Category Archives: essays

Sounded like a good idea at the time

Sounded like a good idea, until it wasn’t.

This statement could describe my life.  I actually do a lot of things that seem like a good idea, until I realize that maybe it wasn’t the best decision.  I especially feel that way when I think about my writing goals and the theme for my blog.

When I first started blogging, back in 2011, it was in support of my dog toy business (Another idea that has come and gone).  I knew that a social media presence would help my business sales, so I started a dog blog.  I developed a posting calendar and joined some blog hops.  After about a year or so, traffic on my blog was decent and then the retail sales started to come in.  Great news, right?  Well maybe, but I still had two other jobs.  Once the dog toy sales started increasing, the time I needed to put in to keep up with the orders outweighed my interest in making dog toys.  After a couple months of way to much work and very little profit, I closed that that venture.

I didn’t want to give up on writing as a hobby, so I tried my hand at another blog.  This one was going to document my outdoor and fitness adventures.  Writing posts for that blog became a little bothersome and mechanical. I just couldn’t get my mind into it. I could only write so many posts about running in the dark or trail running with my dog.  I closed this blog quickly.  Sounded like a good idea at the time.

Then I had another blog idea that was linked to a resale business.  For this one I had a great idea to tell a little story about every item that I was trying to sell as a way to create a buzz about the stuff and increase sales.  Again, I thought this was a good idea, until it wasn’t.  After some initial sales, I lost interest and decided to close that venture.  Sometimes even the most interesting trinket doesn’t scream out a good story.

Now I wonder if you, the reader, are noticing a theme with my projects.  Maybe you are noticing that I give up on things.  Well that might be true.  I, however, might want to say my flighty-ness is possibly a result of adult ADHD.  Or maybe it is that I don’t spend enough time planning out these adventures.  Either way, I think my sporadic blogging is more an example of my varied interests and my continued desire in becoming a good writer.  Even if I am struggling to find a path.

Reflecting on this behavior makes me think about Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of the 10,000 hour rule to success.  In Gladwell’s book Outliers he talks about how successful people have this common trait of completing 10,000 hours of practice in order to become experts in their field.  Gladwell explains how the Beatles played as a house band for 8 hours a day in Hamburg, Germany before they were famous. This experience enabled the band to play together for long periods of time and forged them into a cohesive musical group.  Beatles biographer Philip Norman says of this time:

They were no good onstage when they went there and they were very good when they came back. . . . They learned not only stamina.  They had to learn an enormous amount of numbers—cover versions of everything you can think of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too.  They weren’t disciplined onstage at all before that.  But when they came back they sounded like no one else.  It was the making of them. (Quoted in Gladwell p. 50).

Gladwell also talks about how Bill Gates had some exceptional opportunities as he was growing up that enabled him to get close to 10,000 hours practice with computer programming before he even got to college.

Gates started to learn about computer programming when he was in 7th grade, and from that time forward he spent most of his free time in a computer lab.  Gates, like the Beatles, also had some exceptional breaks during these early years that helped him hone his skills.  For example, a local computer company with ties to his school allowed Gates his friends to check code for them on the weekend in exchange for free computer time.  Later on in Gates’ high school career an organization called Information Sciences Inc. allowed Gates and his friends to work on a piece of software in exchange for more computer time. (Gladwell, p. 52).  All these opportunities added up to more than 10,000 hours of focused computer programming practice, which enabled Gates to become a programming expert by the time he reached Harvard.

So what does this have to do with my misadventures in blogging?  I think it highlights my challenge with focus and how it isn’t helping my blogging and/or writing goals.  In reading about what makes a successful blog, most advice articles would suggest that you have a theme, any sort of theme.  Blogs can be lifestyle blogs, fitness blogs, and specialty blogs, just about anything with some sort of binding theme.  Unfortunately, my scattered mind doesn’t lend itself to this type of process.  I do like to say that my diverse interests make me well rounded in other parts of my life.  I can fix a leaking pipe in my house, I can cook a three course vegan meal, I can write a grant to fund special projects at work.  But, unfortunately, I can’t focus my blog.  That is, unless, my blog can focuses on indecision.  I bet I have close to 10,000 hours devoted to that!

Hey, maybe I am on to something.  A blog about indecision!  That sounds like a good idea . .

cartoondecision

References:

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers. New York. Back Bay Books.

 

 

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The Artist Retreat Day

Today will be an artist retreat day.

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Photo from Max Pixels

I don’t have to work so I can spend the day nourishing my creative soul.  My plan is to respond to writing prompts, go outside and take pictures, go for a walk in woods, and sit in silent mediation.  Today will be a retreat day, a day where I can relax and rejuvenate.

But before I can get started I should really clean the house.  Then it will be time for my artist retreat.

Actually, since I have the time I should make lunches for the week.  I think I will roast a bunch of potatoes.  Then what should I have for dinner?  After I figure that out, I will start my retreat.

I do need to check work email.  I am waiting for a couple of important messages. Then I should confirm some meetings for Wednesday and Thursday.  Then I will start my retreat.

I need to run to the grocery store, I am out of cereal and milk.  I also need to go to the bank.  After those errands, I will start my retreat.

I really want to get at least 3 miles of running in today.  It is going to be about 40 degrees today and I want to start getting in some outdoor mileage.  Race season is just around the corner.  Maybe after that I will start my retreat day.

Speaking of running, I really need to order some new shorts and running shirts.  After I do that I will start my retreat.

I would feel bad if I am going to home all day and I neglected the dogs.  I should really spend time with them. And since I am going to be outside with the dogs, I should get a little spring cleaning done.  I need to remove that those branches that came down in the last storm.

I forgot about picking up the mail and dropping off the taxes.  I definitely need to do that.  But after that I will start my artist retreat day.

Hmm, I wonder how much time that leaves me for my artist retreat activities? Doesn’t look like much.


Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone else?

I have noticed that I have this uncanny ability of putting obstacles in my way towards creative growth.  I construct all these reasons why I can’t focus on myself.   Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way talks about how this type of behavior is an example of limiting and blocking an individual’s creative spirit probably due to some sort of past event where the creative spark was hampered by those of authority.  Cameron would probably also tell me that I am the perfect example of someone who is caught in their own Virtue Trap.  Cameron explains by saying, “We are on the treadmill of virtuous production and we are caught.” (p. 96)

Many of us have made a virtue our of deprivation.  We have embraced a long-suffering artistic anorexia as a martyr’s cross.  We have used it to feed a false sense of spirituality grounded in being good, meaning superior.

I call this seductive, faux spirituality the Virtue Trap.  Spirituality has often been misused as a route to an unloving solitude, a stance where we proclaim ourselves above our human nature.  This spiritual superiority is really only one more form of denial.  For an artist, virtue can be deadly.  The urge toward respectability and maturity can be stultifying, even fatal. (Cameron, p. 98)

The problem with this approach to life is that we lose our true self through the constant desire to serve others.  Our true self withers as it is replaced by the to-do lists and the obligations.  I order to keep in touch with our inner passions and potentials, we need to take time to retreat. We need to take time for the “Self”.  It is important to take time to nurture those creative impulses so we can embrace opportunities for growth when they happen.

The challenge, at least for me, is to increase the level of importance these types of activities.  If I want to say “I am a writer”, I need to find the time to be a writer. I need to be able to retreat and write.

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Photo from pixabay

 

Works cited:

Cameron, J. (2016). The Artist Way. New York. Penguin Random House, LLC.