Tag Archives: writing

Tempo and Trust

I sat down to expand on an idea that came up in conversation on my podcast today: the relationship of time and trust. And I got stuck. Stuck on a silent obstacle, a quiet logjam of thoughts – great raw material, but no flow. I rolled up my sleeves took a big sip of chai and got prepared for the fight.

I thought I was going to sit down and write a post about the relationship of time and trust, but I’m sitting here in this coffee shop doing the wi-fi nomad thing and I’m completely distracted by the music. I’m trying to unstuck this mental logjam and all I’ve got in my head is this music, this insistent energy keeping my logic all a-jumble.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m diggin’ the music, not hating on it. I don’t know who is picking the tracks, but they’ve got a serious acid jazz groove going on this afternoon with some deep Hammond B3 organ action and it’s got me in great place, but it’s the totally wrong groove for a heady round of intellectualizing and theorizing and such.

I’m in a mood to just be.

I can’t fight the draw to listen, much as I’m trying to spin the threads of a cogent argument together, and now I’m realizing, that I don’t want to fight this. Why should I? That sax is tasty, those guitar licks are nibbling at my psyche over a mellow feel and a full-as-a-fountain sound is coming from that organ. A sound somewhere between the wet metal plunk of a xylophone and the warm hum of electric clippers. Two wrongs making a right-on. Why should I fight it? Why can’t I just be? Spend a little be-me time listening and letting the rhythm drive the typing, letting the words wash up on me like the chords washing over my spine.

I can do this. I can write and I don’t have to fight for the words. I can feel and let the feel find it’s own damn path through me and cuddle up here as words on a screen.

The screen is cold, but the thought is warm and there is a pocket of flow that I know won’t last, already I can feel the slip, the self-conscious, but if I can breath and relax I might just get down one more note, I mean word, a phrase. No coda, just a rest.

And return.

It’s good to be.

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The wrong post – I made myself write

I came, I saw, I doodled
Ok, I admit it, this one is a force. A bit of sheer will applied to the keyboard. It’s been almost a month since my last post and that’s just not how long I want to go between posts so I’m giving myself a guilt trip.

Or maybe it’s an ego trip.

You see I have this thing. I like to feel clever – it feels good to write a post where you feel you shared a great idea or pointed out some cool observation. I try not to be smarmy about it… or falsely modest either: I believe that on my good days I’ve got something worthwhile to say, don’t we all? But that’s the trap isn’t it? That sneaky bit of self-indulgence wrapped up in the word worthwhile, that’s what gives me these frustrated moments sitting and staring at the screen, trying to come up with something that’s blog-worthy. Yeah, really, “blog-worthy” – like that’s even a thing. Yecch.

Usually this is where the browser opens up and I let the web distract me away into oblivion – excusing myself for not writing with a shrugging “at least I tried.” But really, I gave up – I let the words get too hard, put too much pressure on them, got caught up in importance and meaning. I lost touch with the idea that these words can be playthings. Oh just give me a limerick! A bit of badinage, a freeform stream-of-conscious romp through alleys of artful, alliteration. Give me a stumper – any old excuse to run to the dictionary. Give me a crossword, an acrostic, challenge me to Scrabble! Those are words having fun!

So why do all the cool, fun, tongue-in-cheeky bits of language evaporate into thin air when it’s time to write the blog? Are they sucked into the cooling fan of the computer? Are they secretly meeting behind my desk plotting to dangle a participle? These words that could be here doing their job, are they experimenting with some exotic punctuation? “…but Dad all the cool vowels are getting umlauts this year…” Are they in the closet trying on fonts to see which ones make their ligatures look fat? Why do the words abandon me just when I need them most?

Because they’re hanging out with all my ideas.

Seriously, it’s past curfew – time for at least one idea to come home and shout “I’m here!” and then eagerly pop out on the screen and say “I’m sorry I kept you waiting, let’s get to work now.” It doesn’t even need to be a good idea. Rejoice! The prodigal idea returneth!

But I guess it’s just going to be one of those nights where the ideas stay out until dawn drinking with their no-good buddies, the concepts. No doubt, tomorrow I’ll think of a bunch of great posts. Posts ideas that are really worth your time, filled with sage advice and clever quotable passages. Inspired concepts for life changing posts that could solve the energy crisis and bring species back from the brink of extinction. But I’ll probably forget to jot those down.

So for tonight all I’ve got to say is that I stepped up to bat and took a swing. I saw it through. I checked in. I did the writing. 583 words to say I was here. I think tonight that will just have to be enough.

Veni, Vidi, Scripsi.
(I came, I saw, I wrote)

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So say what you're trying to say.

Do you ever get word-stuck? Tongue-tied at the keyboard as it were? You know, those moments when you want to get the words out, but you’re tangled, you can’t start it right, it just won’t flow? Here’s an idea: say what you’re trying to say.

But you protest – “I am trying to say it.” No, I mean actually say it – out loud. I learned this from one of my best resources, my dad. Besides being the Cohen family business sage, Scrabble champion, pun-meister and Thanksgiving turkey carver, he also has often worn the hat of writing coach and editor for all his progeny. Many was the time that me and my sisters would be stuck on a school paper or later, a business brief or some such, and invariably he would invoke that simple little nugget “So… say what you’re trying to say” and it always worked.

Saying (out loud) what you’re struggling to say (in written form) somehow seems to take the pressure off. It engages another part of the brain, obstacles slide away and you’re able to just let the words flow – maybe not smoothly, maybe not in a grammatically sound way, but the raw meat of meaning will be there. From there the rest of the writing job is cleanup and polish. Saying it gets the idea out in the open – no longer hidden behind a tangle of pressure stemming from deadlines, or uncertainty, perceived importance or even vocabulary.

So next time you’re writing, or rather, not writing because you just can’t get the thought out through the pen or the computer, try another path. Get a friend and tell her to ask you what you’re trying to say. Call your own phone, ask “What am I trying to say?” and leave yourself a message so you can transcribe it later. Turn on the mic on that laptop of yours and just blurt away. The point is set aside the style and the structure, get them temporarily out of the path of the idea so you can get that idea out into the world. Birth it, or maybe burp it, just get it out rough and raw. You can then shape it. Make it better, clearer, more focused now that it is out – which by the way is something else my dad is great at, but don’t call him, I keep him busy enough as is 😉

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    Caitlín Mowbray"I adore your doodles... I swear looking at those bunnies lowers my blood pressure, calms my mind and makes me smarter. Who needs meditation when there are bunnies?"
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