Sunday, June 22, 2014

Plateaus

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”  
Michael Jordan


I've been digging Michael Jordan quotes lately. This one especially because it speaks to the spinning of wheels that happens when we plateau. This is relevant to me because have been feeling kind of stuck lately, frustrated that I have yet to find the right agent/publisher and have been unable to really work on my longer projects. Because I have a concentrated amount of time coming up for a writing residency this summer, I want to break this feeling. Now! 

This isn't the first time I have felt as though I should be progressing faster than I am. I have quite a few experiences with plateauing. I used to train for road races, for example, and I remember wondering why I could never seem to break the 40 minute 5-mile time. My frustration seemed to grow, but my times were not getting faster. Thing is, I was doing the same workouts every week, just trying harder. My training never seemed to get much easier, so I never moved beyond. I figured if I kept at it every day, eventually it would just feel more natural and then I could try a little harder. Doing the same routes again and again means getting stuck, and, more, it tends to mean my heart isn't in whatever I'm doing.  


Mastery is a slow process because a number of steps precede it. The 10,000 hours or so that make an expert, however, don't do it on their own. There has to be some deliberate methodology for all those hours, clear growth. This is something I've come to learn over quite a bit of failure and a few successes. The things that remain important day in and day out should be invested in. But, we also have to figure out how to best plan our journey forward. 

Over the last week, I have been reminded numerous times how important community is. Broadening our community is what helps us to push boundaries because it allows us to see things in new ways. We must continue to challenge ourselves, and if we can't figure out how to do so, look outside self. Inspiration is everywhere. See those who are doing what you want to do, and ask yourself what they're doing differently. This is something I have to remind myself of often. Appreciate, challenge self, and learn.



For me, a more varied and strength-based training session every week helped me to prepare. The day came when I breezed through a race, and reached my goal. I remember being baffled by how easy it felt once I reached it, and I quickly forgot how impossible it once seemed. Such things can happen again.  
I think the h is implied

This week's prompt:

Write about a character who feels stuck, in some respect. This could mean she's stuck in a dead-end job, or he's stuck in a pattern of over-consumption. Whatever's sticking in his or her life, this character needs change. Write 1,000 words about the attempt to break through. And whether or not goals are reached, the journey will encompass awkwardness, struggle and realization. Sometimes, we plateau because we're happy where we are. Sometimes because we're just not going about things logically. Many endings are possible, and I think this will be a fun one to write.

I'm personally going to torture this character, and I'll have fun doing it. Ah, the joys of writing. 


In a way, perhaps these prompts are going to help me to break through my rut, and, as I said earlier, so is community. Looking outside. For a long time, all I read was the type of stuff I wrote (literary fiction), but I have been using my nightly reading time to consume more poetry and nonfiction and have been challenging myself (as one must do post-schooling) to learn about new things. I started reading about memorization techniques, and a friend challenged me to memorize "Spring and All" by William Carlos Williams in a night--to put said techniques to the test. I'll talk more about my experience with this next week (I really will because I have a lot to say about it), but let me just say now that given my feeble memory with its sad track record, this was WAY out of my comfort zone, and it was comical but also rewarding. This is what community does. Little nudges.    


Have a great week all, and if you have the drive, drive yourself right outside of that comfort zone a little just to see. 


Jen  





*Self promo: My new chapbook (available on Amazon in eForm) is on giveaway again at Goodreads. Check it out, if you want to win a free hard copy. It's short and sweet. Read it, add it, show it love. I appreciate the read and would love to know what you think.





    

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