When the cold of winter comes
Starless night will cover day
In the veiling of the sun
We will walk in bitter rain
But in dreams
I can hear your name
And in dreams
We will meet again
When the seas and mountains fall
And we come, to end of days
In the dark I hear a call
Calling me there,
I will go there
And back again
- The Breaking of the Fellowship
Carnal apple, Woman filled, burning moon,
dark smell of seaweed, crush of mud and light,
what secret knowledge is clasped between your pillars?
What primal night does Man touch with his senses?
Ay, Love is a journey through waters and stars,
through suffocating air, sharp tempests of grain:
Love is a war of lightning,
and two bodies ruined by a single sweetness.
Kiss by kiss I cover your tiny infinity,
your margins, your rivers, your diminutive villages,
and a genital fire, transformed by delight,
slips through the narrow channels of blood
to precipitate a nocturnal carnation,
to be, and be nothing but light in the dark.
- Pablo Neruda
Character Strength Trumps IQ and Cognitive Skills
The above link is about a great book I’m currently reading, and it’s posted on my new productivity blog “Thought Soup.”
I’ve started the new blog in order to separate some of the creative-disorganization madness from my main blog. Main blog will keep functioning as a place for me to be me, but I’m trying to separate the philosophy/creativity/productivity stuff so people don’t have to sift though a maze. :)
Thanks for following <3
Positive Psychology: Grit and Willpower
A recent Brain Pickings article introduced me to the ideas of psychologist Angela Duckworth, who studies the psychology of achievement.
Duckworth: “In particular I’m interested in two qualities: self-control and grit. Because these collectively determine how much effort people put toward their pursuits. Grit is about really sustaining your commitments over the very long term.”
Her idea of “grit” deeply resonated with me, as I’ve noticed a similar quality in the achievement my own work and life goals. Formerly, I referred to this ambiguous quality necessary to sustain my commitment to projects as “stamina”.
For example, while it’s easy to want to write a novel, I have to have the stamina to sustain the project over a long period of time. This requires that each day, I make the decision to sit down and work on my novel.
Duckworth makes a careful distinction between the motivation for a pursuit (ie. the desire to write the novel), and the willpower to do it (ie. the act of sitting down to do it each day.)
We’ve all met those dreamers––who are always coming up with the next great thing they’re motivated to achieve––but who never actually sit down to do it, and thus never actually achieve anything.
Motivation is the necessary prerequisite to achievement; but grit and self-control (volition) enable us to achieve. In fact, Duckworth’s research shows that “grit” is a more reliable predictor or success than IQ.
While there’s many places we could go with this information, the purpose of my simplified recap has been to highlight the reality of that every day input and willpower.
As artists, we are all dreamers. But we must also sit down to make the dream a reality. Moment to moment. Day to day. So, think of this next time you’re worrying about your projects, wondering what to do or where your going, how to deal with all the problems, etc.: one of the most important decisions you can make is simply to sit down and work at it. That’s grit.
But I have one objection: why call it “grit”? While I admit, I’ve referred to a similar trait as “stamina,” I’m starting to think these words are faulty. Both grit and stamina suggest a bull-headed approach. A “grit-your-teeth and get through it” mentality.
While it’s true, as Duckworth emphasizes, this willpower factor is hard. What if we could make it less hard simply by the way we framed it. For example, I’ll look at my exercise routine.
When I go to the gym, I can look at it in one of two ways:
1. I need to run because it is good for me.
I this vein of thinking, I am running because I know I will get some abstract benefit. I may not like running, but I’m going to grit my teeth and get through it because I know I should.
2. When I run, I feel good.
In this mode, I’m thinking of how good I feel when I run. How good my body and mind feel.
When I think the second way, I’m much more likely to go to the gym. In this mindset, I’m not thinking about long-term abstract achievement, even though that may be part of my initial motivation. Instead, I’m thinking about right now, at this moment, how running is good––and that enables me to make the decision at this moment, to go to the gym. It enables my willpower. And I don’t have to grit my teeth to do it.
In fact, all my life I’ve tended to think of the gym in the first way. I never liked exercise. I found it incredibly hard and even boring. When I exercised, I literally was gritting my teeth just to get through it. But over time I’ve managed to alter my mindset to focus on the second way of thinking. I focus on that good feeling I get after running.
Over the past months I’ve somehow become a runner without meaning to. I often run four or five miles, when my goal was simply to feel that good feeling I get when I run. I ENJOY running. It’s hard work, really hard work. But it feels good.
I can reframe other activities with similar mindsets. Instead of being scared of writing, for example, and pushing through anyway, I can remind myself of the pleasure I get from writing.
Instead of saying to myself, “You have to write right now, so push through,” I might say, “Today, I’m giving you permission to enjoy writing.” Not only will I write more in the second way of thinking, I’ll produce better quality work.
In fact, most activities have some innate pleasure or reward that I could focus on in order to enable my willpower. Even cleaning the house feels good. So do I really need to grit my teeth through cleaning the house? Not if I can frame it the right way.
I’m a very private person.
This blog is counter to that. So, it’s very strange for me. I guess that’s part of why I’m doing it.
Posting my thoughts or pictures to a public forum isn’t something I’d normally do. But I’m still figuring out a lot of me. On one hand, I know myself extremely well: I tend to know what I want, where I’m going. But on the other hand, I never want to start taking who I am for granted, as if there’s one side of me.
I always want to be exploring.
Lately, I’m trying to figure out this whole online presence thing. Does it even represent me? Does it matter? Why post publicly in the first place?
Is it narcissistic to post pictures or thoughts, especially pictures of oneself, online? I don’t know. I think for me, it’s more about figuring out what I am. Fashion feels like an extension of my creative self. Like a way to express the playful side of me, which sometimes is less obvious. It feels good to dress in ways that feel like me, and it’s also fun to share with other people.
I’m not sure if I can express everything I’m thinking on this, but I’ve put some words down, so here goes.
I have the Italian nose, the German wit, the Irish sense of home, yet the adventurous nature of (supposedly) Czech gypsies, a distant-relative who was a Mexican beauty queen, and another a bull-fighter, and probably a million other things. History swirls around us, sometimes visible in our faces: “you look like someone … “, sometimes an imperceivable echo pulling the corners of the wind. We are all connected, and everything we do ripples out through the universe, connecting us again, and again.
Freedom must be a contradiction, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a thing. To be free, there must be something you are free from. Hence, always boundaries. But that’s precisely the beauty of it, possibly. That despite everything that is, everything that wants to hold you in or change you, you persist.
The artist craves a kind of beauty that hurts. Like love. To be so intimate and so pure, so raw with something, that you feel all of it––as if you could know it utterly, and it also, know you. Every molecule of what this world is penetrating the fibers of your body, until you are so impossibly real nothing can every alienate you from this, your fast and disastrous reality. The immediacy of life, innumerable, infinite. And yet so right now. Be.
Start running. Don’t dip your toes in, vacillating between submersion and the futile wish that you could on walk on water. Just plunge. Cold slimy tickles crawl your spine. Fish fingers. And light, whatever light becomes when it stutters through the glass, split into scales. A music of density, the oh-so-quiet woosh in your ears. Sound is a silence here. And thickness is freedom: you float. You sweep your toes, up and down, across the floor, until sweeping becomes dancing, becomes flying. A dynamic of gravity reversed, where everything wants to buoy you instead of tugging you down. You are, at last, effortless. As you wanted to be. You. Let go.