my brain has split in two

It’s a new year, and just the right time for new projects. Trouble is, the project I’m working on right now has me arguing with myself.

What’s happened is that the time spent last month ranting on my soapbox about 5-paragraph essays got me all lathered up. I tried to keep pressing away at the project at hand, working at a chapter for my book about why writing matters. (Because if I want readers to work through an entire book about writing and kids, I’d better convince them that it will be worth their while.) So I researched. Starting with the search engine phrase why writing matters.

And oh, what a rabbit hole I’ve fallen into! There’s so much fascinating research from the past ten years on writing in the world, and writing in schools. Instead of climbing off my lathery soapbox, I’m ready for rooftops. There’s a story to be told, one I don’t think parents are hearing.

And this is where my brain has split in two, and begun bickering with itself.

One side: There’s a feature article here.

Other side: You’ve never written a feature article. You can’t do it.

Luckily there are experts out there helping me mediate these arguments. One is Lori at camp creek, who wrote a beautiful post yesterday about what it really means to take baby steps.

One side: See! I can do it! I just need to take big ol’ lumbering baby steps.

Other side: But you’re supposed to be writing a book! Writing a feature article will take months!

Another expert chimed in. This time it was Keri Smith in her fabulous secrets shared post. Her secrets are offered in the form of a list, and in the preface she says that number 6 is the source for all her best ideas. What’s secret number six? Goof off. Keri says that her best published projects “were done when I was supposed to be working on other things.”

One side: See that? Side projects are good! And this one will give me a stronger grounding for the book anyway.

Other side: But you have no time for this! You barely have time to write as it is! And then you insist on doing this blogging thing…

Okay my friends, it’s crowded in my brain anyway, so you might as well climb in. And chime in. How do you find time to work at your own creative pursuits? What do you think about side projects–those little distractions that you do when you ought to be doing something else? Have you ever taken on something that felt bigger than you? Did you do it?

Convince me of something, please. It really would be nice to start this new year with brain intact.

10 comments… add one
  • Just Peaches Jan 6, 2011 @ 12:22

    Well, I must say, that a feature article does sound exciting and a terrific segue into your book. It might even make it easier to get that book published — just sayin’.

    As for your final questions about finding time for my own creative pursuits, I haven’t quite mastered that. It seems to me Patricia that you should be advising me on how I could get more creative work done. You’ve got so much on the go with your writing, your photographing, your bees, your blog. Yeesh, I could use a bit of that creative energy over here.

    Amber Lee at wrote a great post about “Finding Balance” on January 3. What she made me realize is this: a tight-rope walker doesn’t just find her balance and walk out onto the rope. She reduces obstacles, keeps the end in sight and finds balance with each and every step. I think I need to learn to be a better tight-rope walker — maybe even learn to even do a few flourishes and tricks while I’m at it.

    • patricia Jan 7, 2011 @ 16:34

      I think you’re right about articles making book publication more likely. I’ve been thinking about that too. If I want to get the book published, I have to establish myself as someone worth reading.

      I liked Amber Lee’s post very much. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I accomplish things slowly. Sure I knit, but I only complete a handful of projects each year. I don’t post lots of my photos to flickr; I don’t even post here nearly as often as many bloggers do. And my book is going to take years! That’s okay, where I lack speed, I have stamina. I’m as stubborn as they come.

      I guess my tightrope is very, very long. 🙂

  • Nancy Jan 6, 2011 @ 13:51

    You said “… But you have no time for this!” Is your book on a deadline? Real or imagined?

    It may be cliche to say, but here goes: follow your bliss.

    Worst cast scenario – You work on this article for a few months, nothing comes of it, but you will have learned something from the experience.

    Best case scenario – You publish a feature article that supports your work and passions.

    When you see your son start to build a tower of sorts, one that you know won’t stand, do you stop him or let him try? Did he succeed when you didn’t think he would? Was he worse off when it didn’t work? I think we tend to do edit ourselves when we would never do it to our children.

    Be good to yourself. What is your bliss? Writing? Then either way, you win.

    • patricia Jan 7, 2011 @ 19:00

      Thanks for coming back to visit, Nancy!

      Nope, there’s no deadline for my book. In fact, I know that it will take me a few years to write. I decided to make the writing of it public here, as a way of motivating myself. The flip-side of that is that not working on it for a few months makes me feel a little guilty.

      But you’re right, at the very least I’ll learn something from my little side project. In fact, I already have, and it’s fascinating stuff!

      Thanks for the support!

  • molly Jan 9, 2011 @ 9:26

    i so admire you. i goof off constantly, and therefore don’t accomplish much at all. but i think your two projects go hand in hand and are parallel roads to a similar destination.

    • patricia Jan 10, 2011 @ 11:25

      Don’t accomplish much…pshaw! Your goofing off is always an inspiration. I think we two go about projects differently, but both are parallel roads to a similar destination.


  • Carrie Pomeroy Jan 11, 2011 @ 21:40

    I think it’s best to follow what’s calling you and not turn the book project into a “should.” The info you glean from a feature article will probably feed your book project, and publishing the article would help in eventually publishing the book, as you and others have said.

    Looking forward to reading what you have to say!

    • patricia Jan 12, 2011 @ 17:32

      It’s always great to have someone release you from your shoulds!

      Thanks, Carrie.

  • Kristin Jan 26, 2011 @ 15:50

    You’ll find your way, especially if you make yourself horizontal on your new couch, close your eyes and do a few minutes of deep breathing, every day. It’s restoring. An answer will arrive in your mind from doing that–or walking–or showering. Good Luck Amiga!

    • patricia Jan 27, 2011 @ 11:44

      Ah yes, I never do find enough time to sprawl on my couch. But I have been knitting there more often recently, and that’s something!

      But showering–that’s something I do! And you’re right: it’s often the place where my ideas come together. Funny how that works.

      Thanks for the support, Kristin!

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