Image by -will wilson- via Flickr
Are you a digger or a sitter?
You know how some dogs just can’t help themselves? Left alone and unobstructed with all the yard in the world, they’ll dive in like it was Christmas, paws flying, and tear the place apart until you could film a moon landing there.
Others have their favorite spot for meditation and gravitate to the small depression they’ve made with their body weight and ritual circling, happy as Christmas morning just for being able to look up and watch the sky go by, the occasional ear twitching as they size up the arc of bird flight or squirrel jump.
Habits grow around what works, organically with our processes. Knowing the direction of our habitual grooves might lend us comfort, but it can just channel our frustration into a deepening rut. The antidote is knowing that the habit is a vein of truth intertwining every moment in front of the page or screen and every word we spill or wrench from our body mind and heart. Knowing our habit means we have a thread we can tug on when we need a bit of unravelling.
So are you a digger or a sitter? When you’re waiting for the next word, sentence, image or inspiration, do you tinker and spill, just let the juice keep flowing even if it’s dirty brown regurgitated juice, just to keep the pipes open? Do you take the “opportunity” to go back and place the commas and capitals that didn’t come through as the words spilled from your hands? If so, you’re a digger. Your habit is activity and running out and through and connecting and dissecting and…. and, and, and.
How much of your time is spent fingers hovering or resting on the keys, eyes roaming over formless space watching contours of ideas emerge, allowing them to sink through and then emerge from fingers, shaping the screen into the forms the mind sees? When you write, do you occupy both worlds for a while, the world around feeding color, shape and sound without form while the world you’re creating bubbles and starts and stops and becomes form itself? You, like Matilda our beloved, loving pitbull, are a sitter.
Whatever your habit, tugging at the edges a bit when you face an obstacle is an uncomfortable, rich and revealing endeavor. If you’re a digger, this means pulling back instead of diving in. Physically remove your hands from the keyboard. Put the pen down. Sit on your hands. Just read. Ignore anything your attention tries to linger on. Yes, this exercise requires you guide rather than follow your attention. See what comes up. Still nothing? Leave. Go get tea, coffee, water, yoga, jumping jacks or pushups. Don’t get involved in an epic project or conversation – you’re still working. Act like it. Just change your body and mind for 3 minutes. Now, come back and Go!
Sitter? Don’t re-read, go over, wander or list. As a sitter you have two options for guiding rather than following your attention: move your mind or move your body. Either drive those finger like they were on a treadmill, writing, writing, writing, doesn’t matter what comes out, what matters is the motion, minimum 250 words. Has to be words (or word-like strings…. misspellings shouldn’t slow you down) but don’t worry about the meanings or connections or even relation to the intended topic. Don’t stop until you’ve reached 250 or 500, then go back and read. No change, don’t know what to do next or where to go? Do it again. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.
Or maybe you’re up for an oil change. Change your body, change your energy, change your mind. You get one minute of jumping jacks or pushups (start by doing them against a wall – easy does it, it’s a minute and it won’t go as fast as it does when you’re staring at the screen). Or two or three, depending on your fitness level. Pump not primed but out of breath? Then it’s time for letting the fingers fly. Just go. Start with the word pushup or jumping jacks and let it go. Think of yourself as a wind up toy: the exercise is the crank and the fingers do the dance. Find the fun in the play, and let it re-arrange your mind.
If opposing your habitual response to obstacles doesn’t reveal the solution to your editing dilemma, then it’s time to ask for help. Ask your friend, lover, enemy or guy at the next table. Hire a writing coach. This is the best possible situation, though that’s not likely what you want to hear. If your obstacle is stubborn enough to require more than transient application of change principles, it’s a valuable and rich one and will yield exponential return. Smile and embrace the stuckness, it’s drawing your deeper to your core.