dive. then learn to swim.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

unpolished thoughts 2/11/2019

When I sit down to write my daily post each morning, I often have no idea what I’m about to write about.

Today was no different.

Until I realized how interesting it is do be doing something when you don’t know what you’re doing – and the process involved in transforming that experience into one where you do know what you’re doing.

So, today I’ve decided to leave my first draft mostly untouched, except for edits for the sake of grammar and flow.

Otherwise what follows is more or less what came out this morning.


It’s time to start writing.

What shall I write about today?

What among all the many things that come up when I ask the question do I actually want to commit my intention to?

I’m still in that indecisive phase.

The only thing that I’ve decided is that I’m writing. I’m taking on the task. The clock is ticking.

It actually isn’t hard to begin.

All I have to do is start the clock. Then the only decision to make is whether or not to be true to myself, whether or not to truly engage in the practice to which I have committed myself.

But now that I think about it, I quite often hesitate just before starting the clock – because that’s the moment of no return. It’s kind of like standing at the edge of the diving board.

So here I am, several paragraphs in, practicing, but still searching for the intention. I’m still trying to find out what today’s practice is about.

It’s hard to write a story when you don’t know how it’s going to end. Then again, it’s probably harder to know how it will end before the storyeven begins.

Anthony Braxton, my mentor during my radical music days, used to talk about setting forces into motion. He worked extensively with improvisation, but he always wanted to give things a particular shape – he often called it an “identity” – in order that his ensembles wouldn’t just be engaged in a free for all.

At the same time, he always emphasized that he was looking for a surprise.

The clock that creates the envelope of time during which I struggle to write is what sets my fingers in motion on this keyboard – often before I know what I want to say.

But it’s the forces in motion themselves that create the surprise.

Earlier this week I was running and had an idea for a book I might like to write. I was excited about that, but also struck by how the idea came in the first place: I was running.

What’s the difference between thinking while sitting still and thinking in motion?

Sitting and typing is hardly like running, but it’s still a step beyond sitting there thinking about what to write while staring at a blank screen. When my fingers are still quiet, it’s like I’m still standing at the edge of the diving board without yet having decided to take the plunge.

But here I am. I dove. I’m in the water.

What now?

Swim, of course!

A part of me resists writing about the process of writing because I think that the reader won’t be interested. This part of me thinks that it’s my job just to mine gems, polish them and put them out into the light.

Another part of me reminds me why I decided to call these “unpolished thoughts.”

If you are still reading, and you have no particular interest in being a writer, then why are you reading?

My only guess is that it’s because you might be interested in the relationship between thinking and action, something that ultimately concerns all of us, whether we pay attention to it or not.

Moshe Feldenkrais once said that “New thoughts lead to new actions.”

On other occasions, he made the same point in the negative: thinking that doesn’t lead to action is just cerebration.

Perhaps what I’m writing today has only minimal value. But I’m sure of one thing: I put my thoughts into action.

I wrote these words and offered them to the world. The world may love them or hate them, or even be indifferent, but in any case, forces will be set into motion.

I don’t know what comes next, but that’s just fine.

I also like surprises.


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