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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Variations on the work rhythm

I'm still experimenting with variations in how I approach the work, trying to find the magic combination that will lead to the greatest productivity. I had intended to work at one of the coffee houses today, as I was feeling restless and cooped up earlier, but I also got a much later start on the day than I'd planned, and--today being Sunday--the coffee places would be closing earlier than usual, both of which seemed likely to truncate my work day more than I wanted. I opted instead to work at home, but instead of setting the timer for 45 minute bursts of work, I decided to try something else.

As I'm still (endlessly) chipping away at the critical material, the plan for today was read an article while sitting on the couch. Stand at the living room table to do the write up. Walk around the apartment for 5 minutes. (At first I was going to try to walk for 10 minutes, but I started to go nuts pacing in tiny figure eights--and can only imagine what it sounded like to the downstairs neighbors.) Repeat.

I did a few cycles of that, but then my brains started to seize up reading another critical article. Instead of calling a halt to the work, however, I turned my attention to working on another part of the book. I was right in my surmise that I might be able to squeeze out more work that way: I kept going a lot longer than I expected (it's rare but very nice when my expectations are lower than what I actually accomplish). In fact, if I'd been working on a new chapter, instead of adding to/adjusting one I've already been working on, I might have been able to go on even longer.

However, I did make one tactical error: when I started to just write, I forgot to set the timer--and I've been sitting here without moving significantly for far too long. I am about to go for a walk (in the dark, in the snow), but my back is not amused at how it's been treated for the last two hours or so.

Bitching aside, I did run across a place in my writing where I felt, "I really do need to check with Ursula about this." Last time I thought I was in that position, I was delighted to locate something she'd written that answered my question so I didn't have to bother her, but this one I really do need to check in with her. It's minor, but I'm extremely sensitive about what I say about her and her work: she is there, after all, and is literally the authoritative source, so I don't want to make erroneous assumptions if I can get them cleared up.

Contacting her, however, I can't help but think about her age and worry about how she's doing. My impression is that she comes from mighty sturdy stock, but I don't know if she's dealing with any health issues or any of the physical--and therefore mental--difficulties of aging. Certainly the video of her at the National Book Award ceremony shows her perhaps slightly stooped (osteoporosis, I wonder?) but otherwise she looks beautifully vivid and full of calm fire. For all I know, she runs ten miles a day and practices all the most advanced tai-chi moves on a regular basis. I hope so. I don't know her personally (though we've met, briefly, twice), but I feel as much concern and care for her as if I did, because what she has written, how she thinks, has been a powerful force in how my mind has formed. And honestly, part of why it's important to me to get this project not only finished but out there in the world, in some way, is so I can, in essence, publicly honor her and bring others to love her as I do while she's still around to feel how much she matters and to how many.

OK, I'm at risk of getting tremendously maudlin here, but having just watched that National Book Award speech again, I am struck all over by what I admire in her.

And that, I suppose, is a good note to end on, and a warm thought to carry with me into the cold and snowy night.

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