Skipping, shipping and opening up

tabby cat snoozing

I had big plans for this weekend, mostly because I had even bigger plans for this week: Taxes! South by Southwest! My first experience performing (hopefully) at The Moth!

I was cat-sitting for L.A. Jan while she went off for a restorative weekend in the Desert, so I figured I’d get plenty done. I had nothing scheduled except an afternoon date with my sister. I’d be far from the distractions of home, so I’d be far more able to apply nose to grindstone and work work work. Get all those posts written and scheduled for my away time. Get my newsletter ready to go. Get my Moth piece written and rehearsed, my Porchlight piece started, maybe next month’s Networker column written.

Oh, and because there’s a washer and dryer on the premises, I didn’t even have to skip Laundry Day.

By Friday evening at 6, I was wiped out. I had half-heartedly wrassled with Jan’s wifi settings and when that failed, booted up her peecee laptop and half-started three blog posts. Nothing. So I did the unthinkable: I shut down the computer, threw in a load of whites, watched cable TV for two hours, and went to bed early.

I woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to have at it, only I didn’t. I did my Nei Kung and my reading. I picked up some coffee and some flowers at TJ’s. I did another couple of loads of laundry (I know, you’d think I had small children or something) and returned a few Very Important Emails. No writing. Nothing. The well was still dry. So I climbed in my car and drove to my neighborhood to do a few errands: check the mail, pick up a framed piece at the store, use up a Groupon that was set to expire.

My sister wasn’t in much of a conquer-the-world mood, either, rain and Oscar traffic will do that to a gal. So we bailed and continued on our respective putter-y weekend ways. I went home for a bit, thinking now that maybe the familiar setting would jumpstart things. I know, I know. But it seemed reasonable enough in the moment. Instead, I tidied up a bit, closed a few more email loops, and headed out to pick up some comforting old-school “Chinese” takeout1 for the evening. Which I spooned into myself between watching Chinatown and programming Jan’s virgin remote. One hot bath (with graphic novel!) and some Saturday Night Fever later, and I called it a night. Or a weekend, for all practical purposes.

I had two interesting conversations about the weekend once I got back home. One was with L.A. Jan, who had a similarly fraught experience on her relaxing spa getaway, a generous birthday gift from a friend. She was shocked to find out how painful it was to get a massage, how out of touch with her body, not to mention relaxing, she’d gotten. It was a wakeup call, she said; that was the true gift (because hey, it’s hard to look at having horrific bodily reactions plus pain as a gift without some serious reframing.)

The other was with my new friend, Dave Seah, with whom I’m conducting the Google Wave with Daveâ„¢ experiment. He had an away weekend, too; he also was rather dreading being away from work for so long. But his weekend turned out to be delightfully restorative, filled with lively and engaging activities, illuminating conversations with friends, good food and plenty of chill time. His tone in the Wave was more alert and excited, more clear and focused, yet also stripped of any of the despair and/or mania that sometimes possesses us when we’re wailing over what we shall do, o, what shall we do? For the first time he seemed to be approaching shipping (in the Seth Godin sense of the word, from Linchpin) from a truly relaxed and realistic perspective: keep it simple, address the fears one by one, do it anyway. Not easy, maybe, but simple and direct, which is a start.

I have “shipping” plans for actual product this year, at least two books, plus a few other possible ideas. But I have also started “shipping” on my talking goals, and here’s how: by saying “yes.”

Yes, I’ll read a story at your event (even though no, I don’t have anything written for it yet.) And thanks, Brenda.

Yes, I’ll read one at yours, too, even if it means I need to sit down and come up with an idea and an outline by the end of the day. Twice. (And thanks, Bill and Josh.)

Yes, I’ll stand up in front of a group of people at SXSW and do Death by PowerPoint Karaoke (aka “Battledecks”), even though I have no idea what I’m doing nor any way to prepare for it, either one of which thoughts is terrifying on its own but together, are positively stultifying. (And thanks, Mike.)

There will never be a right time to stop. There will never be a right time to go. There’s no rule book, here, or if there is, I haven’t seen nor heard of it. The only rules are these: terrify yourself only as much as you have to, comfort yourself only as much as you need to. Or, as Dave said at the very beginning of what turned into the Wave experiment, “Do not hurry; do not wait.”

I must give myself rest, enough to gain the energy to move forward. I must push myself forward, not give into the idea that I need endless rest.

Open and close. Rest and work. Yin and yang. The Chinese, as my white, working-class-Mass.-born instructor likes to say (only with less swearing) had this shit all figured out centuries ago.

Also? Stay on top of your laundry. Just sayin’…

xxx
c

Image by Daveybot via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

1By the way, is it just Mister, or do all cats go berserk for hot-and-sour soup?)

One comment

  1. Most writers I’ve met seem to think that “doing nothing” is B-A-D. In fact, you cannot write (or do much else) if your well is dry. Colleen, it sounds as though you really needed this weekend “off.” But it wasn’t really “off” — it was simply you, filling your well. Sometimes we all need to read books, watch movies, see some mindless TV, kick back and stare up at the clouds. When we’ve done enough of that, we’re refreshed and able to work again. (I’ve just moved house and I could surely use about three weeks like that right now!)

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