Course Corrections (On choosing what our missteps and detours mean)

Change-Your-Path

The day came for posting a new entry to the VO Review, and it passed by while I balked on my weekly commitment. Though it’s not too late, as this now posted just a few days following. I had my original concept prepared and basically written out, but while doing the edits, my enthusiasm slowly and depressingly waned. I chose not to use it; not now anyway. I was still determined to get something posted in an effort to remain true to my new habits and goals

Good creative decisions require knowing when an idea or project must be shelved, or axed completely; and finding the thin lines between procrastination, lost causes, misguided perseverance, and giving up too soon. In this situation I knew that the original article just wasn’t ready yet. It had not reached the level of desired cohesion. But publishing and sharing is vital to growth as a writer. For this entry, I want to describe the course correction I made with the hope of illustrating an overlooked element of the creative process.

As creators, writers, and artists, we make choices that determine what our efforts or lack thereof will eventually mean to us. If we aren’t making these choices with awareness, external or subconscious forces will take up the slack, and before long what we intended originally with our efforts is mired in a narrative of doubt or inauthenticity. It’s the way our minds work. We imbue past actions and choices with post-hoc interpretations and rationalizations for why we did things and in describing the bigger picture we hope we’re apart of. Without diligent awareness, it’s easy to take on a self serving bias or a victim mindset. A narrative starts forming that excuses or construes the meaning of our inevitable mistakes and detours. By deciding that the post I was working on wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I consciously determined to write something else and to decide what that meant about for my developing goals and writing habit. But these decisions did not come without doubt and dissonance.

It’s difficult not to allow self doubt, insecurities, or outside pressures color what it is we believe about our actions and decision. Sometimes we unconsciously surrender the freedom to shape the story ourselves. “I’m a quitter, a procrastinator, a model of inconsistency”…this could easily be what I said about my first post not coming together quite right. In fact, I did say these things to myself, and believed them momentarily. The question I had to ask myself about how to label my creative decision, action, or lack thereof, is this: are these labels and interpretations my choice or are they the identity I’ve allowed uncertainty and external forces to impress upon me?

There were both subtle and simple reasons behind my decision to write this post, in an effort to keep me on a disciplined creative track. I had doubts when I felt that my other write-up hadn’t taken on the desired shape. I started telling myself, “nobody cares if I post this week anyway” or, “how can you feel so good about something one day and find it to be utter nonsense the next?” However, I chose a different train of thought. I consciously discarded this old habit of fixating on my inadequacies. Something that could easily derail me in the past.

I’m not faking it ‘til I make it, or making excuses for giving up, or browbeating myself for being a few days late on posting. I made the willful decision to take action in a different direction, rather than hold myself to the impossible standard where every action must result in brilliance, and that it must go according to the plan or I’ve failed. And with this willful decision, I’ve written another blog entry for the VO Review. Here she be!

 

Quick hits

Thoughts on the Marvel film universe (after viewing Guardians of the G): the more bloated the installments get, the less I care about the paper thin plots and any impetus for the conflicts. They’re basically visual roller coaster rides. I enjoy them and move on.

Things I’d forgotten: how cold the winters get, how hard habits are to form and how easy they are to break, how smart people still do plenty of dumb things (mostly speaking for myself).

Rediscovering for the first time: the value of lists and keeping notes

Awesomeness of the week: seeing our cat use the stuff we’ve packed in boxes as her personal jungle gym and sleeping perch.

New shows for me: Broad City, Hell on Wheels

Books I’m enjoying or enjoyed: No Country for Old Men, Founding Brothers, Dataclysm

Albums to give a listen: Divisionary by Ages and Ages, Room 93 by Halsey, Wildewoman by Lucius

New irrational appreciation: Vintage sodas in glass bottles (chiefly Root Beer and Cream Soda)

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On the Forming of a Habit (The Sorcery of Delayed Gratification)

Amanda-knee

The other night Caitlin brought to my attention that I had been jogging daily going on a month now. Initially that fact seemed inexplicable to me. Not because I didn’t believe I’d done it, but I couldn’t account for more than 30 days of jogging in my head. Well, also because it was hard to believe I’d established the habit. I’m no couch bum, but building routine in my life has been a nagging and sometimes debilitating struggle. I might even suggest that I’m a professional and skilled half-asser.

The concept of delayed gratification in many ways does not compute in my head. It feels like faith to me, and I possess very little faith. This might come across as depressing or color my character in some other negative light; but I do not mention this as if I am at confessional or admitting to my deepest character flaws. Whether I’ve established this bad habit of not building habits through my own volition, or if it is more a function of my predispositions is mostly irrelevant. What is important is that my brain has internalized and recognized the goodness of a new habit without me even really having thought about it. That is habituation.

I am not a reformed man, I did not wake up one morning and decide that things would be different. I just started jogging one day. Slowly, the jogs got longer. I recognized that podcasts and audiobooks weren’t enough to keep me out of my head, and when in my head I become more keenly aware of my boredom and discomfort. So I started listening to music instead, along with running different routes every few days. This seemed to keep a certain freshness to it, and the rhythm of tunes kept me in my body and out my thoughts.

I quietly noticed I was feeling better mood wise and that my days were becoming more evenly structured. Things were just sort of happening and now a month has past.To my conscious and often scattered mind, this almost feels like magic. I don’t even know how to fully describe it, but the best way I can think of would be to say that my mind works in bursts of frenetic thoughts and observations, what most people seem to possess in the way of “motivation” and sustained commitment has at times in my life felt utterly foreign and otherwise fleeting. I’m aware that this may be some narrative I’ve constructed to excuse the manner in which I’ve skillfully half-assed my way through life. Either way, it is what it is. I have a relative non-judgement in recognizing this about myself. But the unassuming way in which I tricked myself into jogging daily while hardly even thinking about it is a significant breakthrough. It might be good for me to accept it as some sort of sorcery so that I might put faith in the doctrine of habit and delayed gratification. It’s a small thing, but I’ve been encouraging myself to celebrate “wins” when they come along.

As I said earlier, however, this is not a rebirth or reformation. Too many times in my life I had it in my head that I had turned some kind of corner. I prefer to think of this right now as a revision of a script that I had been playing out in repeat for much of my life. A very minor revision, as I will reexamine some of this progress months down the line and see if further magic has been cast upon my person.

Let’s see if I can trick myself into writing that book I always talk about. But I’ve been told it’s kind of insulting to writers to just nonchalantly talk as though you want to write a book. It is no easy task, and is certainly more involved than forming a month long jogging habit. But, I REALLY don’t consider myself a dreamer, so I’ll allow myself to have this ambition even if that irks a more seasoned and accomplished writer out there somewhere. The next task is to use the mysticism of habit forming in an effort to build a daily routine of writing.

<<<<Quick Hits>>>>

Habit I encourage others to form in full recognition of the hypocrisy I posses in asking others to do what I am bad at:

Read daily and begin saying of art (music, film, etc) that it is more than merely GOOD or BAD.

Albums that must be listened to:

-Alt-J ‘This is All Yours’

-Sylvan Esso ‘self titled’

-Kate Tempest ‘Everybody Down’

-FKA twige ‘LP1’

-Sharon Van Etten ‘Are We There’

-Killer be Killed ‘self titled’ <<<<<side project supergroup w/ Max Cavalera and dudes from Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan…nuff said

Deep thinking books that can be read on the crapper:

-The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman

-You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

-Straw Dogs by John N Gray

Pseudo-events that serve to distract and not to enlighten:

-IPhone 6 bendgate

-Whether or not Roger Goodell gets fired

-Underpants that make your flatulence smell like mint <<<<like seriously, #DYSTOPIA, stop this nonsense

Words and concepts to know for maintaining your status as a quasi-intellectual:

-Predicate

-Quasi-intellectual

-Concern troll

-Difference between correlation and causation

-Loss aversion and sunk cost (you don’t even have to understand these completely, just throw it in your comment and you’ll sound smart)


PEACE!