Ruminating further on *the idea that our deepest desire is often bundled in our darkest fears…
What is it about the thing we love that make us so afraid?
Why does our love of something leave us feeling so naked and vulnerable? So much so, that we often hide from it or avoid trying the thing we want most desperately in the world?
It’s a strange phenomenon
To reach for our greatest desire, we run the greatest risk of failure.
Truly failing- not just in an external sense of the word. A deep failure that we feel in our souls.
To run the risk of failing at something we love is the most vulnerable place we can be because we expose ourselves fully to pain.
It is easier, then, to succeed (and fail) at things we don’t care that much about.
This is why we often find more success in shadow careers- that is, careers we didn’t really want, but that seemed easier than going for the career we truly wanted. It’s easy to take risks in a career that spiritually means nothing to us. But it is oh so difficult to do the thing that would bear the most meaning to our souls.
Our fear is always showing us what that thing is.
So if you’re unsure of what you want, you might ask yourself instead- what am I most afraid to do?
That, of course, is the thing you must do, above all else.
I have trouble differentiating between what is fun
and what is work
I’m told this is a problem:
“you need to learn how to unwind”
people often tell me
“you’re working all the time!”
weirdly, I don’t feel stressed out
it’s not like I’m staring at a computer all day, madly sweating, tearing my hair out
much of my work feels like fun
much of my fun feels like work
are the two mutually exclusive?
my sister set out to prove to me one day that I did indeed know how to relax:
“see. you’re reading that fiction novel! That’s relaxing!”
“Oryx and Crake. Yes, that’s fun, but it’s also work. I’m researching for my script.”
“Hmm…ok, but you watch movies.”
“Fun, but also work. I’m trying to learn about directing styles.”
“Ok- you go out and socialize. That’s obviously just fun.”
True. I know what pure relaxation is. I know what work looks like in it’s purest form. It’s pretty clear what both ends sides of the spectrum looks like.
But it’s the middle stuff I’m confused about. And that stuff seems to fill up most of my life.
Are my photo shoots fun or are they work? They’re not easy. You could hardly call standing in a glacial lagoon at 6 am a lot of fun- not to mention the 3 days of editing that follow. But no one’s making me do it. I get relatively little in return for my labor. Is this fun or work?
Ditto movies- am I watching for pleasure or research? Hard to say anymore.
Ditto every book. Every dance class. Every networking event. Every film festival.
Is there a place in the middle of these two extremes where people like me spend most of their days? Somewhere between fun and work? Furk?
….mark it down, ladies and gentlemen. You heard it here first.
When you’re working so hard it can’t be fun, but you’re funning so hard it can’t be work…you’re hard at #furk.
Growing up in the dance world, I spent a lot of time learning how to spin on one leg (aka: pirourette) properly.
Getting a clean double can be difficult initially, and going beyond that into triples and upwards is what sets apart the intermediates from the pros.
It requires a great deal of balance and control to execute multiple pirouettes reliably enough to choreograph them into a routine, and so you need to be sure that whatever turns you choreograph are able to perform proficiently.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever learned about turning, was the idea that very little force was needed to pirouette 2-3 times, and that our tendency was to apply too much force going into the spin, which caused us to turn too fast and loose control.
It was a counter-intuitive idea: apply less energy, and it will become easier.
Once I tried this, I was amazed at how much easier the entire endeavor became. I was suddenly able to pirouette beautifully and with ease, and amazingly, I was using about a quarter of the effort I had been using previously.
It’s an interesting lesson: There’s a minimal amount of force to execute a particular action. Any force amount beyond that is excessive and wasteful to your energy.
Likewise, when I started rock-climbing, I was always gripping the wall too hard, like a frightened cat, putting too much strain on my arms and consequentially making the task of scaling the wall much more difficult. Once I got better, I learned how little strength it actually required to support my body, and that by simply relaxing my arms, I made it much more probable that I would make it to the top of the route without tiring along the way.
This, I think, is one of those concepts that can be lifted and applied to almost any area in life. How can we accomplish tasks with the least amount of strain possible? Strain, of course, can also mean mental strain.
How much of the anguish you are experiencing is actually necessary? Is there a way you can execute the same actions with a minimal amount of stress?
Is it possible that you are applying too much force to something that could otherwise be easy?
Many legends exist where the undead come back to haunt the living because they’ve left behind some “unfinished business” from their life before.
The idea that we must “finish business” is obviously a pretty powerful force if we fear our mortal souls may not rest until we do it.
A desire so powerful should certainly be paid attention to before it’s too late.
Like a familiar song cut off in the middle, it is my belief that we secretly long for resolution in all aspects of our lives.
As far as I can tell, there are two possible conclusions to any project that bring about this feeling of resolution:
1) completing the task
2) quitting the task, fully and wholeheartedly
To do the first is the most rewarding.
But this isn’t always preferable, especially if the task turns out to be something not to be worth doing at all. Completing an unimportant task may feel satisfying, but ultimately it is a complete waste of time and energy.
In these cases, it is better to jump as quickly as possible to choice #2. (More on this in the next post). Once a task is identified to be unworthy, commit to quitting it, and don’t ever look back.
But before we consider these two outcomes, we should consider whether the entire project is worth starting at all. Quitting before we begin can save us a lot of grief in the long run.
For the worst thing we can do, is start a task and then abandon it and avoid making a decision. Then, the project enters the realm of unfinished, which will haunt us incessantly, like a ghost.
I’ve been reading a fantastic book lately called Deep Work by Cal Newport. While I was already familiar with a lot of the concepts- such as blocking out long uninterrupted time frames to devoted to a single tasks (to create flow), and minimizing distraction- the book formalizes a lot of these processes into concrete methodologies which are scientifically proven to be effective in creating better output and happiness.
I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in increasing their output and doing what he terms “knowledge work” (like writing or research).
Now comes time to implement this in my life.
I’ve downloaded an app called “Focus” for my computer, and have made a habit of now turning off my phone while timing and logging these deep work sessions, which can last anywhere from 1-4 hours.
So far it’s going pretty well. I’ve gotten quite a lot done in the last two days since formalizing this practice. I don’t think I was particularly bad at focusing before, but it does take some concentration to be able to resist the urge not to break off into more “fun” respites, like facebook, while the timer is on. I’m looking forward to seeing the results as I continue on.
Next, I’m quietly disengaging from a lot of my social media life.
This is a tricky one- as sharing my work online has become extremely valuable to me in terms of personal fulfillment and branding.
I plan to continue doing this by pre-scheduling posts in this blog the night before, then limiting my email/social media checks to twice a day- one morning and one night. I’m hoping by reducing these interruptions throughout the day I can accomplish more writing and also invest more in my real-world relationships and passion projects instead.
Check out this very interesting article on the concept of digital minimalism by the author on his blog (Take the concept of minimalism one step further into the digital realm and there you have it. It sounds like what it means.). It’s a very interesting conversation- it may be something you are interested in implementing in your own life.
Our job as artists has two phases:
-unplugging for creation
-then plugging back in for sharing
We must constantly oscillate between the two actions to keep our ship afloat.
For some, the process of unplugging is painful; extroverts hate to be pulled away from their stimuli- their friends, their adventures. Sitting down and writing a script can be very painful and lonely for an extroverted artist.
For introverts, plugging into the network and sharing their work is painful. It’s tough to put yourself out there. Introverts fear people may not want to see their work, or may not appreciate it.
But, of course, without sharing, our work is created in a void for us and only us. We never get real world input on our ideas. We never get to see how our work impacts others. And worst of all, we don’t stand a chance of making money from our work, as people can’t pay for something you never get to see.
Likewise, without the deep concentration and intense focus that comes from unplugging, artists are unlikely to ever achieve the quality or volume of work that is necessary to stand out in the marketplace.
Both steps of this process can be as difficult or as easy as we want to make it. But the fact of the matter remains: both “plugging in” and “unplugging” are necessary evils.
It’s important for us artists to stop begrudging either step of this two-fold process- it has always been this way and will always be this way. Even very famous artists, who have publicists and agents representing them, must engage with the public at some point- they must put a face to the work and speak to the press.
Likewise, even the most media-savvy, digitally-connected artists need time away from the noise to think about their next book/film/work.
Plug-in, unplug, plug-in again.
We need start embracing these as two sides of the same coin. And we need to be nimble enough to move back and forth between the two, remaining lucid enough to know when we have spent too much time in one phase and we need to move to the next.
I’m unplugging right now if you haven’t guessed it. But I look forward to connecting with you…later.