the engineer and the artist: obsessions, planning, devotion

BenFranklinsDaypage

Ben Franklin’s Daily Planning Page

I am a list-making, task-and-project oriented kind of girl who likes to get things done.

The Engineer likes to get things done, but not in the same way. He doesn’t make to do lists (though he does, I’m happy to say, check things off mine when I, in preparation for a big event, create the “kitchen sink” list and lay it out on the kitchen counter, along with a pen for marking through and checking off).

I sleep better if I’ve laid out my tomorrow before bedtime. He likes to get up and see where the day takes him.

I enjoy the feeling of announcing what I intend to do, giving myself a start date, clearing the decks, then devoting myself to the project. He is more of a get-up-one-morning-and-feel-like-building-that-shop-I’ve-bee-thinking-about-building-for-years kind of guy.

I like having deadlines. He prefers getting around to it eventually.

I still have the term papers I wrote in high school – even the math term paper I wrote in 7th grade. I LOVE the deadline, the planning, the gathering, the pulling together. I love the A+’s. Him? Not too big on term papers.

The Engineer is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Standing next to him, I can look for all the world like a short do-whack oddball. I can’t help it – I just love having a project I can lose myself in. Once upon a decade, it was my life. Now, it’s a way of life I want to recapture and reclaim. I want to put the blinders back on and focus. Back Then, it was the way I lived. Life went around a bend, though, and it became harder and harder and harder to devote myself to any project bigger than cleaning the toilet. (Somehow the world opens way for that, you know? But writing a book? That’s different. That’s harder to claim uninterrupted time for.)

Back Then, my brain could handle and hold Big Projects in the context of my life, but now . . . now my brain feels scattered, like it’s turned into a bag of birdseed somebody just opened and dumped into my skull. Like I told the Engineer late last year, I miss that feeling of (and the end result of) devotion, that immersion, that focus. I miss that satisfying, exhilarating sense of accomplishment.

So you know what I’m gonna’ do? I’m gonna’ get it back.

I have a Big Project that’s held a sizable chunk of real estate on my heart for eons, and before I can push up my sleeves in dedication to it, before I can immerse myself like I need to and long to do, I need to devote myself to a few other projects first so they won’t bang around in the background distracting (and guilting) me:

  • put the spit-polish on two books that have been languishing in the corner for several years
  • write the third book of the trilogy
  • as always, stitch Hymns of Cloth
  • and

  • offer that online Keepsake Writing Trellis I’ve wanted to do for who knows how long.


“What are you really doing when you devote yourself to a month of productive obsessing? You are learning how to extinguish distractions so that you can concentrate; you are accepting the hard existential fact that if you intend to matter, you must act as if you matter; you are retraining your brain and asking it to stop its pursuit of fluff and worry and to embrace its own potential. In addition, you are announcing that you prefer grand pursuits to ordinary ones; you are standing in solidarity with other members of your species who have opted for big thinking and big doing; and you are turning yourself over, even to the point of threat and exhaustion, to your own loves and interests.” Eric Maisel writes.

This is just what I’m talking about, and I tell you what: this really revs my juices and gets me going. So I’m sitting with my calendar this very day, plugging things in, scheduling my productive obsessions. The Keepsake Writing Tribe (you’re the Tribe, I’m the Trellis) is a series of three monthly productive obsessions that I’m gonna’ lead . . . The first month, we write about self; the second month, we write about others; and the third month, we write about things. So if you’re the kind of person who has always wanted to capture and preserve your stories and if you’re the kind of person who longs for the satisfaction of dedicating yourself to a productive project, perhaps you want to join us. Or maybe you just need the structure (the trellis, I call it) for three months of productive obsessive writing. That’s fine, too, cause really, whatever you write is your story, right?

Now I’ve had some very good questions asked by some folks who are already signed up and ready to go, so I’m going to share them here in case they’re questions you have, too. Should you have other questions, just drop me a line in the comment section or shoot me an email by tapping that cute little envelope in the upper right-hand corner and if all goes according to plan, it will magically open up a SASE email.

If you’re not interested in Keepsake Writing and just want to talk about productive obsessions, that’s fantastic, too. Tell me how you work best, what kind of planning and creative/work style keeps you going forward. I’m all ears.

[ ::: ]

Keepsake Writing questions asked and answered:

Q: Will there be daily writing prompts?
A: No. There will be kindling, though, that you can draw from if you run dry. If you’ve already registered, thank you and maybe you want to go ahead and start jotting down notes of stories when something triggers a memory.

Q: How will we know what to write about during the second month when we write others?
A: About midway through the first month, I’ll start sending you information – specific information about equipment to use should you desire to interview people; questions you can ask; how to keep the interview going; etc. BUT you don’t have to interview anybody to write about others. You might write preserve family lore that’s been handed down orally. You might write about pets. You might write stories about your children (I’ll tell you how you can turn these into treasured gifts.) You might write about teachers, good and bad, and how they shaped and influenced your life. What I’m saying is that writing others does not mean you have to interview somebody. You can, but you don’t have to. I have a whole bunch of tricks up my sleeve . . .

Q: What if I already have some stories written – can I use them?
A: Of course. We’ll just add to those stories. Maybe you feel like taking one out from your stash to polish instead of writing something from scratch. Or maybe you want to use one of those on a busy day when you simply don’t have time to write. (Yes, I will be taking roll, and I will be taking stock, and I will be handing out gold stars and dunce hats.)

Q: What if I’m not a good writer?
A: I’ll bet you’re a better writer than you give yourself credit for, and we’ll deal with that later. This first step is about gathering. Only gathering.

Q: Is this a writing class cause I’m kinda’ scared of sharing my work with a writing class.
A: While I will be sharing specific how to information about writing, this is not a writing class. This is about capturing your stories, your memories, on paper (digital or otherwise). If you sign up for the Torch Toter Tribe, you’ll send me 6 pieces on assigned weeks, and I will read your pieces and offer feedback. If you’re in the Path Whacker Tribe, you might want to share your work with others in the tribe, but you don’t have to. So breathe. And go sharpen your pencil.

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  • she

    One of them is a nub already, but thats just cause your one of the whip crackin-ist cheerleaders I have ever done known… and I love you :)

    • http://www.TheBarefootHeart.com/ whollyjeanne

      hahahahaha. that better be your fingers clicking on the keyboard that i’m hearing . . .

  • Cher

    Sounds like we have an awful lot in common Jeanne. I love your Sunday night collage ritual. I just signed up for your newsletter. LOVE your sense of humor and admire your candid meanderings. I’m still pretty formal in my writing. Funny in real life, but in teaching mode when I blog. But I’m working on it!