Do you percolate?

I have a confession.  I am not a procrastinator, well, not all the time.  I am a percolator.

In my writing classes, we spend the first couple of weeks of each semester thinking about who we are as writers, exploring all that we have to write about, and learning that we can tweak and mold our processes to work for us in college.  We explore how we write, when we write, and why we write.  We write then write some more.  We have deadlines and discuss what it is like to write our way to a deadline.  Deadlines are something writers approach in different ways with different levels of success…or not.

I make confessions.  I confess that I do not like to write.  Well, this is not entirely true.  Writing is like cooking for me.  I love to bake when I want to, meal plan when I want to, and cook when I want to.  I hate to bake when I have to, meal plan when I have to, and cook when I have to.  Do you see the difference?  I like food.  I like to cook.  I love to bake.  I hate deadlines.  I like to write when I want to.  I like to write well when I want to.  I like to craft my writing when I want to.   I hate deadlines.  If I think about it, I realize that this distaste for deadlines can be applied to just about every area of my life.  Deadlines create stress for me and not always the good kind of emotional stress.

Deadline stress should be avoided, but it is not likely that deadline stress can be avoided.  Sure, I could stop giving myself deadlines, but my job and business will always have deadlines.  And, I have to ask myself if I am looking at this in all the write, I mean right, ways.  Is stress bad for me?  Not according to Dr. Kelly McGonical.  Her book, The Upside of Stress, is on my summer reading list, so I will get back to you on this one.

If I do not have deadline stress, will I ever get anything done?  I have evidence that says no.  My home is much cleaner right before company arrives.  The girls and I have been spending our Sunday morning grading sessions, okay, coffee and gripe sessions, at a new health food market for the past month.  My Sunday-get-this-house-cleaned-up-quick deadline has fallen by the wayside.  No deadline means the kitchen island is not a mountain rather than flatland.  Hold on.  I need to add this mess to my to-do list.  Without a deadline stress, I have created a new stress. Sigh.

Can deadlines be good for us?  Do we set ourselves up for deadline stress?  Can deadline stress be harmful?  Yes. Yes. And, yes.  If I want my kitchen island to be clean, I will just have to put my deadline back in place and have the girls over on Sunday morning. I know this deadline motivates me and that is not a bad thing.  If I receive a custom order inquiry and notice the studio schedule is already full and say yes anyway, I have set myself up.  If there are far too many deadlines on the calendar and one overlaps another and most are job imposed, or family imposed, or imposed by some other outside source, then, yes I believe this stress can be harmful to me.  My response to imposition is most often negative.  And, my go to negative response to imposed deadlines is procrastination.

Procrastination is intentional.  When I procrastinate, I am making a choice.  I put things off, intentionally, until I absolutely have to do the task.  In fact, I spend a great deal of energy putting an imposed task off.  I think about it, but not about the process of doing it, or the goal, but about the fact that I don’t want to do it.  I negotiate with myself about the task, bargaining if you will, thinking about just how long it will take me to do this task so I can formulate a plan of when the last possible moment to start will be.  This is exhausting.  Why do I do this?

When I ask my students to raise their hands if they are procrastinators, the topography of the room changes as the air fills with finger tips.  I then ask if they are sure.  Hands begin to fall from the air when I ask if they think their procrastination is intentional.  We discuss this.  It is clear that they think that procrastination is something that happens to them rather than something they choose to do.  I give them a quiz:  Do you think about the task while you are not doing it?  Do you make other plans that make it hard to meet your deadline even though the deadline is on your mind?  Do you choose to focus on the task at the last moment on purpose?  If you answered no, then yes, then yes…you are procrastinating.   Right? But, maybe some of us are not.  Maybe we are something else.

If your quiz answers were yes, no, no, then you might be like me…a percolator.  Deadlines make me think about the tasks, the process of the tasks, the completing of the tasks.  I plan in my head, and often on brain dump lists, I stress and worry the task, and I complete the task in my head in a variety of ways over and over again.  This is busy work and uses up a good amount of brain energy.  I write in my head which I know sounds impressive, but truly it is not.  It’s simply a form of worry which is far too big a topic for this post.  We can work on worry later.

Students stair at me with blank expressions.  I then post a picture of a percolator on the screen in the front of the classroom and tell them this, dear students, is how your grandparents, or maybe great grand parents, made their coffee each morning.  It was a process, not a quick drip, and they stare in wonder of how slow coffee brewing used to be. A percolator crafts a well brewed cup of coffee as it cycles the water through the grounds, the process is more caring of the coffee and many percolator enthusiasts enjoy a richer brew.  It’s a process.  It takes care.  It takes time.  It is not easy.  It is not quick.  It is, often, better.

I compare the process to our thinking out a task until it is complete.  I tell my students if they think about the tasks more than the deadline, they are percolators, not procrastinators.  They begin to see both as motivators and choices.  Once they believe that this is a choice, they can begin to see the good, and the bad, in these choices.  Maybe they will consider, like me, that one choice is better for them than another, and can choose.

What’s good for you?  Percolating?  Procrastinating?

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What Our Mothers Teach Us

Over and over again, I learn the things our mothers have taught us.  I sit here, today, at my mother’s kitchen table with a cup of tea in hand.  My mind has been drifting between the challenges that life is throwing me today and the challenges that lie ahead for our daughters and our sons.  Something big is in the air and I can’t help but think about the generations of women that have come before me and wonder if they sat at kitchen tables, thinking, sipping tea and watching, and participating, in the history of their present.  Did they feel it?  Was it in the air then?  And, then?  And, then, too?

During the first days of school, when we are all finding our footing and easing into our stride, students learn about me as we create classroom communities of learners, writers, and, hopefully, thinkers.  Often, I am asked about my political affiliation.  Affiliation.  It seems assumed that I must affiliate, fellowship, belong, agree with, partner with, union with…  That I must belong to one side or another without consideration of other sides or with consideration of only one side.  The one side.  Yikes.  There are more than two sides to every story and there is also my side.  I have a side and it matters.  Right?  I only reveal my independence and reassure students that I take my civil disobedience and allegiance to thinking very seriously.  I love to knit wool, but that does not mean I am a sheep.

During the first days of a newly elected presidency, I hope we are not just marching, but thinking about what happens after the march.  In pink Pussy Hats we scampered, gathered, and marched.  We were like brides marching toward our future and creating a world for our children to enjoy or endure or survive.  Like brides, we were sure of our choices, dressed for the role, and willing to take a risk.  The wedding is over, the needles have moved on to new projects, and now it is time to put the march into action, to recognize what is in the air, and finish the job our mothers bequeathed us.

Our mother’s bumper sticker proclaimed that we should question authority. Our bumper sticker promised we could have it all.  What will our daughter’s bumper sticker promise?

Are you happy?

DALAI-LAMA-quotes-6

Stories Matter

Once upon a time…

Team Concept

A team of students had four members called Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done.

Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Even Shakespeare had to take an English class…

Changing Your Mind

MiddleOfTheWoods

“Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods.  If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.” – Margaret Atwood