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.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On the clock

I started following my new Schedule on Monday . . . my 37th birthday, which is either appropriate or ironic, depending on how it goes. Here are some things I've already noticed:
  • My overall awareness of things is improved. I had expected to be perpetually distracted by the clock, and thoughts of "gotta hurry." But actually, it has been a context that has heightened my awareness of all kinds of things. The schedule is tight enough that there really isn't a lot of room for unconscious activity. Half an hour is not a lot of time, and if you start to reflexive check email, answer email, read the funny pages, shuffle off to the refrigerator, etc. you're half-hour is quickly gone. So I find myself making fewer of those unconscious decisions, which I suppose is a good thing.
  • I was making unconscious decisions? Really? Once you're in a fixed time structure, you immediately recognize every impulse to do something else for what it is: an impulse. I really hadn't realized how much of that was going on in my life. I thought the problem was that I botched the big decisions: compulsively working on one thing when I ought to be doing another. But I also see a lot of "noise," in my behavior, too: little unconscious non-decisions that probably detract from my focus and effectiveness.
  • Inefficiencies become annoying. It was always annoying to not be able to find your slippers, and spend a couple minutes shuffling upstairs and downstairs looking for them. But now it's not just "a couple minutes" that are being lost; it's my writing time that's getting lost. Because I have recognized the fundamental zero-sum game of time management, I take those losses more seriously. I start thinking about Fly Lady tricks for starting the day faster. In other words, I start to respect the moment . . . which sounds like meditation, no?
  • Facing reality is easier. I am finding it a lot easier to be candid and honest about my schedule. Before making commitments, it's a lot easier for me to say, "Yes, that's reasonable," or "No, that won't work," or even "No way in hell" when pressed. This was, of course, the fundamental goal, and it's working. I would add that it's not working perfectly; I am still catching myself agreeing to do things I can't possibly do. But I would say that it's at least 50% less than before, and my awareness of the other 50% is almost instantaneous. This will take practice, but I know it will work.
  • Old karma is the worst karma. With my newfound awareness, it's a lot easier to avoid picking up new karma, new mistakes that have to be rectified. But I am still haunted by old karma as well: all those old obligations that I had unwisely made are still lurking out there, asserting themselves. That customer who was waiting for a job to be done before Christmas is still waiting, and probably less patient than ever. I recognize, now, that what undid all my previous attempts to live a more sane life was the old karma. I would resolve to have more realistic commitments, but still fall right into the same trap trying to ward off old commitments. You have to get right with everybody, not just yourself. It's a lot easier to deal with that stuff now that I've enlisted the support of those closest to me: my wife, and my boss.
  • I don't feel like myself. Working by the clock has left me feeling weirdly disassociated. Even when it's working, and things are going well, you would think I would be pumping my fist and feeling good about it, feeling good about myself. But instead my identity is sitting on the sidelines, saying, almost literally, "Who is that guy?" I had not realized that I was so identified with my bad habits. I guess, to some degree, I must have liked being that guy who works all night and collapses in a heap . . . even as I recognized it as destructive behavior. When asked how it's going, I say, "I feel like a manic depressive who's taking his medication." I'm doing much, much better, but it doesn't feel like me yet. But I'm sure that will come in time.



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