Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Do more, know less

Malcolm Gladwell's Blink is all about the "adaptive unconscious," the processes in our brain that are reaching conclusions and making decisions without our conscious knowledge. I think reading the book has had an impact on me at that level, because I have found myself making some bold decisions without a lot of hand-wringing lately.

I took complete charge of the UNC SKS student group, something I would have utterly dreaded a year ago but now I feel oddly comfortable about. I found that waiting around for someone else to take charge was ultimately more stressful than just jumping in and taking the responsibility I didn't want. I still have significant concerns about growing the organization; I have lots of empirical evidence from the last fifteen years to show that I'm not the worst leader the group has ever had, but far from the best. But once I made the decision (and I didn't even realize I had made the decision until I heard myself telling my colleagues on the phone) I felt to the psychic release, as if a weight had been lifted, and I knew that I had been repressing my concern for the group for a long time.

I stopped playing Scrabble, pretty much cold turkey. In retrospect, I think it was one of my repression tools; I kept my brain occupied so it wouldn't think about all the things I ought to be doing instead. It's not that I don't enjoy playing, anymore . . . but the compulsion has lifted. It stopped seemingly like a good idea. (There is a scene in Melville's Moby-Dick in which Captain Ahab realizes that smoking his pipe is distracting him from quest to find the white whale, and he tosses his pipe into the sea. It wasn't a frantic committment; it's just that once he saw clearly what it was doing to him, he didn't want it anymore.)

All of this has felt rather like the decision to start blogging at the beginning of the year. I didn't know what was going to become of it; I didn't know how I would find the time, or whether it was realistic, or what technology I needed, or anything. I just went and did it. I've knownfor a while that I needed to live more of my life that way, and I think this book has given me permission to do so. Sometimes self-knowledge means knowing what you don't need to know.


Post a Comment

<< Home