“polish” is not reversible

unpolished thoughts 1/10/19

While writing my blog post today, I got an unexpected lesson in one of the key principles of the Feldenkrais Method, the idea of reversibility.

This blog post is not the one I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the one I spent nearly the whole day writing and still isn’t finished. The one I had to abandon if I was going to have any hope of publishing something I could be proud of today.

That was the point. I had to reverse myself.

Excuse me for writing to you about my experience of writing to you, but actually the experience led me to a few ideas worth sharing.

Quickly first, for transparency, a few general words about my “unpolished thoughts”.

“Unpolished” is relative.

What you are reading each day here goes through an editing process, but relative to my posts previous to mid-December of last year, these posts are highly “unpolished.”

I spend 20 minutes writing each morning – something I originally did just for myself without the intention to share the thoughts publicly – and then I take that first draft, edit, and produce something that feels worthwhile, hitting “publish” as early in the day as I can.

That’s the opposite of my previous way of working where I rarely ever wrote and published anything in one day. Some of the pieces I wrote dragged on for weeks before I completed them.

At times this generated a process where further ideas unfolded, but it also often felt like the original spark that sat me down to write was largely lost.

I agonized. I was a perfectionist. Writing was an enormous effort and sometimes felt just terrible.

There are a number of programs out there to help writers get past their writer’s block.

Most of them involve writing – I mean, just do it!

This involves acknowledging that you will often produce something less than perfect. But every time you give yourself permission to type (or write in your notebook like a true old schooler), you are refining your ability to express your ideas.

That’s where my 20 minutes a day habit came from.

There is an advantage to doing this with the knowledge that no one will see what you write – you can just let anything come out and learn from the process.

Sometimes you discover that it’s something that you would like to share with the world – even if the process that helped you produce it began from the sensations of safety you associated with thinking that you wouldn’t.

On the other hand, there is also an advantage to knowing that you will share what you write.

I’ve been experiencing this directly over the last month. Every warm response I receive gives me a little more confidence in my ability to state my ideas out loud – not a small feat for me (see above re: agonizing and perfectionism).

But today I got stuck in the mud, and almost forgot that I could get out by stepping backwards.

I had promised the world I would publish something today so I wrote for 20 minutes in the morning as usual and found something juicy.

So far so good. But then I had other things to do.

I got back to it later and worked, but felt scatter-brained. I progressed slowly and, at the same time, realized that to say what I wanted to say properly, I had to write something much longer than I had originally thought.

A small breakthrough came when I realized that the majority of the words of my 20-minute session had almost completely disappeared in the editing process.

Was this still an “unpolished thought”?!

I realized it wasn’t, but thought, “I’ll still publish today. I’ll just have to be clear that this is a ‘polished’ post – like my old ones.” That felt good, so I kept going.

But the anxiety was growing.

Under the surface were all the other things I had intended to do today that I hadn’t touched.

Twice I had to force myself away from the computer in order to eat, finally acknowledging that my tummy had been angrily growling at me for over an hour.

While I ate, I realized that I was eating faster than usual, and barely tasting the food.

Luckily, I caught the signal, closed my eyes, letting my breath slow down, and stayed with it long enough to allow the flavors to actually distinguish themselves from each other.

During my snack/dinner, during a quiet moment like this, I finally realized:

“I can just write something new. Something quick. Something unpolished.”

Then I started breathing again.

Then I stopped worrying if I was just a fraud.

Then I stopped thinking that I had no choice, but to disorganize the rest of my week.

Then I set a timer for twenty minutes and wrote this.

The bell just went off.

So now I just need to find a photo, come up with a snappy title, and hit the “publish” button.

Thank God for reversibility!


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