Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So...Hum

In an effort to increase the time I spend "being" (and okay, also increase my effectiveness at "doing" things)*, I've done some new things lately, where "lately" means "in the past six months or so." Last fall, I signed up for a yoga class (here's a link to Mayama's blog!). Late in the year, I started a meditation practice. (Hence the "so/hum"--one of the ways I focus when I meditate.)

"Meditation practice" is an awfully fancy-sounding descriptor for sitting cross-legged on the floor trying to not look at the clock, but it's actually accurate. I'm practicing. And there is no performance; no future time at which I'll be capital-M Meditating. This time, this session of practice is all there is. 

Same with the yoga class--it's a dedicated space at which I do what my body can do right there, in that moment. I don't think about what I do today that's different from any other day. 

And it's surprisingly difficult to do/be these things. I was a competitive swimmer; I've written about health and fitness. I know that maintaining aerobic fitness requires pushing yourself to do more on a fairly consistent basis, as your body adapts to the "new normal" abilities you're creating. 

It's also hard to not feel that sense of impatience around writing. Sure, I've done that thing, but that was yesterday; what's tomorrow? I "should" be more accomplished in some way, writing better/faster/more, with more uniqueness/acclaim/recognition/buck$$$. 

One of the most difficult parts of freelance writing has been figuring out my own career ladder--and, in fact, I'm not sure I've ever managed to do that. The easiest ways to determine success are through measurement: numbers, as in income or number of publications. Twitter followers, blog subscribers, Klout scores, book sales, advance $, royaltie$--all of those things are numbers, and therefore they can increase (yay! success!) or decrease (boo! failure!). But...they're only numbers. They measure only part of the picture of writing (and life and work) that's important to me. 

As an experiment, I've been applying some of the whole "be here now" life approach to specific activities around writing. Now, as I sit with a particular story or essay; I ask different questions. Instead of "where would I send this?" or "how can I make this more _____?" I try asking, "What can this story be?" It sounds a little hocus-pocus to my traditional, mainstream mind, but still: I try to meet the writing on its own terms. Maybe this writing is "just for fun." Maybe it's still a jumble and needs another rest before the best revision strategy presents itself. Maybe it's ready to meet the world, though I'm nervous about the content.

And sure, I still submit pieces. I still have external goals--easily measurable things like grants or publication in specific journals. But even as I pursue those goals I try to celebrate what I have control over--writing the best work I can, submitting the best excerpt or proposal, completing the best writing I can at any given time. 

I don't have answers, but I have a practice. And just having one means I'm successful! Yay!

I've written before about "being a writer" vs. "doing the writing." This is different.