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QUOTES (permalink) 03.28.2012
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
potty words

WEB (permalink) 03.13.2012
due to a project deadline, i have need to step away for a bit.

see you 3/26.

HEALTH (permalink) 03.09.2012
ah, hell!
i'm sick. i'm convinced this and half of my illnesses 1 can be tied back to a hand-shake i made with a person who i heard say, to someone else, moments later that they were finally coming over something. thanks.

while i love the cordial and storied tradition of the handshake, i think i've decided i'm done with them. as for how i'll dodge an outstretched hand i'll simply confess that one of my children is home sick and they don't want anything to do with the microbes that have pitched tents in my little humans. i figure that's like two slots below circling my office in a red CONTAGION tape.

oddly, i think hugs are still ok so don't by surprised if you suddenly find me all up in your business.

1 the other half can surely be tied to surprise, wet, sloppy zerburts from kids with mucus plugs filling their nostrils or them taking pulls off my drink before i realize i'm sharing my cup with a plague victim.

BOOKS, QUOTES (permalink) 03.08.2012
i wish more people were preaching this message
Ritual, Willpower, and the Final Push
When writing his most recent book, Be Excellent at Anything (2010), Schwartz structured his day into three ninety minute writing bursts that allowed him to complete the book working only four and a half hours a day for three months. Our brains, Schwartz discovered, become easily fatigued. They need breaks in order to refuel, to be able to refocus, create, and produce. When we don't give them the needed time to refuel, they more or less start to shut down and ratchet up the mood crank factor until we have to listen. By then we've often spent hours at work, without actually accomplishing a whole lot of work.

But it's not just the lost creativity, cognitive function, and productivity that take a hit when we don't stop to refuel on a regular enough basis. Willpower is annihilated and fear and anxiety run amok when you don't give your brain a chance to refuel.

In his book How We Decide (2009), Jonah Lehrer points to the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as the seat of self-control or willpower. The problem is, the PFC is easily fatigued.


Willpower, it turns out, is a depletable resource. Tasks that involve heavy thinking, working memory, concentration, and creativity tax the PFC in a major way and ... it doesn't take all that much to draw your willpower tank down to near zero.

Why should you care? Two reasons. What we often experience as resistance, desire, distraction, burnout, fatigue, frustration, and anxiety in the process of creating something from nothing may, at least in part, be PFC depletion that reduces our willpower to zero and makes it near impossible to commit to the task at hand—especially if the task wars with our creative orientation. In addition, what so many creators experience as a withering ability to handle the anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty as a project nears completion may actually be self-induced rather than process-induced suffering.

Think about your own process. As you near the launch of a new venture, the completion of a manuscript, or the creation of a collection of artwork for an upcoming show, you tend to put in more hours. You work for longer periods of time without breaks. You sleep less and do so more fitfully. You stop exercising, meditating, listening to music, and creating deliberate space in your day. You eat like hell (or don't eat enough) and push away conversations and activities that take you away from your endeavor because you just don't have the time (or so you think). You abandon your more humane creation routine and rituals in the name of getting it done.

What happens? All those things stack on top of each other to systematically juice your PFC and empty your willpower tank, then keep it empty. You'll very likely experience that loss of willpower and hit to your ability to self-regulate your behavior as the evil, nasty resistance getting stronger as you get closer to completing your endeavor. In reality, a series of subtle shifts in your own behavior are causing much of the distress.

If you're someone who creates largely in a vacuum, as you get closer to the end of your endeavor you're also starting to get to the place where you've got to go public or at least reveal your creation to the first line of your potential "judges." Exposure to judgment and risk of loss begin to become far more real to you. That kicks the amygdala's fear and anxiety responses into high gear at a point when your PFC is too wiped out to do much to counter it.

Well-planned, burst-driven creation rituals with recovery periods go a long way toward taming the evil nasties that arise as a project progresses by allowing the PFC to refuel along the way. I experimented with this when writing this book. When I wrote my earlier book, Career Renegade, I spent the final week slumped on the couch in the tattered remains for an extra-heavy Champion sweatshirt from college-writing, sweating, thinking, muttering, spinning, and randomly cursing for the better part of sixteen hours a day. Not fun. I felt a bit like I was waging creative warfare.

This time around, I committed to a ritual that was much closer to Schwartz's. I still donned the ancient sweatshirt. And the week before the manuscript was due, I still had a ton of work to do on it. But i stuck to my bursts, took breaks to meditate, eat, play guitar, walk outside, play with my wife and daughter, and talk to friends. Amazingly enough, the work still got done, the the process became substantially more humane. lesson learned.
excerpt from uncertainty by jonathan fields

KIDS (permalink) 03.07.2012
what moves faster than the speed of light?
bella turned eleven yesterday.

yeah, i know.

her gifts. marty gave her a house key and i gave her this.

my mother is the only person i've ever known harder to shop for than this small girl. she loves to read so you could get her a book or two but it's hard to compete with the library we have in walking distance given the pace in which she ravages books. the only other two things she's interested in would be a stable of animals and more hours in the day so she could draw more pictures of animals. to this end i also got her some proper drawing gear—sketch pads, pencils, colored pencils, pink pearl erasers, an art bin for storage—because to date she's been fully content drawing her horses on the backsides of scrap paper with nubby, eraserless pencils. it's certain she gets this contentedness from her mother which aside from good health is possibly the best gift one human can pass to another.

note: the knitting army logo was made and donated by designer extraordinaire, tracy dorsey.

KIDS (permalink) 03.06.2012
who am i to stand in the way of such initiative?

ANTHONY (age 5)
i've got a new chore.

yeah. what is that?

rubbing your back with that thing you like.

oh. ok.

and then you'll give me a allowance.

i see.

i need more chores because i'm saving to buy something.

yeah. what's that?

a house. for when i leave here. so i have a place to live.

this is how it began. good to his word, later that day he appeared before me with the wooden back-massager in hand and said it was time for my scratch. in full need of a twenty minute nap anyway, i readily obliged and took my place on the bed face down. anthony positioned himself by my side and began running the four wooden balls up and down the length of my back. having been the recipient of many a child's back-scratch, my expectation was this would continue for less than two minutes and he would announce he was tired and move to his next distraction. instead, he drove the object around my back for at least three minutes. then i sensed a shift and waited for the "i'm done, this is boring" proclamation but it didn't come. the movement was just so he could switch hands. another three minutes. another shift. this third shift had moved to both hands and he was over me like someone doing chest compressions.

the next thing i recall he was pushing my shoulder and whispering in my ear that my scratch was over and could he have his allowance. i barely managed to ask if i could pay him after my nap. he said sure and scampered off the bed and i went back to the meadows in my brain.

if anthony's new scramble for money encroaches on any child-labor laws i might have a problem on my hands because while i've yet to ask him for one of his dollar scratches, i've yet to turn one down once offered.

FAMILY (permalink) 03.01.2012
topsy-turvy - part 1
life was humming along like a newly installed operating system. my project work was on schedule. i was well-rested. i actually saw days, a few of them even, where my daily goals were met and i had an hour, a free hour on my hands. in these astonishingly rare moments, i slid my book from the shelf and sank into a couch corner for a guilt free hour of recreational reading. through all of my systems and processes, these are the moments i'm so effortfully chasing.

getting in this steady clip was extra important because i was due to have knee surgery the following week and would be sidelined—and drugged—for a day or two. i worked hard to enter this planned downtime in a sane, comfortable mindset. then with surgery six days out, my office phone rang. it was worded as a professional favor but proved to be more of an emergency. my next five days (a saturday and sunday included) were completely fouled. it was like a monsoon destroyed my picked up house and manicured lawn. any pre-existing order was devastated.

the end came at 3pm the day before my surgery. at 1pm this same day my doctor's office called and said they had to move my slot from 2pm to 6am. at first i was elated because this took my fasting-period from fourteen hours to a mere seven. child's play. but when i called marty with the change i could see her body sag over the phone as she said, "but i had all the kids covered for 2pm. how am i supposed to get someone at five in the morning?" oh. yes. that.

i'll skip over the four hours marty spent scrambling for a solution and just move to what she came up with. a neighbor i work with had told marty of a service we have through our employer benefits. it's essentially subsidized, emergent care for children and aging parents. the neighbor had expressed great satisfaction with this service. marty called me and told me to to call them to set up an account. so at 5:30pm i registered with this company. at 6pm marty called them and described our 5am need, now a mere eleven hours away. they said they were on it and we would hear back by 10pm.

at 9:30 i was certain we were going to get the "sorry we tried but we just didn't have enough notice" call. instead the phone rang an 9:45. a confident voice introduced herself as emily and said she would be watching our children in the morning. after my expressions of relief, she went on to ask a series of questions so cogent, i started taking notes for future reference. pets. allergies. name of the kids' school. neighbors names. my destroyed house was beginning to look much better. and the next morning this girl, emily, arrived on the dot. she even cleaned the breakfast dishes, put away the couch that marty had pulled out for her to sleep on until the kids woke up, and left us a debrief on the backside of the note marty left her.

oh, and one thing i didn't mention in all of this is that during the initial bum-rush of mayhem, our refrigerator stopped worked (and would be in that non-working state for eleven days.)

oh, and one other thing. the service we were so happy with is called bright horizons and if you have access/ability to use them, i'd recommend them. highly.

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