January 3, 2016 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
My roommate and I had a quiet New Year’s Eve.
Seriously. We watched a couple of episodes of the Twilight Zone marathon, and let these girls party for us instead. “One of the delights known to age, and beyond the grasp of youth,” says Joseph Priestly, “is that of Not Going.” I was in bed before midnight.
New Year’s Day was low-key as well. A friend was having a macaroni-and-cheese (and beer) party, but I got into writing, and stayed home. Unlike Christmas, this holiday offers the possibility of a sort of mini-retreat, in which I think about the year that has past, and set some goals for the year to come. It is an important liminal space.
Last year I made two very concrete resolutions, one public and one private. The public goal was a “reach” goal.
To spend 20 hours a week in creative work. I tracked my time pretty carefully for the year, and while I didn’t quite make 20 hours a week, striving to do so improved my discipline and built better creative habits.
The private goal was a “relax” goal.
That is, one which would supposedly allow me to relax when I reached it. It was to incrementally increase my blog page views over the year. Once I hit that goal, I told myself, I could let the social media stuff go a bit. Write up some posts in advance so I didn’t always find myself coming off of a deadlined week into a deadlined weekend. Work more on creative projects that require a wider lens and a deeper focus.
As I wrote in a previous post, I hit my relax goal at the end of September. And I did spend several weeks on a storytelling project that required a deeper focus. I also spent some very important time in New York with my parents. But I still did not manage to write posts in advance, and reading and reciprocating blog post shares still took too much time away from other pursuits.
Where that relax goal is concerned, I find myself ambivalent about success.
I know the numbers game is just that – a game I use to motivate myself. If I don’t have that little game to play, I am afraid my day job as a grant writer will suck up all the energy I have for writing. I fear entropy and inertia. If I stop, can I start myself up again? And so I give myself this artificial sense of “progress.” But progress toward what? What am I trying to win – the Internet?
This is not the first blog I’ve had. The original one, erratically maintained, I began on LiveJournal in 2006, after celebrating a milestone birthday. This year I’m about to have another milestone birthday. And it is becoming increasingly important to me to use my time well.
So this year, paradoxically, I am resolving to do less.
Blogging once a week has been an important discipline. But I want more space on the calendar to plan out my writing, and more time for reflection. Because of this, I am going to go against conventional social media wisdom. This year, the last week of every month will be post-free.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. It does mean I won’t be actively promoting posts on Twitter. Even though I have enough evergreen content by now, I don’t feel like it is fair to do so if I don’t want to read and reciprocate others. And much as the blogging community has enriched my creative life, I cannot do this week after week if I’m going to gain more time to do the inner work that makes my writing worthwhile. I need downtime.
If you’re a regular reader you will notice that I have changed my blog’s tagline.
Previously it was “On Writing, Creative Practice and Performance.” When I began to post weekly in 2014, my intention was to use the blog as a scratchpad for working on story material to perform, and to write about the creative process. In fact, the writing itself became as important, if not more important, as performance.
While I still expect those subjects to come up, they aren’t really the focus of my blog anymore. I will, of course, still be performing and posting stories. But I won’t be depending on external prompts from the Twin Cities storytelling scene to drive my content.
The truth is, I’m using this blog to grow my soul.
I know. In public and everything. Shameless.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have time for ephemera. Hey, let’s face it. We’re all ephemeral. But I want to know how to keep it in its place. To have more time for those examinations and reflections that move me forward, for those stories that make experience meaningful.
That’s why I’ve decided to have an overall theme for the year, based on what I feel this soul of mine wants and needs to work on. Watch this space – on your own good time, but not the last week of the month – for more.
What do you need to do less of this year to get more from your time?
Courtesy Zen Living by Design