Where Has This Book Been All My Life??

Growing-Gills-InstagramFrom Mutha Magazine, great review of a book that is equally great and totally apropos to working parents who are also writers/artists and trying to get shit done on top of trying to get shit done:

http://muthamagazine.com/2017/11/get-art-done-but-first-stop-drowning-an-interview-with-jessica-abel-on-growing-gills/

Almost as soon as I read this interview, I ordered the Kindle version of Abel’s book and have been reading and working through the various activities. One of the most useful ideas so far for me has been her basic premise: that the anxiety we feel about working on or completing our creative projects rests on dilemmas we have not fully made conscious to ourselves. She writes:

“The real problem comes when you don’t decide, when you don’t at all understand and face what sacrifices your actions (or non-actions) will entail, and instead let whatever happens, happen. In other words, your worst problems result from when you have a dilemma before you, and you don’t face that fact and make the hard decision. Instead you just close your eyes and do whatever occurs to you…which will almost certainly be neither of the competing choices at the heart of your dilemma. … If you plan something, and it doesn’t happen–especially if it’s a pattern–it’s because there’s a hidden trade-off in there that you have not identified and agreed to make.”

This helps explain why my flowchart (which I posted a couple months ago), which sort of intuitively grasped at this insight, didn’t really work: it did not make conscious enough that my mad scramble to do too much, and therefore either not make progress on creative projects or make incredible progress at the expense of health and sanity, turns on a central underlying dilemma: I want to make writing my central contribution to the world, but I also want to be involved in community organizing–in fact, I believe it would be wrong if I didn’t help with community organizing efforts. That’s a pretty juicy, angst-filled dilemma.

What I find most reassuring about Abel’s point here is that, once we do make our dilemmas conscious to the degree that we can then make conscious decisions about how to spend our time, we will be able to handle the emotional discomfort that arises:

“The problem is not enduring the discomfort of the trade-offs that come with a decision. You’re tough. You can handle it.”