Wednesday, July 27, 2016


So, the wait is over. I've had some good health-related news, and, of course, some writing rejections, because that's all part of life. I'll take it.

The wait is also over for both political parties in the U.S. By this weekend, both conventions will be over, their nominees officially in place. For the most part, I avoid talking about politics in public anymore. But it's still the best theatre (or theater) in which to hone one's, um, critical thinking skills.

And, as it happens, it's a great venue in which to learn about writing--speechwriting in particular. Here are two articles about the speech Michelle Obama gave at the Democratic National Convention earlier this week.
By Roy Peter Clark, at the Poynter Institute: Eight Writing Lessons from Michelle Obama's DNC Speech. Read this to learn about the magic of three, about narrative, about pronouns, and other good things. 
By Rebecca Thering, writing at Medium: The Line I Wish Michelle Obama Hadn't Said in her Badass DNC Speech. Read this to see why people in other countries sometimes roll their eyes about U.S. political speeches. 
Now that July is nearly over, now that much of my uncertainty (and vacation) is behind me, now that political season is pushing through to its November conclusion, I'm switching gears.

Therefore, it's time for a famous quote from one of the best TV shows ever, The West Wing: "What's next?"

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Five Tips for Waiting

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute/with sixty seconds' worth of distance run" 

I didn't encounter this Kipling poem until my first exposure to sports psychology at university, but it reminds me of my parents' insistence that we spend our time in "useful" ways. And I can't shut up that Kipling-in-my-head as I wait.

Yes, this is the same waiting I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I'm still waiting on the most nerve-wracking stuff, but not for much longer.

Meanwhile, the clock seems to be moving ever more slowly as it counts down. Some periods of time are just awkward--not long enough to complete something, too long to "do nothing" (read for pleasure or scan Twitter) without guilt. (Darn that Kipling.)

So here are some possible ways to handle those weirdo time periods:

1. Chunk the awkward time. If you have a flight, meeting, or appointment mid-afternoon, you still have the full morning to do stuff as if it were a normal day. (I can't be the only person who has to remind herself of this fact each time.) Or not do stuff, as you wish. Set a time (say 1 p.m.) to switch gears, and ignore the commitment till then.

2. Consult a list. Okay, this requires pre-planning, but lists are useful. Awkward time periods can be helpful for research or doing weird tasks. For example: looking into those potentially interesting vacation spots, discovering where to rent kayaks in town, checking whether your streaming service or local library carries a specific movie you want to watch later.

Power outages are prime times for me to use these lists--I don't know how long it will be out, so using time well is a challenge. I use a lot of email in my work, which requires electricity. (Even if the laptop battery is charged, the router needs power. I also have to remind myself of this, because all technology seems so magical.) So I have a list of things to do when the power goes out. Some of them are work things (filing, sorting other stacks of paper), some of them aren't (culling sweaters to give away, using non-electrical devices like brooms and rags to clean things). I keep the list on paper in my Filofax, because I'm analog like that and also so it's available when we don't have electricity.

3. Make a list. See #2. Maybe you have 13 minutes before a conference call and you've done everything else you can think of. You can still make a list--places you'd like to see, activities you'd like to do someday. It doesn't have to be a long list. It doesn't have to be a "useful" list of to-dos. It doesn't have to be a list with a purpose--but you might find one for it later. A list of your favorite board games from childhood might give you ideas for something to do with the kids over the weekend. Or, if you're a writer, what is your main character most afraid of--and can you make that happen? You can list all kinds of stuff. Although making a list of things you're grateful for is always useful, I tend to resist doing it--which is in itself a sure sign of its potential value.

4. Meditate. Or pray, or visualize something peaceful or cheerful or beautiful. Or do whatever makes your mind quiet and helps you remember and then become your best self. Because even if you're gearing up for something unpleasant, like an uncomfortable meeting or a confrontation, bringing your best self to it is going to make it go better.

5. Go for a walk. I spend a lot of time sitting, and my hip flexors feel it. So I'm more conscious of choosing to move. I pace up and down in airports, much as my father used to (and yes, it used to make me roll my eyes). (By the way, it's interesting to see how similar airports are. And aren't.) Even if you can't leave a reception area, you can stand up. Moving around just feels good.

Truthfully, most of these are just more organized ways of goofing off or distracting yourself. But that also helps time pass, and makes that Kipling-in-my-head shut up, just a little.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vacating and Recreating

That's what I'm up to this week. Difficult as it is to leave this place at this time of the year (or, like, ever), I'm enjoying family time.

Here's something else I really really really enjoyed recently.

Come Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant

I mean, what is not to love? It's funny and insightful and goes off the rails on occasion, and what is not to love about that?

Please: do not say no to this tortoise and her current "owner," Audrey. You will laugh.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Waiting is not my favorite thing. Probably because it is one way to demonstrate patience, also not my favorite thing.

However. So many times, it feels as if the only option is to wait.
* for a response to something
* for information
* for a choice to become clearer

"They" always advise against waiting. As in, "while waiting for responses to work you've submitted, work on something else." The theory is, this response you're waiting for won't define you. You continue to be yourself, you continue to do your work, regardless of any one particular response.

In other words, you don't cede your power to whatever it is you're waiting for. And for "power," read "time," "energy," "personhood," "identity," and other good words like that. I think of the Reeboks ad (because I'm old like that): Reeboks let UBU.

So: don't wait. That's great excellent wonderful advice. I take it when I can. When the waiting is about work, say.

But sometimes, a simple "yes/no" response to work isn't what you're waiting for. You're waiting for information. For a recommendation about a way forward. You've enlisted the help of an expert, and you are interested or invested in what that person has to say.

Even then, though, hanging around by the phone isn't the only option. Or rather, it's possible to do both: to work on something else while waiting by the phone.

It's also possible to continue working, for a limited time, on that thing you don't have information for, through the use of hypotheticals: if this, then that; if this other thing, then that other thing; if THAT this, well, then maybe THAT that.

And maybe sometimes you recognize that in any of those hypothetical cases, THIS particular solid truth remains, and then you work with that.

Which is not to say any of this waiting is comfortable. So there's a time limit on waiting. There's a time when you assume "no" and move on with that answer. There's a time when you pick up the phone yourself and say "Hey there. Fine, thanks. And you? Great, glad to hear it. Now, how about that info you're getting for me?"

And until that time limit, which I like to impose myself (more assertion of self-hood, what control issues?), I try to remember to do my work. Be me. While waiting.

Yep. Just waiting, here.

P.S. You know that Anais Nin quote: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

I'm like that with phone calls. There comes a time when having to pick up a phone is less painful than waiting for that call. Which is a factor in the equation I use to figure out when my end point is.