Rendered Fat Content


Arthur Wesley Dow, Pencil Proof (early 20th century)

"Great inconvenience can be tolerated to ease the prep."

Yesterday's SetTheory story,
SurfaceTension, only introduced a topic key to my navigating through to finally produce my performable SetList. New readers should understand that I'm just shy of two months into an effort to resurrect a set of my own compositions into a performable set of songs such that I might perform a house concert around the upcoming Solstice. I've been introducing here the songs I'm considering including and following my process for preparing, which doesn't always seem very much like a process at all. Yesterday's story reported on the barriers to entry I encounter when I attempt to enter the once-familiar singer/songwriter space. The door does not seem wide open. I bump into encumbrances. I recognize these for what they are, completely normal, but I'm feeling a need to more deeply explain what I'm learning about overcoming these.

Upon closer scrutiny, I perceive some commonality between what I'm experiencing resurrecting my songs and what I came to understand about managing projects, back when I worked as a project management consultant.
I came to understand that most people would naturally and understandably first focus upon what seemed most tangible about a project. They'd set about creating a schedule, believing that once created, that could serve as the anchor for the rest of the effort. But schedules do not exist independently from a raft of much more subtle components, what I might label A Context. One might relatively easily produce a perfectly adequate-appearing schedule without understanding the first thing about the context within which they're operating, but it will prove a superficial undertaking, one which quietly ignores critical elements. Indeed, I came to understand that producing such schedules, ones created without first adequately surveying the surrounding territory, reliably produced only faux progress. A budding project manager could meet every deadline while utterly undermining his fullest intentions.

Counteracting this tendency required some serious reprogramming, some focused distracting into areas seemingly irrelevant to the "real" task at hand, that of creating a serviceable schedule. This side trip proved necessary because actual scheduling requires a manner of thinking orthogonal to straightforward sequencing. One needed to understand, for instance, how it was that prior projects succeeded or failed, because future efforts always follow paths first traversed in some past. Right or wrong, these prove to be the path of least resistance, so the organization will unselfconsciously first lean in their direction. Understanding this can avoid the turf battles arising from proposing that something be approached from a "wrong" direction. One's always better off if they know from where even their allies are coming. Anticipation becomes a significant part of this seemingly straightforward game. The alternatives involve inadvertent blindsiding, rarely the key to easy understanding.

It turns out that no project can ever be meaningfully scheduled by employing the manner of thinking that proposed it. This principle becomes the basis for all of the considerable apparent milling around involved in making meaningful initial progress. The project manager and then the team must somehow manage to adopt that different manner of thinking, an absolutely unthinkable proposition from within any more superficial beginning. One, for instance, cannot usually learn a language by simply cracking a book about it. As my daughter learned each new semester when introducing a fresh class to second-year Spanish, about six weeks of disorienting immersion might provide enough context that a student might actually start thinking and so speaking in that language. Grammar exercises almost never got anyone there because they didn't impart any different manner of thinking. She deferred testing until after people had stumbled upon their necessary manner of thinking.

The understandable desire to make immediate progress tends to be the primary force preventing real progress from occurring. Particularly when pursuing some novel objective, like I'm pursuing resurrecting my SetList, I cannot precisely predict the shape of my learning curve. I might too easily imagine it as a gently upward-sloping path, when it will more probably trace an initially asymptotic one showing little progress before swooshing up altogether too close to the ending. If I survey the territory I've traversed in the past when pursuing stuff I'd never attempted before, that long nosed, short-tailed pattern becomes most obvious. I'm better off, more reassured, when I notice that I'm following my normal trajectory rather than merely stalled out near the beginning. Both explanations exhibit the same trajectory.

I'm arguing for SurfacePrep when encountering that SurfaceTension. That tension might be there to remind me that I'm not omniscient. I might even be lost. I have few real clues about what I'm supposed to do and how to do that. My tacit presumptions rule unless I can stumble upon some more explicit ones. It might turn out that I'm a well-practiced expert at accomplishing things I've never accomplished before. Perhaps not precisely this specific thing, but I've seen a raft of precedents. I know, for instance, that one simply must remove the baseboards and doors if one expects to efficiently repaint a room. This strategy seems counter-intuitive because it is, but experience informs that the SurfacePrep is always more significant than applying any final coats. Great inconvenience can be tolerated to ease the prep. The finish coats will be mere flourishes in comparison. That house concert will last an hour or less. The SurfacePrep will have taken about a day short of three full months. When was anything ever different than this?


Expected To Make Do
I completed my writing week without the questionable benefit of an understanding of where I was heading, other than a feeling that I hoped wasn't materially misleading me. I followed my nose, I guess, which doesn't always help me avoid leaving a mess. I was a Prospector running on intentions and hoping for the best, or, more precisely, not really holding myself to producing my best, either, I could have satisfied myself with some simple good enoughs, even worse. This isn't rocket science. It might be its opposite. I usually plot my trajectory in retrospect, taking my early Friday mornings to assess progress or its absence. I can at least drive a stake into this present and declare with a little fanfare that I'm here. So much of my time seems suspended out of time these short, late-Autumn days. The early darkness seems just as disappointing as the delayed dawning. An amended hour or two in the early afternoon provides the little sunshine with which I'm apparently expected to make do, so I do.

I began my writing week declaring myself a Prospector seeking something other than gold in
Prospector. "Give me a man who's satisfied with his beans and coffee, and accepting of the means he must muster to acquire them, for he's wealthier than anyone who begrudges his station."
Marsden Hartley: Landscape No. 3, Cash Entry Mines, New Mexico (1920)

I next wrote a story about my guitar, a Martin D-18 Dreadnought, in Noughting "I know that I have nothing to dread when I'm playing that damned thing, the finest available anywhere in the world, easily as storied as any Steinway piano."
Juan Gris: Nature morte cubiste à la guitarem (1924)

I then took a rare and sorely needed day of
Rest."Today, my story represents the tacit component of the effort. Today, I rest."
Arthur Wesley Dow: Boats at Rest (c. 1895)

I introduced perhaps my greatest hit, a song that represents my songwriting high water mark as well as my life philosophy with InconviencingMyself. "It properly describes perhaps the central tenet of my entire life philosophy, that being: The Most Important Things Happen At The Least Convenient Times."
Arthur Wesley Dow: The Long Road--Argilla Road, Ipswich (1898)
As has become the rule recently, the most popular story this week reported on The Muse's progress through cancer treatment, where she's running *Marathons. "She continues to respond in the affirmative when asked if she wants to continue with the clinical study. When going through Hell, Churchill insisted, one must keep going, and going we are. She's the prow, taking the brunt of the punishment. I get collateral damage."
Arthur Wesley Dow: Crater Lake (1919)
I noticed that I might have become entirely too expert at Excusing. "I was reared by tough mentors, ones who insisted that I could have everything I want or the stories about how I could never quite get everything I wanted, and that I could only choose one of those alternatives. In their world, Excusing itself seemed inexcusable."
Martin Schongauer: Saint Sebastian (c. 1480-1490)
I ended my writing week struggling to gain entry through some sometimes overwhelming SurfaceTension. "I'm not always successful in propelling myself through, and might abandon an attempt for a day, discouraged by the utter frustration encouraged by the effort."
Vasily Kandinsky: Improvisation No. 30 (Cannons) (1913)

I declare what I just recounted to have achieved the rough equivalent of progress. I introduced two more of my tunes and also my guitar. I stole some rest while continuing to run marathons. I soundly rejected the notion that there's any such thing as adequate excusing. This was a week almost entirely comprised of SurfaceTension, one properly ended with the belated acknowledgement of the necessity of SurfacePrep before expecting to finish. I'm apparently still starting until I'm very nearly done, or so my experience strongly suggests. Thanks for following along!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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