The Experiment.

As I cryptically referenced in the last post:

I’m going to be documenting this experiment on the blog in the coming year.  I may be absolutely nuts, but if anybody has ever said “follow your bliss” and “things will work out” — well, here’s the clinical trial, baby.

But what exactly does that look like?  How can you follow your bliss, practice extreme faith, and not go completely, uselessly bonkers?  And if this is a clinical trial — what, exactly, is the experiment?

No goals.  Now what?

Having been a recovering Type A, er, type, I discovered that not thinking in terms of goals can be confusing. “What, I’m just supposed to be for an entire year?  Navel gaze for twelve months?  Then what?”

Besides that, there are external factors at work.  I’ve got five books coming out in 2012… and three books contracted to complete.  And I sincerely doubt my publisher’s going to be sunshine & smiles if I suddenly declare “oh, I decided not to have any goals this year.  You’ll have it when it’s done.  And I’m promoting in a sort of when I feel like it manner.  But it’ll work!  Byeee!”

So how can I do what I feel needs to be done (like pay bills, and teach classes, and write books and promote them) without some kind of pressure?

Mind your metaphors.

Most of you know I am a huge fan of Havi Brooks over at The Fluent Self.  One of her things is the power of metaphor.  If the story you’re telling yourself about something doesn’t work, you change the story.  For example, she absolutely detested the idea of staff meetings.  Envisioning it (and actually calling it) a Drunken Pirate Council, on the other hand, works like a charm.

Since we’re writers, we of all people should be able to recognize the power of words.  Actively using metaphors to… well, write our lives, makes perfect sense to me.  (As does altering our own POV — but I’ll be blogging more about that later.)

Obviously, I had an issue with goals+pressure+burnout=getting shit done.  I had the wrong equation.  I saw it as a rat race, of sorts.  While I had some healthier and more authentic metaphors for me (like tribe vs. platform, and gift/contribution vs. pushy-used-car-sales) I still kept looking at the numbers.  How many followers?  How many sales to hit bestseller?  Feelings are well and good, but what are the numbers?

And there was that whole driving into a wall thing.  *Shudder.*

Welcome to the Cruise.

Okay, this is one of the crazier things I’ve tried — and after four years in Berkeley and a decent stint in the clubs of L.A., that’s saying something.

My metaphor for 2012 is a luxury cruise.

I knew that my biggest problem was focusing myopically on accomplishment, benchmarks, milestones.  Like one of those tours, where you have to see eighteen countries in about two days.  This is the Eiffel Tower!  This is Luxembourg!  Back on the bus!

Instead, I wanted an experience of relaxation.  There would be stops, stuff to see, sure… but the whole point is really just being on the cruise.  I always imagine a cruise being a sanctioned place to hang out on a deck chair and read, so right there, I knew I wanted more of that.

You can hang out with other people who are presumably there because they like the whole experience.  Or you can just hide in your stateroom.

And at the end of the cruise, you go back to where you started from.

Experience for experience’s sake.

Another chestnut.  Ever heard “live like you’re dying?”  As in, if you only had a year left to live, what would you do?

I can agree with the sentiment, but really — if you could run up your credit cards and tell the company to go screw itself, if you could bare your soul and if it all went wrong well, hell, you’re dead! — it’s easier to say.  It’s saying “live like you won’t have to deal with the consequences.”  And yes, that’s simply my problem with the metaphor.

Instead, I’m looking at it as “live like you’re on a vacation.”  (Assuming, for the moment, that you’re not a Type-A workaholic with a surgically attached iPhone or an aforementioned tour nazi.  I actually had a tour guide once snap at me when I complained about our pace: “You’re not on holiday.  You’re on tour.”)

When you’re on vacation, you slow down.  You’ve got options, but you could theoretically just chill out and read if you’re feeling exhausted.  It’s about replenishment, and being curious about things, and having fun.  And usually, horrible things that happen simply become fodder for the stories you tell to non-vacationeers later.  “So nobody spoke English, it was four o’clock in the morning, we couldn’t get a taxi!  And we wound up staying out all night!”

So, now that I’ve flown my freak flag…what about you?

If you had a metaphor for your writing life… what would it be?  And do you like it?



2012: Embracing Apocalypse.

I have tried to write a blog post for the past month, but kept trailing off in little wispy curls of directionless prose.  I’ve been wrestling with something, but I haven’t been able to verbalize it.

Epiphanies have been strafing me like machine gun fire, and I have been ducking and covering and basically running around like a bipolar chicken.

On the plus side:

I’m not getting these epiphanies as a result of life changing loss or incredible pain.

The creative block I’d been suffering is turning over more quickly, and the insights I’m getting are a lot richer.

The stuff that I see heading towards me is incredibly exciting.

On the rough side:

I see a lot of changes.

Epiphanies, while valuable, are also normally a pain in the ass.

Not being blocked means actually doing the work, which has also traditionally been… well, laborious.

And I haven’t actively pursued “excitement” for about half a decade.

Why the blog’s been dark.

I had been wrestling with goals for this blog, and for my writing career.  I’m a freelance writer, teacher, editor.  I’ll say it:  income has been an issue.

So I was stressing, and plotting, and trying to figure out the most logical, efficient, effective way of achieving said goals, meeting my income needs, while simultaneously taking care of my son and myself in the most sane way possible.

And all of a sudden, I got a sort of sneaking premonition, a bunch of coincidences… and a smack on the head.

“Leap, and the net will appear.”

Ever heard that one?

Yeah, me too.  And I’ve gleefully believed it.  I’ve quit jobs to write full time. (A couple of times!)  I’ve lived the bohemian artist/frathouse life.

Then I had my son, and thought “well, yes, but leaping doesn’t actually apply to people who need to pay bills to take care of their kids.”

It’s the thing writers struggle with.  How do I find time to write, and promote, and work, and… and… and..?

But I don’t know how it happened, or when, but I realized: now is exactly the time I need to be leaping.

2012:  Screw goals.

I’m not planning goals in the traditional way this coming year.  No benchmarks. No milestones. No action plan.

Instead, I’m looking at what I want to feel like.  I don’t want to be stressed the way I have been.  I’m not going to be desperate.  Why?

Because I know the damned thing works out.

My life is my story.  Right now, I just got out of a pinch point and I’m heading for the midpoint: when the character (me) goes from passively reacting and figuring out what’s going on  to taking an active approach to the story goal.

This year, I’m going to be leaping.  For me, 2012 is going to be an experiment in extreme faith. I’ve got a checklist of stuff I want to do each month, like walking my talk, doing something new, and focusing on self-care and creativity, and fun.  Not in detail, mind you.  Just “this is what I want in this month.”

I’m going to be documenting this experiment on the blog in the coming year.  I may be absolutely nuts, but if anybody has ever said “follow your bliss” and “things will work out” — well, here’s the clinical trial, baby.

I am scared as hell.  But I am also going.

Anybody who’s up for a little trip — grab the handbasket.  Let’s do this thing.