Scenes from Saturday + Nips & Sips

A co-worker asked me this week how I find the time to keep up and maintain all my non-work activities. It’s a question I get frequently and I typically give the same answer. It’s rarely doing the work that is hard, it’s starting the work. Before your day job, or after your day job, there are plenty of stolen moments you can grab to get things done. Once you begin, it’s often easier to just keep going.

Probably a cliche you’ve heard before, but it’s a cliche for a reason. Get on the treadmill for 5 minutes. Read one chapter. Do one lesson. There is compounding power in small habits. It’s how novels get written and marathons completed.

I’d add one thing, if you’re trying something creative: finish. Amateurs starts, pros finish.

The new book is out in a little less than two weeks. You can pre-order it now.

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Scenes from Saturday + Puppies & Piles of…

I learned about the dandelion and orchid parenting metaphor this week. Interesting, in and of itself, but then I tried to figure out what I was.

When I am between projects, I often feel like a dandelion. I feel scattered to the winds, content to land wherever, read whatever, bake whatever, do whatever. I can be easily distracted and can get interested in anything. This is both good and bad. Chaos can be a very fruitful for creativity. My favorite parts of my books often come completely out of the blue.

On the other hand, there are definitely orchid parts of me. Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about flash cards or a compulsive need to vacuum. I’m not sure I could contemplate writing an entire book without a plan, even if that plan gets ripped up and changed many times.

Maybe this metaphor has limits or maybe kids, parents, and artists will always fall somewhere between the extreme. A garden with both is certainly more interesting.

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Scenes from Saturday + A.Blog

Cecilia has to pick her high school classes this week. Yeah, it took a hot minute for that to sink in initially.

If I could go back to my eighth grade self and give him one bit of advice it would be to dial back the stress and subsequent anxiety by a factor of 10. The “right” classes and the “right” school matter far less than the everyday habits that you develop during this time.

Those are far better indicators, and far better tools, to navigate through life.

Don’t believe me, eight grade self? Maybe you’ll listen to Leonard Cohen. Adolescents seem to gel with his vibe:

Sometimes when you no longer see yourself as the hero of your own drama, you know, expecting victory after victory, and you understand deeply that this is not paradise and you’re not gonna get it all straight.

I found that things got a lot easier when I no longer expected to win.

You understand that, you abandon your masterpiece, and you sink into the real masterpiece…

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Scenes from Saturday + Tubing & Table Talk

I spent the last week going over the edited manuscript for the new book. It might be the part of the process of writing that I enjoy the most. It dovetails nicely with my “fix-it” brain. See a problem, evalaute a problem, fix a problem. It’s a lot easier than the actual writing. Very few writers like that actual writing. They like having written.

But this fix-it mentality is a double-edged sword. Writing, or parenting, or life in general comes with expectations. Trouble can start when the expectations don’t match up with reality.

That stress between how we thought something would go and how it actual plays out can either make us or break us.

There is certainly possibility in that friction especially when you are trying to be creative but if you are parenting hanging on to those expectations will often lead to frustration.

I am trying very hard these days not to be quite so inflexible about those visions in my head and rather to pay attention to what’s in front of me and the possibilities of what I can do with it.

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Scenes from Saturday + Weights & Wine

On Valentine’s Day this week, Cecilia cleaned her sneakers and I thought about love. Stay with me for a moment. The cleaning was not just a cursory wipe down, either, it involved spray bottles, hair dryers, and copious amounts of paper towels. She put in the time and effort. In short, she cared.

We often think of love as leading to care, but I think the opposite is just, if not more, true. Care can lead us to love.

The author Alison Gopnik writes about parenting and children: “This caring changes us, and deepens our love. We don’t care for children because we love them. We love them because we care for them.”

This sort of blew my mind and I’m not even sure if it is true, but even if it isn’t, it is a very useful fiction, because it encourages us to action, not to passively wait for the feeling. Be the verb first.

Too much to take from a shoe cleaning?

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Scenes from Saturday + Boxes & Bonsai

With the book done and off to the editor, there is now a large space, at least temporarily, where the book used to exist in my head. Almost before I hit send on the email with the manuscript, all sorts of new projects and to-do items rushed into fill the void. I wrote them down. It was a long list. It needed some prioritization.

I remembered the quote from Toni Morrison: “I wrote a list of the things I had to do,” she once explained. “I found sixty three. Then I wrote another list of the things I wanted to do. I found two–write and mother my children.”

That provides a bit of clarity.

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Scenes from Saturday + Hot & Cold

I finished writing a book this week. I wanted to stop and chuck it many times over the past year. But I didn’t. I thought about Octavia Butler instead:

Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.

Persistence, she said, was her most important talent. Sticking with it.

So I just kept going and eventually found my way to the end.

You know what I’m going to do next week? Start writing another book.

Persistence tied to a positive obsession can take you to some interesting places.

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