A Friday Thought to Chew On: Clear Away the Gunk

A Friday Thought to Chew On: Clear Away the Gunk

Years ago, I made the comment to someone that I wasn’t a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person. I would describe my philosophy more as ‘hey, that’s a really cool glass.’  I try not to focus on either the best of times or the worst of times (sorry, Dickens — couldn’t resist). Instead, I try to focus on the opportunity at hand — hence, the really cool glass. For example, if you go to an event and you really wanted to do A, B and C, and you only did A, the Polyanna would try to persuade themselves that they had the absolute best time ever because at least they got to do A; the Whiner would dwell on not getting to do B and C; and the Odd Opportunist (read: me) would just be happy they got to go to the event and celebrate all of the things that happened, those that did and didn’t make the checklist.

No one has ever accused me of being too optimist, but waaaaaay in the past, I could easily have been labeled a Whiner. As I’ve gotten older and faced with that unexpected friend “Change,” I’ve earned my own Scarlet Letter…A for adaptability. (And I’m fine with the scarlet. Red is my power color, after all.) Adapt. It’s the only thing you can do when life pulls the rug out from under you. But it can be especially helpful when expectations aren’t met, even if it isn’t a drama or tragedy to overtake your circumstances but just good old-fashioned potential disappointment.

Earlier this week, I experienced a case of what could have set me back to wallow in a pool of disappointment. I’d spent the entire day working on a piece for my upcoming book. I was really pleased with the first two-thirds of it. And then, I finally wrote the ending and it underwhelmed me. Honestly, I was genuinely dissatisfied. With my own story! At first, I set off to reach the natural landing place… disappointment with myself, with the outcome, with the fact I’d spent over six hours on something that didn’t leave me satisfied. But I stopped myself in my tracks and didn’t allow myself to go there. Because I knew it would offer me not a damn thing but bad feelings and guilt. And for what? For nothing. So I wrote a not-so-enticing story? Big deal. Every writer does. The question was what was I going to do about it, and sitting there whining about all the time “wasted” and beating myself up emotionally would not offer any solution. So… I let it go.

Yes, you can hum along to the FROZEN signature song if you like. It’s truly the best advice of all. (Or if you’re more Taylor Swift than Idina Menzel (I happen to be both), then okay, shake it off instead!

But I pushed myself away from the usual direction I might go after spending all that time on something that left me with an outcome that didn’t dazzle me as I hoped. And I walked away. I shifted my focus to other things. I knew my brain was toast, I had no creativity left that afternoon. So I contemplated how I would spend the next few hours. I had dishes to do, wanted to take a shower, some other household chores that wouldn’t require imagination — perfect. . Not a strand of creativity necessary. Exactly what I needed! And I moved toward those other tasks and away from the “disappointment” I’d just experienced.

Now here is where it gets reeeeeeeeally interesting.

Within a half hour, it came to me. The idea. Precisely what I needed to do to my story that would completely transform it from something lackluster to something much more impactful on the reader.

I couldn’t believe it. Where the hell did that idea come from and why on Earth did it arrive so clearly now?

And then it hit me… because I had plowed away all of the obstacles that would have usually blocked my vision of it. By not letting all of that “stuff’ build up to stunt me creatively and thwart my next moves, I cleared the path. And left my subconscious open to whatever ideas might flow its way. And I didn’t put pressure on myself to think up an idea and DO IT NOW like so many of us do when we feel compelled to put a deadline on it and pronto!  I cleared the way and then I just let it happen. I like to call it marinating. And thankfully, I was also wise enough not to attempt to do the rewrites right then when I was exhausted creatively. I waited until the next day – fresh eyes and fresh mind. And now I have a solid version one draft and I couldn’t be more pleased with my starting point.

So today when you are working on a project at your office or trying to overcome a snafu at home, ask yourself — are you doing everything you possibly can to clear away the GUNK that could be blocking that all-important idea channel? And if you’re not, immediately find somewhere else for you to invest your energy. Give your mind a chance to breathe and you never know what little beams of light might nestle in there and find their spot within your imagination.

Make it a fantastic Friday, friends.  ~ ck

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