Monday, April 16, 2012

Half of learning how to play is learning what not to play

Staying focused when the pressure's on

I flourish under a looming deadline -- an attribute (I hesitate to call it a skill, per se) that has served me very, very well as an academic. As I age though, I find I don't particularly like this about myself very much anymore. It's part of what I'm working to adjust with the whole change mumbo-jumbo I've been on about in my last few blogs: planfully and intentionally shifting around the parts of my life over which I have some measure of control so that I don't live in "go" mode. Because frankly, living there as I have for the past 8-9 years will kill me eventually. And I really like living.

Functioning well in "go" has it's utility though, particularly when you work in a field where you must be responsive to the literally on-a-dime evolving needs of multiple constituencies. Reminding myself daily to seek balance in all things, but if I'm honest, I'm working really hard to level up. Is it obvious I haven't yet worked out the boundaries on just exactly how I'm going to do both? ;)

Oblique Strategies

Friends and collaborators Brian Eno (electronica musician) and Peter Schmidt (painter) have worked creatively together for years. Over their long friendship, the two realized that they shared a very similar approach to working through "roadblocks" to productivity. Both "tend[ed] to keep a set of basic working principles on hand which guided them through the kinds of moments of pressure - either working through a heavy painting session or watching the clock tick while you're running up a big buck studio bill. Both Schmidt and Eno realized that the pressures of time tended to steer them away from the ways of thinking they found most productive when the pressure was off. The Strategies were, then, a way to remind themselves of those habits of thinking - to jog the mind." (source + more info)

I've been known to seek out the deck for a kickstart when what I'm working on is creative in some way. And I'm perennially (delightedly!) surprised by how frequently my work in higher education falls under that general banner. Consider checking them out sometime.

half of learning how to play is learning what not to play
and she's learning the spaces she leaves have their own things to say
and she's trying to sing just enough so that the air around her moves
and make music like mercy that gives what it is and has nothing to prove
she crawls out on a limb and begins to build her home
and it's enough just to look around and know she's not alone

- Ani DiFranco "up up up up up up", Title track of the album of the same name (1999)

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