You Are Who You Are In Everything You Do

From a review of my proposal submitted to a federal funding agency:

“This proposal envisages using [name of approach], which (to my surprise) has up to now not been used for [specific systems] and which I consider very promising. So this goal on its own is highly original and valuable.”

From the introduction to a collection where one of my stories appeared:

“And in [story title], [xykademiqz’s fiction alias] had fun with the theme by introducing a fantasy figure not normally associated with [holiday]—although there’s such an obvious connection, I’m amazed I haven’t seen this done before.”

I guess my brain has…a personal style?

Shortly after the lockdown in March, I started my “murder-prevention” daily walks. They got me out of the house, away from my lovely but omnipresent family, and out of my increasingly confining house and even more confining head. Until the fall semester, I managed to do my 3 miles every day, some of it walking, some jogging.  Intermittently, I’d have a day or two when I was too busy, or didn’t feel well, or just couldn’t make myself go, but I think for  six months I walked 6 days a week, on average. It did wonders for my sanity and I noticed I was markedly more grumpy on the days when I skipped, which really pushed me not to skip in the future unless I had a really good reason.

Then the semester started and, owing to kids doing online school and me teaching face-to-face in the afternoons after their  school is done, I no longer had the time to go out for almost an hour on teaching days. I told myself that 3 miles a day on nonteaching days and weekends had to be enough, because that’s what I had the time to do; that 4x a week is much better than nothing. I might still do some strength training (with resistance bands or the rowing machine) or have a  shorter walk (~1.5 miles) in the middle of the day on teaching days, but I consider it a bonus, and feel especially virtuous when I squeeze these in.

I used to be a feast-or-famine fiction writer, and while I produced more than most, I felt like I could and should do more. Then I joined this writing group where every two weeks we do hourlong flash sprints. This is a perfect pace for me, it seems. If we did it every week, it would be too often. Biweekly is perfect. At this pace, I generate enough new drafts that I always have something to tinker with, I always have at least half a dozen stories out on submission, and my mindset has changed from one of scarcity (“Every story is my precious! Every story must be submitted to the bitter end! Every comma, every turn of phrase in it must be guarded with my life!”) to one of abundance (“Look at all these stories. There is plenty more where these came from, and my best work is still ahead of me. Maybe this story should be retired; it’s not as strong as a bunch of others I already have out. Maybe this editor has a point; I will remove these commas and these turns of phrase, since these edits do not mean anything grand about me or my abilities, they are just edits to this one story.”)

Why am I talking about this? The other day, Hubby was lamenting not having read as many books over the summer as he’d set out to. There are personality types who are drawn to structure — the more structure, the more calm and relaxed and productive they are, because they feel internally compelled to adhere to said structure. My husband is not like that; he won’t do something just because it’s been scheduled, but he’s not quite like me, either. I am generally a source of chaos and disarray, but I can commit to things as long as I have managed to convince myself they’re really worth doing and the commitment is not too confining. I think these are key, for me. I have to find a comfortable (low) level of structure that doesn’t make me run away screaming. And I may still drop the commitment on occasion. A strength of mine, I think,  is that if I’ve truly convinced myself it’s important and it’s generally pleasant, I will always go back to it, even though my commitment or adherence isn’t perfect. I think what I’m saying is that maybe more people would have better success sticking with things if they committed to less than some platonic ideal, or if they didn’t expect unwavering adherence and perfect participation from themselves. We should all cut our inner slackers some slack.

‘Sup, blogosphere? How’s your Sunday? 

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