV bench, bookshelves, the whole nine yards, PLUS a small table in the corner (crowded with computer, tented ergo-keyboard, Wacom tablet, note paper, and microphone which I almost never used). This was all fine and good, but I moved here to this apartment (which is fairly large for a single man of modest means) after sharing an apartment of 2/3 its size, and then taking up residence in a spare bedroom at my parents house before making the big relocation. Point is, my existence has been pretty compact over the last few years, and that left me with sorta swimming in this apartment. More importantly I took stock of my habits. And wouldn’t you know, my best creative flow was happening when I took my Laptop to the nearly empty dining room and sitting at my “dining table” (really a folding-leg table slightly smaller than a typical card table) and sitting on a $6 stool from IKEA or an old oak dining chair. 

Now I’ve taken all the pictures off the walls, and put the former dining table in the middle of my new, large, nearly empty workroom space. the laptop sits in the middle and the fancy keyboard only comes out when there’s a lot of writing to do. This leaves me with a distraction-reduced space for working complete with empty hardwood floor. I’ve jokingly started referring to the room as “the rehearsal hall” because it reminds me very much of a theatre rehearsal space. Its just a room. I’m not pretending that any of my work REQUIRES fancy equipment, or perfect circumstances, a great chair, a stack of reference material, or a wall covered in inspirational aphorisms. I just need a space for things to happen. Sometimes I lay on the floor and let all my muscles fall into the wood. An ounce of awareness and relaxation is worth at least a pound of comfort. And a hardwood floor does more for awareness than any chair I’ve ever met. 

I’m not going to think of this as asceticism, just a realization that the pomp and circumstance are really just clutter. All that is required to invite the muse is that you show up. If there’s lots of stuff, if there’s too many tools and connectors and hoopla and jargon, I know that even if I go there, there’s a good chance I won’t ever show up.

Getting Things Done for the Holidays

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of energy getting things done. I mean this in a couple of ways. First, and most plainly, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Second, there was actual business to attend to and prints to sell. Third, as part of my usual melange of procrastination and creative furnace stoking, I’ve completely rearranged the furniture in my apartment to grant me a small and efficient living space coupled to a large, mostly empty and spare workroom.  I wanted to write about all of this, but then I wrote far too much about the GTD process, and got really intimidated by the prospect of trying to tie all of these things onto one bloated, sagging barge of a post. This is a rare case of resistance coming in line with good sense. Truth is, its the Getting Things Done process thats been most interesting, and after this much of it, you’ll probably want a break. So here we are:

To put the first thing first, Getting Things Done. Its written quite clearly for last-century executives. I am a plainly 21st century, internet-dwelling creative. Still, the central tenets are useful and important. I’d recommend the book to most of the working world. If you have tasks that last longer than 2 minutes, and projects that overlap, get your hands on a copy of Getting Things Done. The first part of the book is about the why and the implications of getting things out of your head and into a reliable system that you will use with unfailing consistency.  If you’re like me, you probably won’t care about suggestions on how to manage paper files within arms reach of your desk, because the daily information deluge is now 95% electronic. Still, having a repository for those digital reference materials, ticklers, and items of personal curiosity is important. Being confident that your inbox will actually get addressed in your routine, and that your file system is capturing things you need later on would put anyone into a far stronger position for active engagement in their work. It was actually listening to David Allen on a podcast and in a TED presentation that I became interested in Getting Things Done. He mentioned the idea of making available your “Psychic Bandwidth.” Its a fancy and flashy phrase, but it spoke to me, because as an artist, I know exactly what that is. Psychic bandwidth is the difference between having a great rehearsal because you are totally, unfailingly present, and trying to get out of your head. In so many pursuits, its never been said better than “there is no try, there is only do or do not.” Getting Things Done is about freeing your mind (not necessarily your time) from all of the things which are not doing your work. For this tiny piece of perspective alone, it is worth the read and a really serious attempt at getting all the open loops of your life into a reliable system of filing, and lists of next actions. 

That all said, I spent the better part of two days and one extra evening collecting all of the projects in my head that were not written down. Even for someone like me, an avid task and project-management app watcher, there was a tall stack of things that needed better organization and a unification of priorities. I took the magazine file boxes that were holding all of my important papers (credit card disclosures, car title, car service history, insurance policy documents, etc.) and put them into a genuine file system. I read through all of the tasks, recurring and single which I had stored in Things. Then I sat down with a stack of index cards and (careful to avoid the rabbit holes) wrote down all of the remaining open loops that I had in my mind, the tasks and projects that had no physical repository… an entire package of index cards later I was able to establish a usefully complete list of open projects, and an appropriate list of next actions. 

Part of the reason for my copious number of open loops was that in the never ending quest for the perfect tool, I turned up lots of applications. Worse yet, lots of them I really like. So, it became difficult to decide where to capture something, and therefore even more difficult to find it when it was needed. I had a journal in Day One, most of my drafting was taking place in iA Writer, unless it needed a basic page layout in which case I was usually drafting directly in Pages, I had notes spread across iOS Notes and Evernote, I was using Things for my projects and recurring to do items, but often using iOS Reminders for basic lists like groceries. Altogether a TON of capture, but only a little search-ability. This left me only moderately effective even when I remembered to stay action oriented in putting tasks down in Things. Finally I didn’t have enough confidence that I would for CERTAIN be able to find the thing I wanted later, so I was getting numb to some of these lists and having to dream up new reminders for really important stuff. 

I’ve had an Evernote account, probably for the 5 years they’ve been around, and frankly I never took it seriously. The problem with any every file system is that until you hit a critical mass for the amount of stuff inside it, it doesn’t work. Organizational systems seem floppy, unnecessary, wishy-washy, meaningless work to feel officious until there’s enough stuff in them that you would be hopeless to find anything without a system in place. This is the real beauty of Evernote, even if you made no notebooks, no tags, you might not even need a good titling convention, even if you put literally no work into organization, you would still probably be able to find what you need. So, naturally I decided to make a ton of notebooks, notebook stacks, and a completely revamped list of tags. I even sprang for a very helpful book, Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly to help me get a really comprehensive restart. Now I’m completely moved into Evernote for project lists, journaling, personal reference (with Evernote’s Web Clipper browser extension and email upload features, capturing reference material is spectacular) documents like my business registration and expense receipts, contracts, everything can go into Evernote, I’m even drafting this post in Evernote on my mac. That leaves Things, which is for the time being still the best task and project management app out there (if you don’t need team management), to collect all my next actions and even future next-actions using scheduling and multi-step projects features. I have also reworked my Things tags list as well to be more functional (more on this in a minute). Lots of Evernote power users write about doing these kinds of things with Evernote reminders and check-box items, but so far I’m not ready to jump in that deep. 

Having done my capture I needed to ingest and make decisions on next actions. This is one of the timeless (and still revolutionary) parts of GTD. The act of processing the inbox is of central importance. Decisions can never be tasks, sometimes research or questions are required for a final decision on what to do next, but I was often guilty of putting “Decide on,” “Decide how” in my tasks. This is tantamount to placing those items back in my inbox and its a great way to end up with open loops. It doesn’t matter how the information comes to you or how you’re going to store it, this idea of handling an inbox item one time before deciding not just whether or not something needs action, but what action should come next, is the real power of GTD. This makes it possible to gauge when you take out a list, what actions you might actually take in the moment. Now, David Allen suggests lists organized by context, like “at the office,” “at home,” “running errands,” “at the phone,” “at the computer,” etc. Well, today many of these contexts are meaningless, with smartphones and cloud services like Evernote, IMAP email, Office 365 and others, a lot of actions can be taken from anywhere at any time. So we can simplify, and that brings me to my Things tags. Tags are great for context, but beyond the context of in-person meetings and perhaps out on errands, if you don’t do your work on highly specialized machinery context has almost nothing to do with where you are in the physical world. But the really great news is that today ALL of your lists can be in your pocket, and easily temporarily reorganized with tags based upon what you think might be doable at the moment. So all of my tasks now get three tags: estimated duration, difficulty (or required energy level), and high-med-low priority. So if I am at the laundromat with half an hour to kill but I’m tired, I can now view all of the tasks that will take me less than 30 minutes and don’t require a lot of energy. More than likely I will be able to accomplish at least one from my smart phone. Likewise, if I’m bouncing off the walls confined and waiting on the dryer, I can choose something appropriate to that mood as well. 

Another part of this experiment was The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. Its not something that I ever felt was going to be really useful, the title is classic get-rich-quick click-bait. As a matter of fact, there is a short section of the book that explains that the title was chosen specifically, and scientifically for its click-baiting potential. Still, Ferris makes a lot of audacious claims and calls out a lot of examples that might open up one’s thinking about how they would really like to live and work. What he tries to offer are strategies to remove as many working hours as possible from earning a useful income. For people who want to travel and experiment and Live first, work second, this stuff is great. I would like to have the latitude to get immersed and lost in the real, important work of my art, but as it stands I have to spend a lot of my time doing someone else’s work in order to survive. This is a fine temporary action, but it is not a good long term strategy, because it means I can only stay half invested in each thing. Those of us working “survival jobs” tend not to advance very far in them, because we do not take complete ownership of them. This is one of the most interesting ideas from The 4 Hour Workweek, that even if you hate your job, you might be best served by putting all of your attention into it for a time. This way you can establish your own systems and efficiencies and become an irreplaceable asset to your organization, then ask not to have to be there, and work remotely for fewer hours than you’ve needed before. Now thats a position from which to launch something new! However, there are some ideas he discusses which are a bit more relatable to GTD. The primary strategies Ferris uses to get more uninterrupted time are outsourcing, auto-responders, and gatekeepers. Outsourcing is obvious, other people attend to things that you don’t absolutely have to do, The auto-responders and gatekeepers are there really just to set expectations for people trying to get in touch with you to deter them from badgering you too much. The idea is that if you can get all of the things people need from you to stack up in your inbox, then you are more in control of prioritization. This is also a great way to get hugely overwhelmed and very far behind. But if its dovetailed into a rock solid GTD system, then you’re in business. There’s a lot to say about The 4 Hour Workweek, but for now I’m going to leave it here.

I’ll probably be following this post up with more about how the 4 hour workweek and GTD fit together. Plus another post about the benefits of giving your brain some breathing room in your physical space. Thanks for reading, go make stuff happen and live a life, useful.  

Big Changes, Big News, Cheap Wall Art!

You may have noticed that the site has gotten a little redesign lately. That is because there’ve been some big developments in the world of my online presence. In particular, there is now a beautiful new site at (you may have already noticed the new “Photography” link here at SfB will take you there). This means that SearchingForBohemia will return, to its original purpose: delivering to you strange musings and heart warming poems about somewhat fictionalized versions of the people I know and love. The new photography site contains my portfolio, a few galleries of images I’ll offering for sale, and information about my photography practice, should anyone wish to hire me. 

Its been a long time coming, and the fact of the matter is that it should not have taken so long. Still, I’m extremely glad its here and I’m proud of it, and the work I put into it. So, if you recall, I’m living in Norfolk, VA now. Referrals are awesome!

Speaking of awesome, I’ve teamed up with the heroes at Square to allow online purchases of some beautiful prints of my work! I have a small stock of prints matted, mounted and SIGNED by yours truly. But most exciting of all I’m offering them at a pretty steep introductory discount! Go check out my Square Market page to see what’s still available!

My online store at is still in process, so please keep an eye out for updates on that in the next week or two. But for today check out the new site, take a look at square market, and please tell your friends!

Letting it kill me…

I’ve been relaxing and decompressing after all the stress of my move and it seems wasn’t doing so hot. I picked up the TV remote and let it start to kill me.

The more I tried to decompress the more tightly I’m wound up. I decided to try and lay low, to just settle into my new place for a couple of weeks without going out much, without getting amped up about making too many contacts. This decision came as I noticed setting up house was expensive, and I could in fact be flat broke. So my last two weeks have been a lot of netflix and a few cocktails, more cookies than I care to mention, and all of this basically because I was just waiting for my first round of bills to come in. If I survived in good shape then I can be a bit more liberal with my time, I can hand out flyers that say, “I’M HERE! COME PLAY WITH ME!” And now that I know I’m not completely and totally broke, I feel… no different.

This of course is not at all genuinely surprising. This is really a moment when after getting a little burnt out on the stress of moving house (and having a place that is completely and totally my own for the first time) I’ve given in to my resistance. I’m nervous and uncomfortable in social situations with new people, and now there is more staked on that than usual because I’ve moved to this city so that I could start at least one major professionally creative endeavor. I have not been CREATING since I’ve come here, but having had this realization its time to fix it. 

Perhaps in a subconscious victory over my resistance (thats called jiu-sistance*), I have been wasting my time in progressively better ways over the last week or so. Reading more about business practices and marketing and being a creative than about congressional gridlock and wizards defeating daemons, sounds like a step in the right direction, but really its still kind of a cop out. Yeah, I have a lot of learning to do, and reading about people who were me not that long ago is a path to that. However, What do these people write about? Mistakes.

Mistakes. Mistakes. Mistakes. Does preparation yield mistakes? No. Although being ill-prepared can make them all the more spectacular. Does reading about other’s experience yield mistakes? No. Only action yields mistakes, and mistakes lead to learning. So its time to get creating. Its time to start making mistakes. Its time to start learning. Its time to pick up something I love and let it start killing me.

If you need a creative pick me up today, go read this from James Rhodes: 

If you’ve seen it before go read it again. If you haven’t seen it before and you don’t think you need that pick me up today, YOU ARE PROBABLY WRONG, read it NOW!

*jiu-sistance is a thing I made up to make myself feel better about my cleverly harnessing the intent and thrust of my creativity into high-level resistance and procrastination. Use it as you like.


Welcome to the Neighborhood

 It’s been some time since I last posted here due to my relocation. I’ve just moved from my native Long Island to Tidewater Virginia. Like any move, in spite of my best efforts and extreme drive for the most complete possible preparation, it was nonetheless an exercise fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. If I had followed my own advice I would have kept to my regular writing and running (the things that made me feel like myself and centered). It would have helped to curb the anxiety and I might have had a better experience. But it should seem that all advice, (your own or anyone else’s) can be easier said than done. Still, I’ve survived, and I’m arriving back at those important things. It was difficult being without some of my favorite tools while things like my furniture and much of my clothing and even some secondary equipment for my digital workflow were being shipped. Even once they arrived here at my new apartment/studio it took several days to get myself back together. Now I’ve settled back in to some semblance of a life and its time to get back into my work. With my desk reconstituted I have been able to process the last few weeks of photographs and I’ve turned up some new products to share. Look for those in the next couple of days.

For now I’ve been spending some time settling into my survival job here, and trying to make some connections in Norfolk. I’ve moved into a hip youthful neighborhood and its a big change from the isolated, oak forest/suburban melange of where I lived on Long Island. I’ll miss the state parks for sure, but there are some trees here But what I’m really excited about is that there are a lot of small (and mostly independent) businesses here. I took a stroll with camera in hand the other day and stopped in on an art gallery, an outdoor gear shop, a throw-back mom-and-pop pharmacy, and took in a 35mm movie at the art-house theatre around the corner. So far its been lot of fun to be friendly and say hello, ask what everyone does around here. Eventually I’ll have to start translating this motion into action (fellow motivation/productivity blogger James Clear wrote a great piece on this recently) by establishing a working relationship with the area galleries and possibly print shops. But for today I’m happy to be where I am.

New pictures coming soon, stay tuned!

Joy Postponed, Drudgery pwned

I wish I were posting today about my very successful trip to the Catskills to photograph a few beautiful waterfalls and their lush attending mountain forests. Alas I decided to postpone that jaunt due to the high degree of cloud cover predicted for the region. And so instead I’ve spent the weekend playing a few video games, running many miles and getting around to some business that had been eluding me. 

This is often the most difficult thing for me to accomplish. The tasks that were second tier but are allowed to move forward by a hiccup on the first tier. Plans are a wonderful thing for those of us who have spent more of our lives procrastinating than doing. And when those plans get disrupted I feel uniquely challenged by my desire to get things done anyway. Here I sit, in time I had slated for driving down from the hill country to the flat and sandy shores of Long Island, unable to do that thing from which I had already tasted the thrill and triumph. So how is it that one makes one’s way back from a daydream into the reality of useful drudge work? After all, my love for entering data about and pricing prints of my photographs is not what drives me to take them. Nor is applying for juried hangings of my work with local arts councils. The fact that I keep running into here is that there is simply no way to casually make my way back from that daydream, for this work is completely and utterly unrelated to the dreamscape. Instead this is a process of ringing the bell at the change of periods, rudely rousing myself and setting off to plod through a lab period, where daydreaming over a colorless lecture is not an option. The really good news here is that its hard to emerge from the lab without feeling energized. 

I do not, this evening, feel energized in the way that I would arriving home with a couple of CF cards from which will flow many additional hours of ecstatic work. Instead it is the slow and confident energy of preparedness. Necessary work was never my strong suit. This is me making a change, I suppose.

The Ben Franklin Daytimer, and keeping odd hours…

It was not very long ago that I finally got around to reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. Now this was in many ways an exercise in abject envy of one of history’s most effective people. The man was an unstoppable productivity machine. It seemed every one of his setbacks suited him just fine and he made them into great opportunities instead. But this kind of positivity I believed stemmed from the man’s ability to shelve what he could not do and focus cleanly and purposefully on his at-hand tasks. Which brings me to the real subject I’ve set out to write about today: Benjamin Franklin’s Daytimer.

One of the more difficult bits of maintaining my personal creative momentum has been guilt. Yes, guilt. Above the endless distractions of the internet and competing projects and planning trips and making tea and a mountain of reading I have mostly resolved is never getting done, guilt keeps me from maintaining my momentum. Now, doesn’t this seem illogical coming from a man who believes that the best way to motivate one’s self to their important creative work is by acknowledging it is their social responsibility? Yes, I admit it seems a little backward. But in truth the biggest problem is focus that falls apart. For me, I do not lose focus (I don’t misplace it), nor does it slip from one task to another. Instead it is as if I’ve fitted the wrench of my focus onto it’s bolt and its handle promptly resolves into sand. But what does that have to do with my guilt? 

There are certain ambient pressures of the world that enter into my thinking on focus and productivity. The first is the rampant and destructive glorification of “busy”. Working late nights and early mornings and all through the weekends is supposed to mean you’re doing something right. But Benjamin Franklin didn’t say “Toiling late and early to rise.” And more pointedly, that famous mantra, “Early to bed early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise” doesn’t just promise that you’ll get a lot done. The promises of health and wisdom are probably more important than the wealth that always seems to catch our eyes first. So my guilt over not having accomplished enough during the day leads me to diminishing health and wisdom. After all, when I’m late to bed it usually means I’m bleary eyed and exhausted when I get there. This is never a state in which I feel healthier or more wise. 

Now I’m no neurologist but I do have some neurons of my own and I can say with some confidence that attempting to overcome chemistry by force of will is a losing battle. But with this revelation in mind one sees a way out. Some time ago I came across an exercise in “Write” by Karen E. Peterson Ph.D. which suggested allowing your more intuitive side guide you in structuring your day. The exercise asks you to carry a chart of the hours of the day with you on a daily basis along with a box of colored pencils, and to fill in the hours with whatever color occurs to you allowing your mood to be reflected by the color choices you make. After doing this for some time you’ll discover a pattern as to what parts of your day are your most active and creative or most relaxed and least apprehensive. This understanding goes a long way in building an effective routine, which brings me back to old Mr.Franklin. 

In the autobiography one notices in several places Franklin’s proclivity for forming routines. It seems every new location or undertaking is accompanied by a description of its day to day, down to what kind of roll to be bought for a daily walk about town, whether it should be buttered, how much should be paid for it, and how it might affect the afternoon’s swimming. There is a section in the book which outlines the broader blocks of Franklin’s time each day, breaking out a 3 hour Rise, Wash, and Breakfast period, from two 4 hour work periods split by a 2 hour lunch, and a 4 hour evening for socializing and relaxation. Did you catch that? BENJAMIN FRANKLIN took 2 HOURS for lunch! It is at this point that we should all give ourselves license to quit feeling lazy about not spitting turkey sandwiches all over our computer screens during our half hour “breaks” and start getting serious about the effective use of our time. Guilt trip over, its time to fix the problem.

I have been playing with what I’m going to be calling the Ben Franklin Daytimer for a couple of weeks now. Essentially I am combining Franklin’s idea of an 8 hour workday in two 4 hour blocks separated by a generous break with the Pomodorino system to bolster the effectiveness of those work periods. If you’re unfamiliar with Pomodorino time management, do a little google searching and you’ll find a great many descriptions and best practices. Its a simple method of dedicating short blocks of time to a specific task using a basic kitchen timer, and then taking short breaks between those work periods. I don’t actually use a kitchen timer, instead I use a great Mac App called ChronoSlider which makes setting timers and even recurring alarms a really smooth and incredibly quick process, if you’re a mac user, check it out. As a person obsessed with organizing my projects it can be a challenge to put those things out of mind and the security of knowing that the bell will ring in a half hour makes it much easier and allows me to focus with greater intensity. But there is the even greater obstacle of having focus that will not dissolve to sand when you try to use it, and this I believe is where routine becomes important.

Early to bed. Sleep is hugely important to whether I can focus and think and be creative. I made mention above of chemistry and as I understand it nothing is quite as important to the chemistry of productivity as the time you spend asleep. This is another place where guilt shows up. After all, when you are uncomfortable about not having done enough, or you want to wear your sleep deprivation as a badge of honor, you are not likely to sleep well. Again, we need to think more about the ways we really do our best work and not use the hours and stress we put in as a measure of our commitment. I’ve personally been having the most trouble with this bit, the regularity of my routine. This is for several reasons (including my part time jobs with inconsistent schedules) but most frustratingly because of the nature of the work I’ve been doing. When you come right down to it, you’ve got to show up. And for me that has meant not just being at my computer and ready to do some post processing and writing but also being several hours drive from my home at sunrise to photograph seascapes. Breaking my routine has been detrimental to my sleep cycle and to my focus, but the pictures are coming out great, and thats the most energizing part of my day.

Not all challenges are trouble, just take them as they are, set your timer, and dive in. If you’re like me, or like Franklin, you probably have more stuff on the back burner than you care to admit. So if there’s a block in your way, don’t spend too much energy regretting it, instead just pull something else to the burner thats working and set your timer. And if you’ll excuse me, its time to get up and stretch.

Fruits of my Distraction

Its been a few weeks since I got back to the job of writing this site. That time has been manic and busy and unfocused and blurred, but the good news is that I have something to show for it. Taking time away from writing (not so deliberately) and spending it with photography has been good for my brain. If I were to consult The War of Art I’m sure I would come back with my tail between my legs, for the truth is that I have gotten afraid of some writing I have started. Usually the things you resist hardest turn out to be your most important work. 

Still, today I set some writing out in my schedule alongside time to learn and do a bit of (far too complicated) bookkeeping. Then I promptly spent all of that time editing some recent sets of photos. Now there are lots of arguments for how and how not to figure out just what might be one’s calling for lack of a better term. In fact I have suggested here that one of the very best ways might be to look for what you can’t stop doing (provided you aren’t too absorbed to take a step back). The difficulty lies in the fact that I also know for certain that Steven Pressfield was correct when he wrote The War of Art, that the things you are best at avoiding are the most important. So here I am. Caught in the middle. Obsessively editing, looking back over, ranking, making new versions, and exporting images that I have spent my free days capturing. Its a great way to be, creating. I sit down and there is not, then by the time that I get up, there is.

So today I have these new shots to share. Also check out the new project gallery/homepage here at searching for bohemia, its sucked up a bit too much of my time lately and I hope you enjoy it.

My Least Favorite Dilemma

After a long weekend of shoveling snow up here in the great wet northeastern states, I am struggling to overcome a mite of sickness. I’m the first one to admit that I am not brilliant at facing down my resistance, and that recognition helps me. However, when I begin to feel less than 90% physically, my ability to focus drops clean off the table. This is one of my ultimate moments in the dilemma of effort, should I push through and ignore the discomfort to raise my spirits by the satisfaction of getting things done? Or would I be better served resting, napping, drinking tea, for the chance that I recover sooner? The hard part of this question is that neither option feels good. And that is where the trouble begins.

We all know that happens then, we attempt to do both, and therefore accomplish neither. And so I will likely be forced to move on to the next days no better rested than usual and with little accomplished. Writing this is merely a half-witted escape from this scenario. This way I’ve done something easy and self-referential, which can masquerade on my to-do list as successful work time. I promise more actual content is on its way. 

In fact I’m even formulating some technical advice some folks could make practical use of. But for now, TEA, and maybe I’ll move over to some reading I had planned to do before today… 

Holding On: Turning Empty into Full

I’ve been working. A lot. It’s been exhilarating. It’s been edifying. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun. It’s been very tiring. 

Not everything has been going my way either, I’m having to adjust midstream. I’m pushing too hard at the rocks to notice the hard places, now I’m deciding to get flexible and sneak through the hard places. A wiser man than I once told me: 

“You’re not exhausted. Just wait ’til you get older, and you’ll be just holding on.”

I had an idea of what this meant, but did not grok it and I’m not much older now. But, today, when the lack of sleep is a disappointment and not a point of pride, but mostly its an afterthought. When you have in front of you more than you are confident you can do, but you are certain it must be done because it lives in your guts and your blood, you have a chance to hold on. Your worth, and your work are no longer tied to how good you look doing it, instead you can only keep going. It is the way a musician talks of songwriting as if it is no more remarkable than collecting the recycling. A dogged, workaday quality that understands humbly that is your self not your image or your comfort that makes your work worthwhile. In this state you are prepared to hold on, to do, to make, to act, to write, to create. You may not be without judgement, but with judgement (at least for the time being) overcome. And you will not be without fear, but with fear overcome. 

For me this means taking on projects, and projects with deadlines (even some imagined ones). And freeing myself to explore and learn while I work with and for other people. Anyone who ever had a career has understood that learning means screwing up. Just because you can’t offer a guarantee doesn’t mean that you aren’t right for the job, take a risk. Don’t be afraid to risk other people’s money if they want your work. For those of us with little experience as freelancers and artists and creatives it can be especially hard to remember, they hired YOU not your CV. The worst that could happen is that you learn and have to work harder to establish your reputation in the future (sounds like fun). 

Am I doing the best work I ever have? I don’t think so. But the important distinction is that when you are prepared to hold on you no longer wish you were doing better, instead you just keep working.