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?