Monday, January 21, 2008

Poet is a Verb: Prioritize

Lately, I haven't been writing as much poetry as I would like. I understand that this is a temporary situation. Since I've been paying closer attention to my writing habits, I've noticed that my writing output seems to ebb and flow. There are times when I'm "on" and I write up a storm, 2-3 poems a week. And then there are times when I stumble along, writing little to nothing. I can't predict when these happen, other than to say that one tends to follow the other.

I've learned that I just need to relax into the writing slump, and trust that the writing will return. So, instead of writing, I've been doing other things, including reading, writing articles, and volunteering my time. (Besides working my job, naturally.) One of the many books I'm reading now is CrazyBusy by Ned Hallowell. Dr. Hallowell is a leading researcher on Attention Deficit Disorder and this book follows the trend of multitasking and spreading yourself too thin as the new social norm. It's very enjoyable and easy to read and I find myself in some of his descriptions. Okay, lots of his descriptions.

Here's one that particularly hit home for me:

"If being busier than I'd like to be is the price I have to pay, most of us seem to say, then so be it. After all, modern life is worth it. Life's never been this exciting.

But if we're not careful, we'll get so busy that we forget to take the time to think and feel. We won't have the extended periods of time required to complete a thought, develop a conversation, or reflect upon a complex set of emotions."

This passage reminded me of W.S. Merwin's quote about poetry that I posted last week. Perhaps, rather than filling my time with other activities when I'm not writing, I should be slowing down. Perhaps my slightly addictive multitasking is drawing energy away from writing.

Hallowell suggests prioritizing as a way to slow down. His argument is that you can only give your energy and attention to so many spheres of your life. After a certain threshold (and everyone's threshold is different), you become less effective. He says that you should know where your energy is going, rather than rushing around and spending it without thinking.

When I think about my priorities, I know that my energy tends to go to my lower, yet more insistent, priorities while my true priorities get ignored. I'm getting much better at this, but it is challenging to realign my actions with my intentions. If I had to prioritize my life right now, I would say that my top priorities are:

1) Marriage
2) Writing Pursuits (includes poetry, blogging, articles,in that order)
3) Work
4) Friendships
5) Volunteering
6) Other Creative Pursuits (includes reading, photography, and art making, in that order)

I am happy to say that my work is no longer #1 and I don't behave like it is. (Whew! Hooray for less stressful jobs.) Listing my priorities in this way, I'm not exactly sure what takes up my time. I watch a little too much TV, I spend a lot of time online, not blogging, but Facebook-ing and such. But I'm honestly not sure where it all goes. (Bad sign.) Notice TV isn't even on there!

This week, I'd like to spend my time closer to how my priorities are listed. While I believe I do a better job than I did a year ago, I certainly think I can do better. I am going to commit myself to a week of slowing down, and realigning my energies. I'm declaring this week, for me, Slow Down Week. I will try to spend my time working on my top priorities, rather than on the "other stuff" that seems to be rushing in.


Nth Samurai said...

I really feel what you are refering in this article.But I myself have restricted myself as a writer in pursuit of things that may not even be the right way.You seem to have a fair sare of articles in your blogs. Advices seeked and yeah you have won yourself a patron.

Anonymous said...

Great post for those of us who seek to live a sane, balanced life. As Julia Cameron says, the stereotype of the carefree artist is a myth. Artists need order in their lives, creating a space in which to write.

Reading this post made me feel sort of safe and secure, like I can count on some people to keep the world even, smooth, and liveable.

Marie said...

This was a good post to remember to prioritize when you seem so "busy" that you aren't doing much of anything, let alone anything you love. I haven't written poetry in so long, and I miss it. Sometimes I do feel very ADD that I have my eye on too many things at once. I have word by word quoted the part "If being busier than I'd like to be is the price I have to pay, most of us seem to say, then so be it"...Prioritizing sounds like a good solution. Thanks!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent post, my priorities would look pretty much like yours. I think that internet activity can encourage a lot of not very purposeful browsing. It can be useful in creating new links and finding new writers but it can really steal time away from eg writing

GFS3 said...

Nice post. Slowing down is damn difficult.

May I recommend a very good book by Carl Honore called "In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed"?

You'll be glad you read it.

...deb said...

I read Honore's book,too, and liked it a great deal. I struggle to change my crazy-habits, though.

Good post. One to come back to again.