Yes, this is the year you’re going to write that book—your first book, or your next book. That’s why you’re here.
However, this is not the usual resolution, or exactly a goal. I love the way Leo Babauta of Zen Habits suggests that we can change our lives in four lines:
1. Start very small.
2. Do only one change at a time.
3. Be present and enjoy the activity (don’t focus on results).
4. Be grateful for every step you take.
In case you believe you must work harder than that, Leo offers examples of dramatic changes he made by beginning so simply. You can find that here. And more about Leo here.
So this week, you’re going to breathe, and smile, and be grateful for the enjoyment you will feel this year, because you will enjoy the process. You may think about writing if you like. You can start writing, if you promise to keep it small and enjoy it. Be grateful that you’re even thinking about writing, that you are capable of writing.
This one is for those of you who already write in complete, yet not inexhaustible sentences, and wonder whether you have any style.
Of course, you do–just as you have a personality style, a speaking style, a breathing rhythm, a driving style. You can’t help it. You are an original because you are the only one. Whether you want to tweak your writing style is up to you. (My favorite book on style is Trimble’s Writing with Style.)
David L. L. Houston enumerates some of the features that distinguish one author’s style from another, and I liked his style. What’s Your Style?
Listening to Krista Tippetts’ interview with musician Bobby McFerrin, it first surprised me that he ever considered joining a monastic order, and that the main attraction was the silence! He also loved the scheduled cycles of each day, the listening for God. Then it made sense.
He describes himself as a “conveyer of song. I think of myself as a catcher of songs . . . . to grab it, and pull it down, and have it come out of my mouth.” He distinguishes this process from an attitude of performing, which he recommends avoiding, even if you’re “catching song” from a stage.
He’s known for his improvisational freedom, but did you know he practices it? He recommends setting a timer for ten minutes. Then open your mouth and sing, and don’t stop, even when your body screams to stop.
That works for writing, too. Set a timer for a little longer than usual, and keep going even when everything in you screams to stop. You can work up to longer sessions and greater improvisational freedom.
(I watched the unedited version, and I plan to listen to the edited version as well–not to miss the things that will be trimmed for radio length, but for the music they’ll add. There’s another great way to look at revision!)
Some years ago, I read that plants required 17 nutrients for growth and that growth was limited by whichever resource was most scarce. I’m not qualified to speak to the botany theory of that, but as a metaphor, I have wondered what the comparable 17 nutrients for human creativity would be (and how many there actually would be) and whether any of these common nutrients could be the limiting factor, or would they be ranked–the way Maslov ranked them–for our individualistic society at any rate?
Lauren Owen quoted this in “10 Ways to Avoid Death by Meetings,” suggesting we “give people some time to respond. As we tell clients: ‘Let silence do the heavy lifting.’ You are not hosting a radio show. You don’t need to fill every minute with your pearls of wisdom. It’s ok to have dead air. Sometimes people need time to form their thoughts before they commit to speak.”
A couple decades ago, I learned of a study on teacher questioning. It concluded that when teachers asked questions, it took most students about twenty seconds to hear and process the question, answer it internally, decide whether to express it, and raise a hand. And the study also showed that teachers allowed–two seconds! So the advice to allow three to five seconds sounds magnanimous, but isn’t. Even knowing that, I can still get impatient or doubt the effectiveness of my questions and start rephrasing them before the clock ticks twice.
So what if we allow others some processing time?
And what if we allow our own minds a few more seconds? Days? Years? Allowing rest periods for incubation is vital to the creative process. Don’t assume that silence is a block. Relax. Listen. Breathe. Wait. “Let silence do the heavy lifting.”
I’m on spring break! Before I tackled various maternal, domestic, and academic projects, cleaned my upholstery, and attended a workshop on how to pay for another graduate degree, I napped!
Imagine that. Theoretically, I already know about sleep’s importance to my health, learning, and inspiration, but do I schedule enough of it?
The National Sleep Foundation classifies naps as planned, emergency, or habitual. This one qualified as emergency. I didn’t feel qualified to drive. And I could feel a cold coming on if I didn’t supercharge my immune system.
My main resolution–to breathe–has branched out to include meditation and yoga, and now, sleep. I shared Arianna Huffington’s hilarious speech on the subject in an earlier post, but I was teaching two night classes at the time and I didn’t schedule those naps. Here’s my chance to commit to that self-care. I’m sure I’ll be all the smarter for it. Maybe I’ll even remember to check my pockets before I wash another phone.
Learn a new word and hear it everywhere. Begin a practice and support appears.
As I practice breathing this year, it appears that meditation and yoga have taken over the world–several international incidents excepted.
Seane Corn at the TajMajal
Today, my encouragement arrived by e-mail, in the newsletter from Krista Tippett On Being. Can you believe yogini Seane Corn’s stunning pose in front of the TajMahal? (I can’t imagine anything near that, but who knows where this could lead, one breath at a time?)