Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Calm After the Storm

“The happy life is thought to be one of excellence; now an excellent life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.”

Aristotle


There are things I could be doing at the moment, maybe even things I should be doing, but there is nothing I have to do.  There are no pressing matters, no papers to write, no one to talk to – there’s just solitude.  There’s just my Muse and me.  There’s often a calm before the storm.  But God, in His mercy, often gives us a calm after the storm, too.  I was able to finish a lot of work, reading over 700 pages, synthesizing my reading into a 5-6-page essay and get it in on time.  I then took care of some personal commitments.   Now all I want to do is hole up in my place and get my spirit calm.  It’s not that I was terribly stressed, but I fought the urge to be terribly stressed.  I also fought the urge to delay my work and take the one-week extension that was offered.  I’m glad I didn’t because that means I might still be working now.  Here are some things I’ve learned from this experience:            
First, I have a lot to learn especially about being a writer, or at least being an academic writer.  Academic writing is different than the kind of writing I’ve done before – journalism, personal journals, and blogs.  The demands are greater, because it will require synthesis, analysis, research, and a whole lot of reading.  Academic writing will require sharing my personal beliefs without being too personal, and my objective analysis without omitting my subjective opinions.  None of that is new to me, but I’ve rarely had to apply all of this so consistently.
I will also have to read differently than I have.   In its orientation packet, the university recommends “gutting” a book, that is getting the main ideas.  I will not, according to them, have time to read every single word of the material.  This may or may not be true, but I know I will have to read both more quickly, and more slowly.  I can read more quickly by getting the main ideas in the chapter titles, and in the prefaces and/or introductions.   I can also skim chapter headings and the beginnings of each sentence.  Using these method can get me the main ideas very quickly.  But I will also have to read more slowly, by sitting down and taking orderly notes (as well as highlighting) and keeping those notes organized and handy. 
Most importantly, I will have to use my time well.  As I wrote in a previous blog, perhaps the writing of over 800 blogs in two years was preparation for what’s ahead. I’ve certainly used my time far better than I ever have, and in a very measurable way.  This isn’t bragging; this is fact.  And yet, I am still easily distracted.  I still have a hard time focusing. 
And yet…and yet…
In the last two years I’ve written over 800 blogs.  In the last year I handwrote about 1,000 pages.  I’ve also published a book and though it only sold nine copies, at least I can now say I’m a published author.  And, most recently, despite my shortcomings, in the end, I got the paper done, and on time.

So I am prepared for what’s ahead.  I’ve worked past not only my shortcomings, but my fears.  On the other side of fear is love, as Eckhart Tolle says, and I love the idea of learning new things and creating new possibilities for my life.  I love the idea that I can Get Started and Keep Going.