Wanted: One, nice, long, flexible GROOVE

I do pretty well at avoiding ruts–mostly because I’m terrible at doing anything again and again.  But a groove?  That’s something I not only want to find myself in–I want to stay there once I get there.

IPoint Reyes‘ve been thinking a lot about the value of routine lately.  Too much of it and you get stagnant.  Too little and you drift.  I believe in routines. But what I can finally see is that they’re tactical–part of something bigger that makes them worth sticking to. That’s where this yearning for a groove took root.  A groove is strategy.  It’s a commitment to doing what you believe in on an ongoing basis.

A groove is only for stuff you want to work on.  Day in and day out.  For me, that’s writing.  One of my sisters has an amazing curiosity about fibers–for her it’s dyeing, spinning, and knitting–or otherwise working with–whatever combination of fibers she’s decided to try.

One of the great delights of a groove is that you get to decide how big it’s going to be–how much time you’re going to dedicate and how often. For me, three hours of writing on a new book each day is about right.  I may also do a post like this or work on promotional stuff, but that’s different and not part of my groove.  The three hours is for creating the next book.

That was the most important ground rule when I launched my groove seeking effort January 1.  Three hours every weekday, two hours on Saturday, and one on Sunday first thing every day after my morning routines.  (Did I mention I’m awful at doing exactly the same thing again and again?)

I’m almost 3 weeks into this now.  They claim it takes that much repetition to create a new habit.  I think this one is going to work. And I think that even after having my groove shot to smithereens for most of last week.  It was a bad week for a groove–but come Monday of this week, I was on it with as much enthusiasm as January 1

If I’m rigid about what I want to get done, I’m in a rut.  When I had to deviate, I resisted and resented the interruption.  With a groove, it’s a matter of accepting the reality of the moment and then getting back to  in the groove as soon as I can.  (I never really leave it in my mind and I have more energy because I’m not fighting the need to respond to the “fire.” )

One of the coolest things about a groove is that it makes drifting far less likely.  When I get pulled away by other things happening in my life, I yearn to get back to what I was working on.  When I was more rigid with what I expected of myself, it was an on/off thing…and once I turned the switch off, it was really easy to leave it off for long time–to my own detriment.

Another cool thing is that when you treat it like a groove and the work isn’t going well, working on a different aspect of it is more satisfying than throwing in the towel for the day.

Ah, yes, a groove is a beautiful thing.  But why?

It keeps you going in the direction your authentic self yearns to go.  If you have to hop out for a day or two to deal with family needs, it will be waiting for you when you can slip back in.  No recriminations,  No nasty self-talk about needed to stop for a bit.

I hope this groove thing is part of my life from here on. Working that way leaves me feeling authentic and satisfied.  I also tend to get a lot more of the other stuff done.  (I have no idea why.)

So as a belated New Year’s wish, let me toast you with this:  May you be blessed with a long, happy, beautiful groove.

The Soothing Power of “Material”

Fiction writers have a secret weapon for dealing with stress.  All the ugly messes in our lives can be reconfigured as part of a character or situation in a future story.  When my life is not going well, reminding myself that “It’s all material” can bring my stress level down in a nanosecond.  I can take the garbage and turn it into something fun.

Right now, I am in the middle of a snit fit with the woman who’s the current President of a sports club I belong to.  She missed the memo about group process and has been handling the job more like a Medieval warlord than an elected Board (of which she is but one member).   The dynamics are fascinating, and it would be downright funny except she’s messing with one of the most sacred of club traditions–the annual Christmas party.

The whole situation has had an interesting educational impact on me.  I’m noticing things about leadership and managing that I’ve not worried about much in a couple decades. Today it was a short article about mentoring that clarified the difference between “advice” and “feedback.” ( Advice is imparting knowledge to encourage wisdom.  Feedback is proving information to illuminate a blind spot.

I have been trying to give “feedback” about some of her unilateral decisions.  She will have none of it.  It’s not third grade resistance either–more like Third Reich.

So….time to file it as “material.”  If she ruins the Christmas dance, there will be another one next year.  But in the meantime, I’m observing a ton of great detail for some pain-in-the-butt character in some novel or screenplay down the road.

This experience has brought me to  aw– of how oblivious a person can be to reality.  It’s given me a first hand glimpse of a a person concocting story after story of “why we have to do this my way” as each old reason is dismantled.  It’s world-expanding to learn that someone with that much education and life experience can be that obtuse.  I can use it all–with gusto (and a lot of the details changed!)

But then comes the whammy that goes beyond being a writer:  I probably have some kind of blind spot in my own life–and am not being any more forthright in looking at that.

That, too, is “material.”  I am so lucky to be a writer.  So much material!