Rendered Fat Content


Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell:
Old Father William Turning a Somersault,
from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
(c. 1901)

"I might accomplish my Publishing without too much suffering …"

The prospect of a four-and-a-half-hour airplane ride opened up some space I couldn't find while sitting at my desk. I had been unable to locate the space I felt I needed to complete the arduous manuscript assembly process for just one of the titles I'd started assembling when I began this series. I have more than a dozen backlogged. I'd been dutifully chronicling activities I had not actually been doing, but then that tactic seemed typical of my usual approach to anything. I feel the urge to nail down the philosophy of something before fully immersing myself in it. Why should Publishing prove any different? Especially the daunting effort to assemble individual blog posts into manuscript form, an inevitable copy/paste/match-style coma inducer, intricate, supremely dull, and requiring pulling down commands because I cannot decipher their keystroke equivalents:
⌘⌥⌃V, for instance.

I admit I had avoided getting too much into the thick of this effort. It scared me.
What if I couldn't finish it? It's often the case that once I engage in something, I encounter a little something within it that I hadn't fully imagined when choosing my target, and that the something turns out to seem a whole lot bigger than I can stomach, let alone swallow. I want to have done the effort more than find any passion for accomplishing it. Assembling the manuscripts turned out to be this for me, that part of the effort that seemingly couldn't hold any space for my heart to find itself within it. So I'd sort of let this essential task sit. Oh, I'd dabbled at it a bit but had only managed to make it about a quarter of my way through it before setting it aside again after losing interest.

Focused as only anyone can be when thirty-six thousand feet over Texas and keeping one eye peeled for clear air turbulence, I balanced my laptop crookedly on my lap. I could open the case only about two-thirds of the way, thanks to the kid in front of me choosing to recline his seatback, so I could only see the screen if I sat sort of sideways and looked at it askance, the sort of stance pretty much guaranteed to eventually produce a massive crick in my neck. I set to work, copying and pasting and then moving the graphic. Some of the graphic moves created only a highlighted link rather than an image, and I was still too unfamiliar with the manuscripting package to decipher why. I worked on that combination of intuition and superstition that sometimes yields results but not always. I might have just been imagining making progress.

The context there, seemingly hostile to any attempt at making progress, might have just been sufficiently disorienting to keep me moving forward. I did not find the work as dull as it had seemed when I possessed access to at least a dozen viable distractions. It held my fragmented attention, increasing its span. A couple of hours disappeared without my noticing. I somehow made it clear through to the bottom, ninety stories, with only a scant half dozen unresolved graphics problems. And even those quickly fell to fortunate attempts before the plane had landed. I arrived an enormously more successful publisher than I'd been when I departed.

I call this sort of experience Swooshing. I suspect that it explains part of why I tend to avoid grueling efforts. It's because I deep-down believe that, given some unknown set of conditions, much of the arduous nature of those efforts might just disappear. What constitutes those conditions remains undefinable in those moments when I find myself frozen in the face of challenges. Still, later, when I stumble upon those conditions, my suspicions get rewarded. It eventually turns out that, Yes!, there were some conditions that, if satisfied, would ease my ride. I'd never suspected that a crooked laptop in a crowded seat might meet the necessary conditions for me to finally finish one manuscript assembly effort.

I suspect Swooshing might be part of the Until It's Fun, It's Better Left Undone Ethic. Until it's easy, why bother? I understand that this notion violates most of the fabled Protestant Work Ethic. It somehow seems distinctly Buddhist or Daoist, some philosophy more focused upon quality of experience than punishment. It seems possible that I might accomplish my Publishing without too much suffering through the judicious involvement of Swooshing. Well, that, and some dedicated slacking, I guess.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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