The coaching program I'm in began with listening to a series of podcasts on Productivity for Perfectionists, hosted by Deborah Hurwitz (productivityforperfectionists.com), and it continually offers techniques to sidestep or do an end run, tunnel under or spring over perfectionism which arises like a shape-shifting monster to distract, block, throw up a maze, suck down a rabbit hole or depress creatives who want to change the world, or at least the corner of it they live in or the imaginary universe they want to inhabit.
One of the things that has helped me get through many of the creative blocks I've encountered is setting a timer. I've read about different amounts of time and different kinds of timers. My favorite is the tomato timer, which inspired Francesco Cirillo to invent the time management system called the Pomodoro Technique. In this process, you work on a set task for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and after 4 work sessions, take a 10 minute break. I've seen suggestions for longer work sessions (e.g. 90 minutes) and break periods (30 minutes), but the key idea is to follow a period of focused work with a break where you do something that gives you pleasure, relaxes you or rewards you in some way for being productive or doing something you know you should do but that sets up blocks in your mind about how difficult and/or unpleasant it will be.
If it's something that seems overwhelming, I will set a timer for 20 minutes. I did this when I was trying to submit a book proposal that required a four page questionnaire. Not only that, but it seemed to assume an author who had worked professionally for years as it requested a Curriculum Vitae. I hadn't written one of those for years, and I still had a bitter taste in my mouth from that one. A former professor wanted to suggest me for a Phi Beta Kappa award after our University formed a chapter. When I had been at the University, I graduated first in my class, the first student ever to graduate with a 4.0 cumulative average, and would easily have been elected to the honor society but the college didn't have a chapter then.
After college, I was accepted for Columbia University's Comparative Literature PhD program, but when I learned that they were heavily into deconstructionism and I was leaning into synthesis (I had no desire to count how many times Emily Dickinson used the image of the bee in her poetry), I instead applied to the MFA program but was rejected. Caroline Gordon was then teaching at my University, and she told my professor friend, after he showed her some of my poetry, that I was fortunate they had rejected me because, she said, it would have ruined me.
Instead, I got married and began having our first three children, and as my oldest daughter told me yesterday, poured much of my creativity and energy into raising them. I set aside Monday afternoons for writing my poetry, got babysitters and joined several babysitting coops so that I had one day in which I could focus on something that was crucial to me beyond my children (although they climbed into my poems more than once)!
When my husband and I had been married 7 years, we made a World Wide Marriage Encounter Weekend, and our whole world changed. Not only did we learn to communicate in a more profound way and fall in love more deeply, but our outlook on life, our Church, and our community entered a new dimension. We were no longer closed in like survivalists, but oriented outwards seeing the beauty in the people that surrounded us and falling in love with them.
We moved from the East Coast to California (where I had said I'd never go even on vacation), became a presenting team couple for WWME and took on roles in leadership, had three more children, and became involved in Celebrate Love Weekends on spirituality and sexuality, Language of Love Weekends, sharing the insights from Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, and Natural Family Planning. None of these were professional roles; we saw them all as part of our ministry to married couples and their families.
I had had many poems published and became the first woman and lay person to write book reviews for a priests' magazine, but earned very little money for either. I suppose I didn't fit the box that the University thought I should be in to become a Phi Beta Kappa at that point. I later told my two oldest daughters that I never lived through my children or their accomplishments, except when they both became Phi Beta Kappa at their University.
So when I was looking at the book proposal and pondering what to do about the resume/CV, I realized that because the book is about marriage, everything we did in World Wide Marriage Encounter and other marriage and family ministries is relevant as well as our children, sons-in-law and 22 grandchildren, all of whom are united in our big family "network." In addition, I had more publication credits than I had thought. I decided to do a different sort of resume that will reflect the marriage and family emphasis I've had throughout my life. My final comment was "It will probably be unique, but then so am I."
As if in confirmation, I had a vivid dream that night, something which has almost never happened since my husband died.
In the dream my husband was alive, and we were visiting the Archbishop who said he would write the foreword for my book (he is a friend of ours). We were all laughing and talking and having a good time, and I wasn't playing second fiddle to my husband as I used to do. (I never minded it because he knew so much more about whatever we were talking about.) When we left the place where we had been visiting the Archbishop, we were walking in sunshine and saying to each other that the Archbishop was in a really good place. When I woke up and thought about the dream, I took it as a good sign that he would get the foreword written soon, and in fact he did. He told me when he saw me two months later that when he started to write, the Holy Spirit just gave him the words in one fell swoop!
While I didn't get the book proposal done in one fell swoop, I finished it in three days, working in 20 minute increments.
My pomodoro has long since rung--in fact I set two different timers and they both rang--so I shall set this aside until tomorrow when I do a final revision, and hit publish! This time I remembered on Sunday, so I will do it now!