I’m working on a fun idea for my 40th year. A few months ago, while engaged in conversation with a student, we spoke about time-limited-oriented blogs, such as ‘400 Days until 40’, which is one that my student used to read. It freaked me out a little that he mentioned this on the exact day that I had 400 days until I was 40. Anyway, after a few weeks of pure fear of aging and dying, I then went on a friend’s 40th birthday, we spoke about it, and I got over it.
And now I’m starting to see other friends, acquaintances, bloggers, all with their excellent ’40 before 40′ lists (going up in balloons, singing in public etc). Other people have lists or acts that are more closely linked to their everyday. A poet I know is learning 40 poems off-by-heart before she’s 40. (She’s a wonderful performance poet.) I liked that idea. In fact, I liked both the wild and the everyday.
So I started with one idea–a blog about transitioning to veganism before I was 40. I am already a vegan and have been for a year, but there are a few moments, and a few belongings, that still need to change/go, such as a reliance on chocolate when tired, my old leather satchel, not checking labels of all new foods.
And I began it in the spirit of one of the most important books I read last year, Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run. In that book the mantra is ‘just do things. always.’ It’s a mantra Scott learnt from his father. In the book he talks about his ultra-marathon career. It was very much stimulated by his parents. His mother’s unconditional love and support (‘you can do anything’) and his father’s conditional love and encouragement based on effort (‘get on and do things. always’). And it helped Scott become one of, if not the, greatest endurance runner known. Continue reading
A month ago a writer friend posted about a challenge that she and other friends were taking: to develop at least one story idea a day for 30 days. Some great and all good ideas, and more than that, the perspective of seeing the exercise as one of ‘opening up a window’ in the mind to the possibility and potential of ideas all around you. (That age old question: where do stories come from?)
Her list was inspiring, as was the process. So I decided to give it a go as well. Some of my ideas came in spurts, however. Rather than do one a day, I sometimes had four or five in one day, and then none for a few days. That in itself was a learning point. The days when ideas did not ‘come’ were not days of blankness, but rather days when, as Marion Milner might put it in her book on creativity, On Not Being Able to Paint, my attention was ‘narrow and focused’, rather than ‘wide and waiting’. Her writing, in 1950 (and her books before in the thirties) pre-empted the psychological and neuroscience research we now have regarding ‘flow states’ of creativity as well as the benefits of daydreaming and absent-mindedness to creativity and ideas. (Freud got their first, of course. Or, as the now discredited Jonah Lehrer once put it rather beautifully if not totally correctly, Proust was a Neuroscientist).
My writer friend and her group tweeted each day on the hashtag #30days30stories. The discipline of getting the story kernel into 140 characters was also, clearly, very helpful, although that wasn’t a thing I took up on, as I was doing this for myself and my practice of bridging the connection between inner and outer worlds, the dream.
Rather, I took the opportunity to flesh out the ideas as I was going along, but what I did do, as much as possible, was stick to the formula that is at the heart of John Yorke’s Into the Woods and is known, if not understood, by writers everywhere, and is summarized by Cheryl Moskowitz as ‘every story has three components: a setting, a conflict and a resolution’. My friend’s list was really strong on this: simple pitches for stories that held not necessarily a beginning, middle and end, but certainly a setting, a conflict and the suggestion that it need a resolution.
And so I worked on the process of keeping my mind open to stories as I saw people in the street, read books and articles, overheard conversations (“So what if God has OCD?”) and listened to my own internal chatter but not to get caught in fantasy and rumination but to let those thoughts channel themselves into stories. It was a process of being story-minded, I guess.
And then, something happened. Continue reading
It came to me as my mind wandered in the middle of a sun salutation this morning, a question: if you build up the other selves, will they give you perspective on the dramas of the social self for what they are? Which is: small, unimportant, impermanent?
I saw a flash of an image: three bars on a chart. Then, a revision: perhaps more ecologically, as three large rocks or even mountains, moving and changing shape. And I’ve spent most of the time building up and investing in the social self. When the social self is the peak from which we mostly view our world and the one from which we survey the other selves, or the things important to the other selves, then of course we’ll always have a more social perspective. So if we naturally build up the other selves, if we practice soulful or ecological habits, then we will have a perspective on our entire world viewable from a different place, as well as what will seem a smaller social self. Rather than (as I wrote in an earlier post) having the percentages of experience as soul: 5%, social: 85%, ecological: 10%, it could be 40%/20%/40%. How would that feel/look? Continue reading