1.22.2016

Happy Birthday to My Mom and Stuff


I'll start today's free write by wishing a happy birthday to my mom (Happy Birthday Mom! Keep an eye out for a care package in the mail...).

I felt the twinges of a slight cold coming on last night, notwithstanding my increased diligence over the past few weeks to avoiding human contact and meticulously disinfecting myself. I do not want to get a cold a week prior to traveling to the tropics for a fortnight of vacation. I immediately pounded the phantom cold with zinc lozenges, Tylenol, vitamin C, and warm fluids. Before bed I took two Benadryls, to prevent sinus drainage during the night and also help me sleep, and put a Ricola herbal lozenge under my tongue, which lasted most of the night.

This morning, I still feel the twinge, but it doesn't seem to have gotten any worse (knock on wood and cross my fingers). So my brute force approach to keeping the possible cold at bay might have succeeded. I took an all day allergy pill this morning and that should help prevent any further sinus drainage, usually the main cause of my blossoming cold symptoms. I am pumping fluids and keeping warm today.

I have a long weekend to rest and recover, if this is a cold, and no major responsibilities to speak of either. So that's a plus. Lack of rest is a big contributor to a weakened immune system. My Mastermind group met via Skype on Wednesday, because my "accountabil-i-buddy" (hehehe) in the group, aspiring rockstar Wendy Lynn from the band SUNSPOT, said she had a cold, so we purposefully avoided any chance of spreading her contagion to me. That being said, Deborah and I saw Wendy last night at a social hour we attended after work. However, this twinge of a cold cannot be attributed to that, because the gestation period of a cold virus is counted in days, not minutes. Other than work, I cannot think of any other exposures I may have had to sick people recently. I did go to the post office on Wednesday (to mail mom's birthday box), but I didn't encounter any outwardly ill people. I usually notice when people are publicly aerosolizing their own mucous via coughing and sneezing, and I don't remember anything like that. Anyway, hopefully it is short lived. All I can do is hammer it with every over the counter cold remedy and nutritional supplement at my disposal, and Deborah keeps quite an arsenal of the latter on hand.

I wanted to cram in some morning writing calisthenics to loosen up my brain for the day ahead. It helps to dump thoughts out in the morning and be free of them for the rest of the day. I wish it were possible to do that with cold viruses. I have been trying to get more free writing time in during the morning hours before work to see what spills forth and get a little bit of focus on things that are on my mind.

The main thing on my mind right now is preparing for the Caribbean cruise and Florida trip that Deborah and I are taking in a week. I don't like to stress on that sort of thing, so I probably won't do much prep work until the very last minute and then cram all my stress into a small window of time. That's the strategy that works best for me. Deborah likes to deal with her stressors in smaller increments. That's got advantages too. 

This Sunday, GUPPY EFFECT is the showcase band at the Sunday open stage jam at Funks Pub and we are having rehearsal beforehand to tighten up the 30-40 minute set of songs we intend to play. So most of my Sunday afternoon will be dedicated to music practice. Saturday is wide open. I have been structuring my time and my artistic achievement goals much more diligently thanks to the aforementioned Mastermind accountability group (its main purpose), but it is essential to build some flex time into the weekly grind. So I gave myself Saturday as a "free day" (Do you picture me doing air quotes every time I use quotation marks? Because I totally am...). That doesn't mean I won't work on my writing projects on Saturday, but just that I have total freedom to do what I want. That's very liberating. It might even make me MORE productive than if I had structured myself for things to accomplish on Saturday, because I won't be anxious about hitting the goals, which might slow me down (as I'll explain below when I describe "The Resistance").





The Mastermind group has provided me a lot of motivation to achieve some of my personal artistic goals. For example, I signed up for a few free online classes last fall, but I have not been very good about carving out time to watch the lectures and do the exercises, even though they are short. I have made watching these part of my weekly goals for the MM group. We have a spreadsheet in Google Docs where we enter our achievable goals for the week and then enter daily activities we do toward those goals. By making the lectures a goal, I am compelled to watch them if I want to hit the goal. My success rate is well over 80% for my MM goals, my metric for "bare minimum" success at hitting them. Sometimes it is 100%. The MM group is a fantastic driver of accomplishment because it not only helps keep you accountable to yourself, but also to the group. You don't want to let the group down or be the "weak link in the chain" (yes, I did...), and that's very empowering. Whereas, I might be inclined to procrastinate on a weekday evening, I now know I need to watch a free class lecture if I want to succeed on my goals, and the sooner I get it done, the better. So I simply DO. No more wishful thinking, only wishful DOING. While I don't technically need the MM group to achieve my goals, the "team" mentality is massively empowering for fighting laziness, procrastination, fear of failure, and the other factors that resist me achieving my artistic goals. I have also set minimum writing goals for the MM agenda and that's why I am pounding out this blog post on a Friday morning. New Year's resolutions seem within my grasp in 2016 far more than ever before, thanks to Masterminding.

In the book "The War of Art," author and motivational guru Steven Pressfield proposes that writing in the morning is a good way to tap into the "Muses," the psychological underpinning of good art.  I don't know how solid his rationale is, but he suggests that your subconscious mind is much closer to the surface of your thoughts when you wake up from a good night's sleep of solid dreaming (essentially your subconscious mind set free). Whatever. I do feel like words flow from me more creatively in the morning. By the same token, writing later in the day forces one to write under the much more commonplace "less optimal conditions" for writing, after the days stressors have pummeled your brain senseless, making it less fluid. One could argue that your writing will be stronger if you can fight through the stressors and write good stuff anyway. When you want to train as a bicycle racer, you want to climb some hills, not ride on the flat all the time.

Pressfield describes all obstacles to creating any kind of art collectively as The Resistance. Procrastination, laziness, "writer's block," unnecessary chores, and fear of failure are all examples of The Resistance.

For example, do I have fear that this blog post is going to be awful?* Yes. I am petrified. Well, actually no...I'm not. Petrified would be if I "froze" and didn't write this blog post because I feared it would suck. Petrified is what I might have been before I started writing it, if I let The Resistance scare me out of it. I admittedly had that fear before I started writing it. Even now, as I write it, I am inside a psychological "shark cage" and The Resistance, furious with gnashing teeth and sharp claws, is outside of it, rattling the steel bars. But I am in the cage, protected. I can't leave it, even if I wanted to, because then I would have to swim up to the boat and The Resistance would surely chomp through my abdomen, severing me in two. I told my shipmates, "Do not haul up the cage until I signal that I have accomplished my task." I have other tasks to accomplish today and this weekend, and each one is in a different shark cage. I will have to submerge myself in my art several times and hope The Resistance doesn't break through the bars and eat me.

The drummer in my punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, Frank (aka Dan), has an expression he uses to describe willful productivity. He calls it "plowing." For example, when he is doing back end web site development or business operations as tour manager for a musical act, he might put in a few hours "plowing admin." The visual I get is of a snow plow in a blizzard, trying to keep the roads clear so that business operations (commuter traffic) continue to flow freely. The work has to get done and you just have to apply plow to it as furiously as you can. You can't pull over and surf the Internet for a while or the roads will jam up. Once you start plowing, you keep on plowing until the job is done, or your shift is over.

Once I sit down at my desk and start writing, I am golden. I can "plow words" all day long. Thanks to the goals I set for Masterminding, I find myself far more able to resist The Resistance. I am tempted but not swayed to surf the Internet or check social media. I know I have to plow through. It's the initial energy hump of Resistance that needs to be hurdled to get me plowing art, but once I push through that, I am in the protective confines of the shark cage and the Resistance is relegated to emasculated, albeit noisy, powerlessness outside.

The air supply I have available in this particular shark cage is running dangerously low, so I have to tug on the rope and have my Muses pull me up to the surface. Mission accomplished here, I think...on to the next thing.

* Note: This post is not intended to be good. My free writes are an exercise to simply accomplish some writing of any quality on any topic. The mere fact that this post exists means I have conquered The Resistance and achieved my goal, albeit a small one.

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