Like I said in my last post — my mind is very much over in America. I keep on making grand plans of all the things I’m going to work on when I get back.
The thing is — sometimes planning can get in the way of doing. Sometimes the longer I spend planning to do something the more I feel this weight that it has to be REALLY, REALLY good when I do it because, after all, I’ve invested so much time to it already in the planning stage.
I’m not against planning but the best way to get in the habit of doing is by doing.
One of the things I was planning to do when I got back was to blog in earnest. But here I find myself with a room, some time in the evening, and an internet connection in Switzerland. So why wait till I get home with all the pressure of the long-planned blog that must be so great?
Writing of how one should make pleasing conversation the poet George Herbert recommended one’s discourse be “courteous, useful, new, or wittie” and he explains:
“Usefulness comes by labour, wit by ease;
Courtesie grows in court; news in the citie.”
When it comes to the issue of planning, the first two he mentions, wit and usefulness, particularly stand out to me. If I say “when such a time shall come, then shall I write great poems, and essays for a great blog” can I accomplish my goal? I think that on the one hand you can labour for usefulness — you can work to communicate information. You can just commit yourself to so much labour and I think you can share something useful.
But wit is a more ticklish matter. Actually one of my (probably unfounded) fears in life is that I’ll lose my ability to tell jokes. The reason being is that unlike some things that I know how I can work to accomplish following certain ordered steps, I don’t know how I come up with jokes. It’s like I don’t know what the thought process is leading up to the creation of the joke. Then I hardly know the joke has been conceived before I’m speaking it. Sure, sometimes I work on a joke but that moment of inspiration seems in a way to happen outside of that which one can “work on.”
It’s kind of like composing a four voice song — once you have the melody the work of voicing the harmonies can be done in this secure “I know how to work the problem out” part of your brain. I’m not afraid I’ll lose that music theory knowledge. But at least for me, making up the melody happens more in that mysterious part of my mind where I don’t know the rules, I just hope it comes up with something good. I feel like I can only indirectly try to help that part of my mind.
I think it’s an unfounded fear that I’ll lose the ability to tell jokes, but I, like a lot of you, have experienced not being able to tell jokes or be witty in certain company. This is what I mean by indirectly helping that part of your mind. You feel like you can’t just go into that part of your mind directly with tools and make it operate exactly as you want it to, but (lest we should seem too helpless) you can affect your mood, you can stimulate your mind with interesting thoughts, and you can seek to put yourself in company you’re comfortable with.
The last one is so important. I don’t think I’ll ever lose my ability to tell jokes as long as I have that comfort area of my family and some close friends. I will always be at ease enough among them for my mind to roll out some jokes.
I think this is something like what Herbert is referring to. You can put in the work to be able to share something useful, but to have that witty, clever, funny, or to the point turn of phrase instantaneously, you need to find an ease in company.
So if I’m to be witty, I can’t just do it all by planning. You can’t plan out all your clever replies to the happenings of the moment months in advance (like freezing boiled water for later,) you have to be at ease.
I actually am going to wait till I get back to America to begin some subjects that I have in mind for a blog. But I decided I needed to start carving out an ease in writing for the internet or else those weightier subjects will end up being written in a pretty lugubrious style.
Perhaps when I was talking about that unconscious part of your brain, from whence it seems that ideas flow, I came across as valuing mystical inspiration over work. I actually believe you can just schedule yourself writing practice and improve — you don’t need to always wait for the lightning strike of inspiration. But part of what that practice is all about is carving out that space, that place in which you’re comfortable. There’s a lot you can do to help the flow of ideas. The point of this post is that planning, while it has benefits can also be a weight on creativity.
Herbert also gives you practical steps to learn courtesy and news. Don’t just wait for the mystical gift of these things. You can do something to gain them.
Anyway, I’m blogging so that I can gain ease at it by blogging about blogging to get more comfortable with blogging.
And I’m doing it right now so that I don’t get that freeze up that can come with keeping something at the planning stage for a long time.