Monday, December 31, 2012

Mouse View/Eagle View: Life Balance

Stress, exams, deadlines, holidays, parties, shopping, spending: that's what the end of the year typically brings to those of us living in North America.

And then there's the looming new year and all its expectations: Lose weight! Get fit! Make more money!

Life balance: yeah, right. "You have to balance client expectations with personal needs." "Too much work and no play." "Family time, couple time: they have to balance out."

If it's helpful to you to think of balance, great; go right ahead. But at any particular moment, I don't particularly want to be "balanced." I want to be enthusiastic, passionate, productive, energetic -- or contemplative, resting, processing, mellow. Intense, tense -- relaxed, loose.

Or something completely different, something that can't be measured on a binary scale. Like I want to be listening, witnessing, watching, looking, tasting, luxuriating, sharing.

For me, balance doesn't work because it's not something you can see from the mouse view at which we live every day. Balance is best seen from the eagle view.

So when I feel something -- frazzled, overstimulated, underenthusiastic -- I take a step back (or up, to continue the metaphor). What's been happening the past few days? How about the past week? Month? Year?

For example, if I'm feeling crabby and out of sorts, I can ask questions like these: in the past week, how many times have I gotten some exercise? (Probably not enough, if I'm crabby.) How many nights have I gone to sleep before 11 p.m.? How many hours have I spent working toward long-term goals ahead vs. putting out fires?

Sometimes it's appropriate to work 12 hours straight to meet a deadline -- and sometimes taking a day "off" in the middle of the week is appropriate. Sometimes work and leisure appear in the exact correct proportions in a given day -- but for me, they usually don't.

Those who prepare tax returns for a living (bless them) know that they will work long hours in late March and early April; they take vacations at other times of the year. My math professor mother decreed that the Christmas season couldn't start until she'd finished marking exams and submitted the semester's grades. Once she'd done that, she could give herself over to lights, baking, and shopping.

This is probably going to sound kind of nutty, but simply by reminding myself of mouse view/eagle view, I automatically reduce my stress -- because I no longer feel pressured to create a life that's perfectly balanced in any given moment. Or day, week, month. Or even year.

So take stock of the past year, make some resolutions, set business goals, whatever you do to celebrate the calendar's change. But spare a thought for which perspective you're adopting: the mouse's or the eagle's.
Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mouse View, Eagle View: Rejection

"Rejection is just part of the life." I haven't met a writer who hasn't said that, nor have I met one who can accept rejection without a twinge of "hey!"

One strategy that's helped me handle having writing rejected -- which, yes, is inevitable in this line of work -- is to remember to work both the mouse view and the eagle view.

For the past several years, I've tried submitting something every month. Often I submit more than one something. Often I re-send a returned piece (in what I call a "boomerang" submission), but sometimes I make "rules" to force myself to send something new (or newly revised), and sometimes the "rules" include trying a publication I haven't tried before.

Over the years, I've found it helpful to have many pieces "out there" under consideration -- that's the eagle view. I have twelve opportunities, at minimum, in a year to see a piece land in a publication. In years when I make more "rules," I have even more opportunities.

At the mouse view, I do the legwork. I try to match what I send with what that publication wants. And each rejection or acceptance gives me some information.

Sure, the rejections still sting, especially when I really thought I'd found a good match between a piece and a publication.

And because I try to keep both perspectives, each submission carries hope -- but not desperation.

The mouse/eagle view of rejection has many side benefits -- what those in the grant-writing business call "soft outcomes." The act of submitting work actually supports my writing in the long term.
  • * For one thing, I enjoy the flash of satisfaction I receive when I submit something -- submitting is act of faith, in a sense, because I believe in this piece so much that I'm willing to allow it the opportunity to "live" someplace beyond my hard drive. That feels good, so I perceive that I enjoy writing more.
  • * Also, by focusing on submitting, over which I do have control, I blunt the the sting of rejection, which is something I don't control (beyond good research and doing good writing in the first place).
  • * And because I have that goal to submit something every month, I have to keep writing and revising so that I have pieces (or pitches) to send.

So that's how looking from the perspective of both the mouse and the eagle help me handle rejection. Which may be part of the life but isn't anyone's favorite part!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mouse View/Eagle View: Whazzat?

It's that time of year. I'm sending invoices, finishing projects, meeting deadlines. It's time to see what worked well in 2012 and what might help me be more successful, however I define that, in 2013.

As I start winding down -- or winding up, depending on whether I feel clock-like or thread-like, I guess -- I find myself thinking a lot about mouse view and eagle view.

Here's how the basic concept works: Mice see things at ground level. Eagles see things from a higher perspective. Mice see blades of grass; an eagle sees a meadow. We live at mouse view; we dream and set goals at eagle view.

Of course I didn't invent the concept -- I first heard it at some corporate training something-or-other back when I went to those things. Here's an explanation of how you could apply those two perspectives at work. . Getting Things Done, summarized here, talks about runway view, 10,000-foot view, and up to a 60,000-foot view. 

Whatever the name, mouse view/eagle view is a concept I find particularly useful. Lately, I've noticed myself applying it in contexts other than life planning and goal setting (though there, too). Stay tuned.