Until I write

A surprise in the mail from Boomdeeville is a beautifully reassuring reminder that what is unique and memorable can very seldom be rushed.

A surprise in the mail from Boomdeeville is a beautifully reassuring reminder
that what is unique and memorable can very seldom be rushed.  January, 2014

“I cannot see what I have gone through until I write it down. I am blind without a pencil…But it does seem a slow and wasteful process. (Like walking, tapping with a cane.)…There is so much waste in creativity, always.  But there is something curious about creativity: the trying-too-hard for results seems to defeat itself.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sometimes when I look at all my husband and others like him have accomplished, I feel woefully inadequate, tapping away at my keyboard, addicted to reading and writing as I have been for as long as I can remember.  I often feel guilty for not producing anything more substantive, even though I have never had to rely upon it as a source of income.

Yet, as Lindbergh attests, there is no such thing as forcing results when it comes to creativity, no matter what form it takes.  Because I tend to think and talk rapidly, it took me years to realize how much more slowly I work compared to most people I know.  In crafts, in photography, even in cooking and household tasks, I find that I’m unable to function well under time pressure.  I can get things done, but there is no satisfaction in anything I have rushed through.

For me, it’s much more rewarding to complete something slowly and thoughtfully, not in a perfectionist, nit-picking way (an easy trap to slide into when time allows it), but in an attentive, relaxed state of mind.  Given the rushed nature of modern life, it’s easy to become impatient and see a relaxed pace as a waste of time.  In reality, though, perhaps haste really does make waste.  Even if the end result of rushed work is satisfactory, there may be collateral damage to our moods, our relationships or the flow of our day.

Next time you feel impatient with yourself for “wasting” time, think about what you are doing, and how you feel about it.  Is it really less wasteful to spend thirty minutes on unhappy, pressured and self-imposed stress, rather than spending the hour it might take to actually enjoy what we are doing?  Wouldn’t our time be better invested in savoring the pleasant details of our lives, focusing on the quality of what we do rather than quantity?

Admittedly, leisure is not always possible.  But it might be a worthy goal to give ourselves periods of time when we are off the clock, free to go at a natural pace, focusing on the process more than the product. I have a sneaky suspicion that even the mundane details of work would be more interesting if our minds were not in a hurry to move on to something else.

What activities are more enjoyable to you when not rushed?

One year ago today:

Patience and faith

45 Comments

  1. singleseatfighterpilot

    You have spoken of hunters in this blog. One commenter even introduced you to the concept of hunters being conservationists. Today I suggest the joy of hunting is a prime example of “focusing on the process more than the product”. I want to remind, again, the lyrics from “Alabama”: “I’m in a hurry to get things done, Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun . . .”

    • Yes, I noticed long ago that Daddy seemed to have as much or more fun when he didn’t come back from the woods with any game to eat. I began to suspect that it was mostly about hanging around in the woods, “off the clock” and away from interruptions. He even read me an essay he had written once, about seeing the deer and choosing not to shoot them, referring to the native American practice of “counting coup.” In that tradition, escaping unharmed after a close encounter with an opponent was considered more honorable than being wounded.

  2. Ann

    Everything is more enjoyable when I am not rushed! That lesson is one of the many I have learned since retiring in 2011. Simple things like lingering over your blog with my first cup of coffee rather than a quick read and hurrying to work!

    Loved Eric’s reference to the Alabama song, one that had real meaning when I worked.

    • Thanks, Ann! I am up early this morning because yesterday it occurred to me: I can either sleep in and be rushed, or get up and take my time. Today, I am choosing the latter! Hopefully I will keep at it. πŸ™‚ I very much appreciate your making this blog part of your day – it is an honor!

    • Ann…I do agree!

  3. Jack

    I’m 54 and have never learned the art of slowing down. But in my hyper-productivity sickness, I have come to realize that those things that matter aren’t really time-constrained. I’ve watched the beauty of families loving and grieving over loss, of enjoying each other’s company without an activity surrounding the enjoyment, of just sitting around and being together. In my childhood and young adult life, those together times were always associated with some activity: hunting, golf, working, bridge, eating, gardening, something that had us moving, accomplishing something.

    I’m not sure it’s exactly on topic, but a favorite quote that I go back to for inspiration, for hope, “There is no royal road to anything, one thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.” We’ll talk again at 64 πŸ™‚

    • That’s interesting the point that you made about visits being centered on activities. I’d never thought about it before, but I guess what my family does most when we get together is TALK. For us, that’s definitely an activity! Although, in all fairness, we do a lot of other things too, and were all fairly active. None of us ever watched much TV once we got old enough to do other things. I grew up thinking men talked as much as women because my father and brothers talked as much as my sister, mother and I – maybe more. It was really interesting getting used to living with a spouse of few words. I used to joke that Jeff married me because he knew he would not have to keep up his side of the conversation! πŸ™‚

      I think your quote was on topic – not that off-topic comments are ever unusual here! I agree that endurance involves patience and time. As Tolkien put it, “The old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.” Thanks for sharing the quote here!

  4. What an inspiring way to say: enjoy your work…take your own sweet time…be the master of everything you do and relax while writing! Really enjoyed reading it, Julia! thanks for sharing such beautiful thoughts.

    • You’re welcome, Balroop. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for visiting here and sharing with us.

  5. Sheila

    Julia, I noticed that you were up earlier than usual. I often think I’m slowing down at bit or take longer to do things than I used to. My mom often referred to “ole used to” and for a long time I really thought it was someone instead of a phrase. I “used to” do this and I “used to” do that! I love that “Alabama” song, Eric. πŸ™‚ I’ve always thought it amusing that years ago people cooked with pressure cookers and later the trend was “Crock Pots”! I’m definitely a slow cooker type. I recognized Boomdee’s signature color….. so beautiful. Have a great weekend, my friends. Sheila

    • “Ole used to” – that’s cute! She might have called me “ole wanted to” or “old was always gonna.” πŸ™‚ I am definitely 100% a crock pot cook. I don’t think we could have survived the dental school years without one, as we would come in from school/word STARVING and I would not want to have started dinner at that time of day! I got a super nice stainless steel pressure cooker and used it once or twice, but was scared stiff of it – always afraid it would explode – so it’s sitting, almost untouched, in my cabinet to this day! Hope you and Bill are doing OK – keeping you in my thoughts. Thanks for being here with us!

  6. I love to write…or I should say that I used to love to write, but since pursuing it seriously, it has sadly become stressful for me. Thank you for this reminder to slow down and enjoy the sloooow process a bit more. Susie

    • Susie, I hope you are able to re-capture the fun of it. I think the pressure we tend to put on ourselves to be “productive” (whatever that means) crosses over into many areas, church or relationships or writing or whatever. It can spoil everything without helping us get anywhere! I’m so hypergraphic that I write compulsively and pretty much never feel blocked, but I do find it much more fun not to take it too seriously. I like to remember what Anne Lamott said: β€œPerfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life…” Thanks for visiting, and for your comment!

  7. Mindfulness in everything I do is always a goal. To see things, as they refer to, as ‘the beginners mind’. I have to keep reminding myself, but it’s good practice.

    When the writing isn’t flowing, I stop, plant both feet on the floor, close my eyes and take slow, easy breaths. It’s amazing how that can reset your mind and body to a more even keel.

    That is a lovely creation from Boomdee’s craft room. She’s the bees knees, isn’t she?

    • Alys, I love the whole concept of “beginner’s mind” (have you read Natalie Goldberg? I really like her books!), partly because I always feel so much like a beginner all the time anyway. It helped me when I read how that could be an advantage. I try to use the breathing to slow my mind down, but it works for that too! πŸ™‚ Boomdee is the greatest! Everything she makes is so uniquely HER. I think it’s because she knows how to take the time to put that special stamp (literally and figuratively) on everything she does. (We won’t tell Petals we know it’s not her.) I bet someone’s ears are burning in Boomdeeville!

      • LOL, yep these ears are burning up, on fire in fact. You two are just the nicest gals a girl could hope to find. Thank you always, for your generous friendships, it really means so much xo. You’ve pretty much revealed my secret recipe to Boom-room happiness, ‘no schedule’. HA. I like to enjoy the process and can take a week on one little thing. Maybe I’ll steal an hour here, 15 minutes there. Other days I can lose myself in there (and make a crazy mess). You have to be in the mood don’t you? Whether it’s being crafty, sewing, making a new garden bed, baking or just reading a book you’ve had for a while. I just think I’m really lucky to have choices and the time to do them. xoxo Thank you for sharing your little gift bag Julia, your photo was a nice surprise tonight. Love to you both xK

        • The hard part was choosing what to photograph! There are so many exquisite examples. I think you have pointed out a couple of secrets here, which involve taking the time, and being in the mood. I definitely have to be in the mood to get anywhere with crafting. Where writing is concerned, though, (especially with deadlines looming) one doesn’t have that luxury. At such times I give myself a very small assignment (“write for at least 10 minutes” or “write a first draft of a post”) and often, the secret is just to get going. As another commenter pointed out, our esteemed Mary Poppins says “well begun is half done.” πŸ™‚

          • That Mary was so clever πŸ˜€ The stage performance is coming back to Edmonton. I’m really torn, I’d love to see it again but I don’t want to take anything away from our trip to Portland to see it in 2011…mmmmm, what to do?

            • That’s a nice dilemma to have. Sometimes it’s impossible to re-capture something twice, but if you just look on it as a completely different experience and avoid comparing it to the first one, it might be fun. On the other hand, if there’s something completely new that you have to give up to see it again, it might be worth choosing the new possibility. Aren’t we fortunate even to have such choices? πŸ˜€

      • I have read Natalie Goldberg, though it has been a long time.

        It’s amazing how much control we have when we allow ourselves (or should I say remind ourselves) what is within our grasp. Stretching, breathing, walking, and mediating all work wonders for us. Honestly, we should be teaching this in school. Perhaps we could curb some of the violence.

        • Yes, I think everyone is so wired now (literally and figuratively) that it seems almost impossible to imagine how any learning takes place in the classroom with all the distractions. I think it all adds up to a level of agitation that is quite volatile, and we do need to find ways to ameliorate it, as I can’t see anything going back to unplugged status anytime soon. I think schools should establish “tech-free” zones and times in the schedule. But I doubt that will happen.

          • When I see a two year old playing with an ipod or a phone it really gives me pause. You’re right, though. The plugged in generation is here to stay.

            • Yes, even 20 years ago it used to bug me to see little kids who were fascinated with TV remotes. It just gives us a heads-up that we need to teach limits rather than try to ignore it, I guess. I remember years ago reading where Mr. Rogers said that it was no solution to take toy guns away from kids, because then they will only make pretend guns with their fingers or sticks. He felt it was much more important to teach kids honestly about weapons, their dangers and uses, and never to allow kids to point them at each other or use them in hostile ways, rather than try to hide them or get rid of them altogether, which is not really realistic and can create a sort of mystique that can be more dangerous than honesty. I think the same could be said of technology now, especially considering all the ways it is already being used to create harm and mischief. We need to use it wisely and for good, and that implies a lot of self-control. I guess that really applies to everything in life, including FOOD! πŸ™‚

              • Self awareness and self control seem to go hand in hand, don’t they? Wise man that Mr. Rogers.

                We’ve been open and honest with our boys and it seems to have worked well. Moderation in all things. They’re both tech savvy and at the same time aware of the challenges and pitfalls.

                • Good job – I think honesty always works best with young people. They can recognize anything less a mile off. I think being tech savvy is important, maybe even essential, and the earlier they learn the caveats, the better.

  8. Julia, reading books, I like to take my time and enjoy. I was up early this morning…awoke about 5am…enjoyed my warm, comfortable bed, relaxing before getting up at 5;30 to read my devotional. cooked breakfast…and my day began. I so enjoy being retired!~/ πŸ™‚

    • Merry, it does sound wonderful. I like to have a few minutes to just lie in bed and appreciate being warm and cozy. My problem is keeping it to just a few minutes! I read Joyce Carol Oates’ book A Widow’s Story recently, and she talked about the months following her husband’s death, how her bed was “the nest” and she spent a lot of her time there, working as well as sleeping. I could totally understand why she would want to do that. I too like to read as slowly as I want, even stopping to look up a word here and there (the Kindle is great for making that much easier!). I’m a slow reader, but I think comprehension and retention are both increased when one doesn’t read too quickly. At least that’s what I tell myself!

  9. I never do my projects these days. Not because I couldn’t spend an hour or so but because I likely could not finish in that amount of time so easier just not to start. ALTHOUGH, a famous lady once said, “Once begun is half done.” Anyhow, I hate to feel rushed at a project so I find it easier to read or watch a movie, something I can complete in an hour or so. Hope you have a great weekend. This is a lovely project from Boomdee. She does beautiful work.

    • Amy, I know what you mean. It’s so hard to find a big enough span of uninterrupted time. When the boys were little I had to break everything I did into very small steps that could be done in bits of time here and there. I had an index card system I learned from a really neat book, and I would have cards for everything I did around the house, so I could use 5 and 10 minute increments. I had cards that said things like “scrub bathroom sinks” and “dust top of refrigerator” and I would just use them tickler-file style, rotating them so everything got done however often I planned. Then once I finished all my cards for that day I was DONE for that day. I don’t think it would work to break crafts up into those small steps, though; that would spoil the fun! But I really should get back to that card file system. It’s great for making good use of small bits of time. You’ll have to come see all the latest “pretties” from Boomdeville! She is amazing.

      • Hey that is a great idea. I think I will make myself a tickler file. I’ll make the first card today, it will say “make tickler file”. πŸ™‚ Seriously I bet it was a great way to get something done without having to task yourself about what you could accomplish in the ten minutes of free time you had before going to get the boys or walking out the door to an appointment. I can’t wait to see the beautiful things she has done. I saw your first gift. You are right it is amazing. Talented lady.

        • Amy this made me laugh! As you always do. Thanks for adding so much humor to my life!!!

  10. Jenelle

    The timing of Lindbergh’s quote made me gasp with a smile. God is so good! Susie, I write also and I agree that at times, taking the craft seriously can be less “fun”. But like Julia said, it’s important to remember the fun of it. Why we started in the first place? Because we have a story to tell. Julia, your Lamott quote is perfect too. We’re reading bird by bird in my online critique book. Oh, the nuggets in that book πŸ™‚ I know I need to slow down. Can I ask if you see a difference living on both coasts? Out here in CA I feel it’s go, go, go as fast as possible all the time. Sigh. It can be difficult to go against the flow.

    • Jenelle, you won’t believe this, but I think the east coast is WAY more frenetic than the west coast (except maybe for L.A.). In fact, it was in California that I first REALLY began to learn what it meant to open my eyes and just be where I was at that moment. Of course, we were living in a relatively remote missile-testing base on the central coast, between Lompoc and Santa Maria, with three beaches right on base and wilderness everywhere, so my view of it may be a bit rosy. I do think that Californians tend to be on the go all the time, but that’s because it’s so gorgeous outside, who wants to stay home? When we moved to California the first time we left a big, nice brand-new home and moved into an old house on base that was half the size. I thought I would be unhappy with it, but it was less than a week before I realized the house had really very little to do with how we lived. Those were some of the very happiest years of our lives!

      I just love Bird by Bird. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once, and there’s so much in there that’s good advice for life, not just writing!

  11. Michael

    Waste in creativity? Is that like Michelangelo chipping away at the marble slab, now just a tenth of its original size with huge chunks of stone falling all around him? Don’t they say it is in the editing process where the real creation begins and ends, cutting out the dross and getting down to the diamond? Or like the add says,” We will sell no wine before its time.”

    • Great point about the marble, I had not thought of it that way. One reason I connect so much with AML’s journals is that she was married to a very “type A” over-achieving man who created in her this sense of pressure for her to measure up to his accomplishments and expectations. Although she was an amazing woman — arguably a more experienced and knowledgeable aviator than Amelia Earhart, as well as being a prolific author and a mother who reared five children almost completely on her own, after the tragedy of losing her first one — her journals are full of self-doubt (or at least self inquiry) and impatience with herself and her life, as evidenced in quotes such as the one above. I think her view of “waste in creativity” was colored somewhat by this impatience and high level of expectation. It didn’t help that in her day, a woman’s accomplishments outside the home were not taken as seriously as they might be now.

  12. I, too, talk rapidly. I think its a nervous reaction, and no matter how much I try I can’t slow myself down. But I also rush everything I do. I keep trying not to: if only I had Β£1 for every time I said to myself “More haste, less speed.” But still I rush everything, including my photography. I try and tell myself I rush my photos because I have the dogs with me, but I think that’s just an excuse. Maybe if I slowed down I could take better photos,
    .

    • I think your photos are wonderful, but maybe I’m just seeing the best ones on your blog! πŸ™‚ I do think having the dogs along makes a difference. Pasha was very difficult to photograph, and he would get impatient with my attempts. Your photos have a serenity about them that I find so appealing. I always feel as if I’m out in the countryside, almost hearing the sounds and experiencing the scents. You have some really fabulous shots of Jez and Max. I would never guess they were taken in a hurry, they feel well composed.

      I’ve never been able to slow down my talking. I do think it’s partly a nervous reaction, but also I realized (at least in my case) that it’s from growing up with people who get impatient and interrupt me if I talk longer than they want to listen (which I always do). Since I find it hard to cut down on the number of words I am saying — I’m not one to simplify anything πŸ™‚ — I think I just speed up to try to get everything in before I’m interrupted! That may also be why I prefer writing.

      • Julia, Thank you so much for your kind words about my photos. They mean a lot to me. I had to smile about your comment on Pasha: unless Jez is asleep she’s a nightmare to take a photo of. She hates the camera & moves away as soon as it’s pointed at her, and sometimes even when she just hears it turned on!
        It sounds as though we have similar problems with verbal communication. But, like you, my written work is much better. I think that’s because, although I tend to write quickly, I can then go back and review what I’ve written. I’m so thankful for word processors!

        • That’s amazing about Jez because your portraits of her are so amazing! From the photos it looks as if Max would be the impatient one – he always appears as if he’s pausing mid-stream (literally πŸ™‚ ) and thinking “OK, get on with it so I can go back to play!” but Jez always looks as if she is meditating. I guess she is meditating on how silly we are with our cameras.

          I do appreciate being able to go back and edit what I write. I don’t always do the best job of it, but it still comes out better than what comes out of my mouth! When Matt was in school I ended up transcribing hours of IEP meeting tapes, and until I did that, I did not realize how strange our speech patterns really are. Not just mine, but everyone’s. We speak in sentence fragments, interrupt, say a lot of superfluous words such as “Um, you know, like, uh” and so on. All this goes over our head in conversations (except maybe the interruptions) but when you transcribe it to a written document, so much of it just seems garbled on paper. YES I am very thankful for word processors! I remember in college how often I would have to re-type an entire paper because I left out a footnote – maddening.

  13. Michael

    NPR story about American- French writer of mainly short stories- Marilyn Galant. who devoted herself to writing after one short story was accepted by the New Yorker. She sent three in to the magazine, vowing if none were accepted, she would quit. She stayed alone in her little French apartment. In some ways, writing seems like a very lonely existence, but then you hear of others like Stephen King who write for a couple of hours in the morning and then spend the rest of the day playing. I can’t imagine being locked up all day in some little hovel.
    I have not read anyof AML. Any recommendations?

    • Ah, but Stephen King didn’t start out that way – read his book On Writing, which is as entertaining as any of his novels, I think. In writing, as in almost all other occupations, “It takes many years to be an overnight success” as my friend Ashleigh Brilliant has said. John Grisham’s story is fairly typical of the time and devotion required, with the caveat that for every author who makes it big as Grisham has, there are thousands more who will never be able to earn a living from writing, and others such as Mavis Gallant who attain recognition and respect, but don’t get rich.

      I would advise starting with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s best-known work Gift from the Sea, though she later wrote in her journals that she had outgrown it and got tired of being asked to talk about it. It’s a timeless, gentle exploration of how to deal with the often-conflicting demands of life, and its appeal has continued over decades. If you find that you like her writing, you can move on to her books about her years in aviation (such as North to the Orient) or her personal journals, all of which have now been published at least partially, in several consecutive volumes with different titles.

  14. So true, Julia. Whenever we force ourselves through something the result is just average or below average. Today the management informed me about the annual meeting which will eat up one precious day from my weekend. That means I have to rush through all the cleaning, washing, cooking and ironing. The thought alone makes me upset. Anyway I am glad the meetings are not frequent.
    Hope you are fine. I know I missed a lot of your posts. We are approaching the end of our academic year – a tough, hectic period of the year.

    • Hi Bindu, it is always nice to hear from you and I appreciate your taking the time to visit – good luck with all the stress of this time of year. One thing I hated most about working full time is that my weekends were always spent just catching up on everything, including REST. When I worked as a school librarian, summers were spent the same way. I would plan to get so much done and the time would fly by — no matter how busy I stayed, I never really caught up to the point that I felt free to relax. It would be so irritating when those meetings and extra obligations would come in and take what little time I had. Hope you are blessed with extra measures of energy AND patience! Thanks for being here.

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