Learning to Jump
"The End of the Line" by Bryce Guenter (CC BY)

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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April 11, 2017

Hey, I said. Let me write an essay about attention and focus and learning to just put stuff out there into the world. It’ll be great. I’ve been reading a lot about the subject and I bet I can summarize a bunch of different ideas and it’ll be awesome.

Draft one: Well, that was a lot of crap about my interior life. DELETE.

Draft two: No one needs another regurgitation of GTD. DELETE.

Draft three: Really? I thought we’d decided no one needed another regurgitation of GTD. DELETE WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE (and think about salting the earth).

Well, maybe this isn’t going to be awesome but I told myself I’d do it, so.

Do I need to read more articles? Probably not, because they all pretty much say the same damn thing:

  1. Prioritize your projects
  2. Plan your projects
  3. Work on your projects
  4. Repeat

I think the biggest challenge many people face—including myself—is figuring out that everything is a project.

Pretty Terrible is my main creative project. There are sub-projects, each with their own separate workflows: essays like this one, reviews of books and short fiction, the weekly links posts. Another separate but equally as important sub-project is website admin: updating plugins and making sure everything is running as intended.

Once I realized that these were all different things and couldn’t just lump them together under “work on blog,” it became a lot easier to break the work into manageable pieces and then focus my attention to get the work done. If I feel myself veering off into the WordPress plugin rabbit hole while I’m supposed to be writing, I can make a note about what I was looking at—in my Bullet Journal or in a to do app (I’m giving Todoist a try). When I’m done writing, I can return to what was distracting me and either work on it then—if time permits—or schedule time for it on my calendar.

And that’s the other thing—I’m setting aside discrete blocks of time for working on things. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me until I took Jessica Abel’s Creative Focus Workshop, because I’ve been doing just that for the Friday links post for years.

It’s amazing how much time a person can waste fucking around on the internet. Or with other things around the house that need doing. Look—a squirrel!

I am slowly learning that the important thing is to sit down and just do the work. It doesn’t matter if no one else ever sees it (oh, my poor drafts folder in my Dropbox). Sometimes you put the work out in the world and no one notices or no one cares or it falls completely and utterly flat or you’ve fucked up in some way you didn’t realize—while all those things are hard to deal with, they’re not the actual point of doing the work.

Brené Brown talks about this in Rising Strong, which is a book about both failure and resilience–not so much about creative work, but what she talks about in the book is certainly applicable. I learned a lot from it—even if I’ve been slow to implement what I’ve learned to my life.

In the last episode of the first season of Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons (I know: Big Magic and the podcast are super-interesting and not like Eat Pray Love at all), Brown is a guest and she talks about how taking creative chances isn’t about sticking the landing (i.e. success)—it’s about the feeling while you’re in the air. And then Brown says this:

“When you get to the place where standing on the edge is more painful than risking a failure, I think you owe it to yourself to leap.”

I feel like I’ve been standing on the edge for an incredibly long while, waiting for the time to be right. The thing is this: the time is never going to be right.

I’m done waiting.

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1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Leary

    Wow, I’ve had that same feeling as well, and have been reading similar things. I’ll try the podcast; thanks!

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