Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Expectations are the worst!

Time and time again I get caught in emotional gridlock due to expectations and assumptions made either by me of others or by others of me.  Expectations are the worst! They are a sure fire way to suck enjoyment out of most situations and ruin otherwise perfectly pleasant interactions and relationships. 

Too bad. 

The biggest problem is that we are human. There is no perfect way to communicate; there are no perfect words. We don't come with directions and neither does any one else in the world.  We stumble along our paths, bumping recklessly into each other hoping we don't bruise each other or ourselves too badly in the process. We can't help our messiness.

There is a verse from the Tao Te Ching that states "The skillful traveler leaves no tracks." What a beautiful image to remind us how we all can aim to be more skillful in our lives!  It is a reminder that it is possible to skillfully navigate our way through the world-- not just toward the environment but toward each other. When we interact with each other we often leave behind a residue that they carry with them and that we carry with us from that point on.  The messier our interactions the thicker and more toxic the residue becomes. If only we could act with such clarity, respect, patience and non-attachment, that we didn't leave behind our nasty residue on each other.

But, unfortunately, it takes practice, and, in the best of cases, we will only ever be one half of a relationship. When we have unvoiced expectations of each other, we are brewing a our toxic soup of emotions. We are setting ourselves up for crisis, and, when we are unclear about what others can expect from us, then we are giving them an opportunity to brew their special blend of resentment, hurt, disappointment, fear, anger, jealousy or embarrassment.

We can't avoid all misunderstandings, but the clearer we communicate our needs to others and the more clearly we establish our boundaries in what they can expect from us, we increase our chances of avoiding total disaster.

And, when the occasional disaster strikes, we do what we can to mediate with compassion so we can move forward and try again.

Read more of the Dancing Poetess here:
I want to write gooder
Did you make your bed today?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I want to write gooder.

I haven't been blogging that much this month, in part because I have been writing so many other documents that I am "computered out" by the time the work day is done. In fact, I have discovered that most of the projects I have on my list of "things to do while on sabbatical" are sedentary, and, of those, the majority involve being on a computer. In other words, I am writing a lot just not blogging.

Here's what I have in the works: two first drafts for articles regarding dance literacy, half-completed legal and procedural documents for CDEA, and, last but not least, my actual sabbatical project on dance notation and literacy lesson plans. I have probably written about 10,000 words this month (a modest guess).

I believe I am a decent writer. I feel I am usually clear in my thoughts and have a generally easy time getting my point across. But, I acknowledge that I am not a strong copy editor. I know that my syntax is rather unvaried and that I often err on the side of sentences being short and to the point rather than complex and scholarly. Being a decent writer brought me this far and has served me well as a student and as a teacher, but these days I am asking more of my writing. I need my writing to be better than mediocre. I need it to be seamless, and I want it to be excellent.

I figure if my first drafts look more like second or even third drafts, I will be able to get more of my ideas out there in the world and be able to write and move on. My current writing practice looks something like this:
1. I get a jaw dropping, amazing idea (or at least an interesting one)
2. I jot it down in a flurry of passionate excitement
3. I leave it alone
- or-
4. I try to find a way to share it, which requires me to edit, edit, edit.
5. I reconsider leaving it alone.

Editing is both difficult and boring! It can be fun to edit someone else's work, but it is terrible to sit down and edit my own. So, rather than force myself into the throes of editing, I decided to take on the much more ridiculous task of becoming a better writer to begin with. Is this crazy?  Perhaps. But, I love learning, and, if I turn the task of improving my prose into a game of learning, I improve my chance at succeeding. Force-feeding myself the drudgery of the editing process is likely to kill my process outright.

Writing is a lot like choreographing. It is a creative practice that requires the creator to invest fully into the process. This requisite vulnerability is what makes editing one's own work so emotionally challenging and so seemingly impossible. It can feel like we are editing ourselves when we edit our writing. It's personal. The more passionately we feel about the topic, the more susceptible we are to a painful editing process.

We all need a safe space to practice. Cue trumpet fanfare. Welcome to blogging!

Those of you who read my blog know that I'm not a perfectionist when it comes to grammar (I have probably made a dozen mistakes so far in this very post! Learning is a process). I care more about the lesson, the content, the issue at hand. But, I have a lot to say, and I don't always have a lot of time to get it out. In this case, the issue is how I can become a better writer. So, I will try my hand now and again with various lessons I learn and maybe they will help you too. We can all use a brush up on our grammar, right?

Today's Lesson:
Taken from "How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar" by William Safire.
"When a dependent clause precedes an independent clause put a comma after the dependent clause."

Let's try that again.

When a dependent clause precedes an independent clause, put a comma after the dependent clause.

Now that's better. My goal is to practice using the various subordinators to start my sentences and see if that yields a little more variety in my writing.  Wish me luck!

List of Common Subordinators:
as if
as long as
as soon as
even if
in case
so that