Make Space, Not Time

“In my dream the angel smiled and said, if we fail this time it will be a failure of imagination and then she gently placed the world in the palm of my hand.” – Brian Andreas, Imaginary World

Out of Time

Almost a year ago I wrote a post called Everything is Now which has been, by far, my most popular piece to date.  In one of those examples of why the blogosphere can be such a great forum for idea exchange, a comment made by T.K. from Breakfast with Words made me revisit the ideas of that post in a deep new way;

“Suddenly having the entire day disappear in front of me is scary.  But what if time is only a matter of perspective… of relativity”

On the one hand, I had argued in “Everything is Now” (based on genuine belief) against the existence of time as separate from motion.  Simultaneously and ironically I had kept the same old ideas about time present in my own life.  For example, I used to think “I can never find time to write.”

T.K.’s comment flipped that on it’s head for me – suddenly I realized that the question I needed to ask myself was not “Why can’t I find time to write?” but “What needs to MOVE in my life to make space for writing?”

Re:new, Re:use, Re:cycle

As you might imagine, once this internal shift happened my world blew up; I could view my situation with a lens that encompassed more than linear time.  Although I led a busy life with a toddler at home, and a full time, demanding job there were many, many occasions where I found myself searching the internet for random things, or reading “fluff” books, or just sitting while my mind wandered my life away.[1]

I would even think to myself, I should be writing right now.  Why am I not writing? And still I wouldn’t write. There are myriad variations on this theme. I realized that time was not my problem, or at least not my main one. Using the ideas behind the “Everything is Now” post as inspiration, I started thinking about all the elements that needed to come together[2] for me to be able to write.

With this internal shift in perspective from time to motion, it was clear that some of the things that needed to “move” were internal, not external.  Instead of focusing on finding more “time,” I started to explore why I wasn’t writing with the time I did have.

I certainly had enough ideas – I had a topic list of dozens of items, growing all the time.  Was I disappointed that the blog didn’t seem to be attracting many readers?  This seemed to be part of the issue, but when “Everything is Now” was re-blogged by Christian Mihai, the blog saw many hits, likes, and a few more re-blogs of the post and still I couldn’t write.

In fact, I seemed more stuck than ever.  I found myself awash in new doubts – what if I couldn’t follow up with something as good or better than Everything is Now?  Was I a one-hit wonder? I had to take a step back and really look at my expectations for myself and the blog.

I had to face the fact that part of me thought that this would be easy.  I would start a blog and people would come.  When this didn’t happen I began to really doubt myself and what I had to offer. In a way I was hiding from myself. I pretended it didn’t matter that I wasn’t as successful blogger as I’d hoped to be, But it did.

Check Your Emotional Baggage

Although this may seem obvious, it’s not always nice to really face the pieces of ourselves we wish weren’t there.  This was a big one for me to face…. and not the only one.  If realizing this had removed all the obstacles from my path I would have been writing like gangbusters late last year, but some other things still needed to move.

It took the birth of my second child, reading Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s wonderful book Thanks for the Feedback, re-reading Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, and the convergence of many ideas that had been slowly germinating for years to bring about a series of revelations that cleared my path for the blog.  Unsurprisingly, many of these ideas are showing up in my recent posts (like this one).

One of my favorite quotes from Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption[3] refers to the main character who, “crawl[ed] through a river of sh!t and came out clean on the other side.”  I do not consider it a coincidence that working with excrement, dirt, and other “matter out of place”[4] falls under the Trickster’s purview. I, too, had to crawl through my own dirt for renewal. Now that I’ve come out on the other side, I’m no longer afraid to give this my all and let it be just what it is.[5]

I’ve realized that if I never started this blog I would never have written Everything is Now”, and if I had never written that I wouldn’t have received T.K.’s provocative comment, and if that hadn’t happened this dramatic transformation would never have happened. And, and, and…. and it’s all part of the journey.[6]

For the first time I recognize the value of my writing to me and I have blistering confidence that I’m right where I should be. I don’t have the pressure of fame and I have the freedom to be and figure out just who I am. I can be disappointed that I’m not more successful and I can be proud of and enjoying exactly where I am now.

Now it seems like all I can do is write.

Room With a View

When we focus on “not enough time” as the reason why we are unable to do something, it does not always give us a launching point to discover what is really holding us back.  Conversely, when we ask ourselves “what needs to move?” it allows us to be open to a variety of things – both internal and external – that may need to come together and / or get out of the way for us to reach our goals.  When we’re “done” examining what’s getting in our way, we may, in fact, find that our goals themselves have transformed.

There may be a temptation to turn this into an internal dialogue about priorities, but evaluating priorities is about comparing and ranking thing “x” that we want to do against things “y” and “z” that we also want to (or have to) do.  The activity I am talking about here is much more focused than that, it is about picking one thing (although, hopefully the most important one) you’re not doing and exploring what would need to move to clear a path forward.

I realize I’ve heavily emphasized internal movement in the post. This is because our internal impediments will almost always be bigger obstacles than the external ones; we won’t find workarounds for our subconscious hang-ups, but with faith and conviction we can almost always create innovative solutions for our external blocks.  However, many times external pieces also need to move.  Referring back to my analogy in Everything is Now; many elements need to come together to enable a flower to grow.

As I was laying in bed this morning, for example, I was lamenting that I had this post finished and couldn’t seem to “find time” at home to get it published. (I did not know at the time that I was going to write this section, lol). Reflecting on the subject of this post, I switched to thinking about what needed to move in order for me to publish this post.

I do most of my writing on the train using a word processing app called IA Writer on a four-year-old iPad that was a hand-me-down from a family member.  When I finish the content of a post, I copy it into Word (on my home laptop), configure all the footnotes, copy it into WordPress, configure the heading sizes, block quotes, images, etc… and finally -hit publish

When I started looking at all the pieces between writing and publishing it was easy to see that (once again) “finding” more time at home wasn’t necessarily my problem, I needed to change the way I was “doing business” so to speak. Suddenly I remembered that the week before my husband had pointed out a new Microsoft tablet.  At the time, I had been dismissive of the idea thinking “what I have right now works just fine.” After having thought through my difficulties, however, I realized that the tablet might be just what I needed. Now that I was approaching my problem more openly, I realized that I could also seek out a better word-processing app that would handle my footnote needs directly.

It may take some effort to clear the way completely.  After all, things move at different speeds so some obstacles (both internal and external) will move out of our way quickly and others less so.  The critical first step is a detailed examination of what needs to move.  Then you can decide whether you’re ready to do what it takes to clear the path to your goal.

Footnotes

[1] it’s not that these things are unhealthy activities or that there is no room for them in our lives, it just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with that time – which is what clued me in that something more was going on

[2] as previously noted, this post and realization are built on the ideas from “Everything is Now” – the part I am specifically referencing here falls under the heading: ‘Some Things are Timeless’

[3] which also happens to be one of my favorite movies – here is the info; Shawshank Redemption (movie), 1994, Castle Rock

[4] From Trickster Makes this World by Lewis Hyde, “The anthropologist Mary Douglas… suggests we go back to an old saying: “Dirt is matter out of place.” Egg on my plate is breakfast, but egg on my face is dirt; shoes in the closet are tidy, but shoes on the table are a mess.” (p 175)

[5] I’m not saying this is all of my dirt – after all, here on Earth, we live in the dirt so we can only ever be temporarily clean

[6] I will talk more about the magical power of AND in two upcoming posts….one on Thanks for the Feedback and another about the new symbol I found that perfectly captures “where I’m at” right now

8 thoughts on “Make Space, Not Time

  1. Wow! I’m totally experiencing the exact same thing right now. I actually put off writing a blog for years because of fears (many of which are similar to yours) and then I even signed up to write a blog for my senior capstone to get things underway. and via the excuse of lack of time, (but probably mostly fear) I glided on the minimum amount of work needed to actually get a passing grade.

    I just recently graduated and have A LOT more time on my hands. the time abundance is actually by choice, since I’m less pressed for cash after moving back in with my mum. i also knew the sheer boredom would force me into doing something productive, and it’s worked! I only have two new posts so far, but it’s far more progress than I’m used to.

    Someone once told me that the inability to write is much more compelling than what most people blog about, and I figured I would write about my desire to change minds and my struggle to make that dream a reality. it’s actually been really cathartic.

    i’m excited about this journey. congratulations on your personal progress!

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