My all time favorite movie is Fiddler on the Roof. I love Tevye’s discussions with himself as he weighs the options of his daughter’s choices in life partners with “on the other hand.” I feel the sadness both for him and Chava as he reaches the conclusion that “There is no other hand.” Truth to tell, issues large and small nearly always have an “other hand.”
Moving to self-employment as a writer has brought its own set of “other hands.” I addressed the need for true re-creation in Monday’s “Working on Recovery” blog. The work itself brings another set of challenges. I learned pretty quickly that staying busy, which I am good at, was not the same as being productive.
• My story “Rags and Riches” in September 2011 issue of Cricket Magazine required confirmation that Milk and Wine Lilies (properly called crinums) live for generations on end. I grabbed my Passalong Plants book, knowing Steve Bender and Felder Rushing were authorities. Confirmation was quick, but one garden story led to another. By the time I reached the trumpet vine, I knew I had wandered far off task.
• A twenty minute break for yard work extends into an hour as the Goldilocks Syndrome kicks in with just one more bush to prune or one more set of weeds to pull.
• Then there’s probably the biggest distraction as a simple search on the Internet for immigrations patterns for the Katz family in early 1900s becomes a morning chasing one set of interesting immigration pictures and personal stories after another.
I figured out my problem quickly. On the one hand, I was very busy. On the other hand, I was not making progress. I needed a visual solution that showed accomplishment or lack thereof. I began using my Smithsonian calendar to record writing activities each day. This includes research, critiquing for friends, attendance at events like the Children’s Book Festival coming in April, and actual writing. Books I’ve read that week go at the top of the page since reading is part of my work. Blank spaces have reasons noted if they are real – like this week’s gum surgery. Otherwise, the very blankness rebukes me by its emptiness.
Have I cured myself? Not likely. I still chase a few rabbits all the way through the briar patch. But I have fewer “before” pages (2004) and more “after” pages (2011). On the one hand, in self-employment, I sometimes have the worst boss I’ve ever had. On the other hand, I sometimes have the worst employee.