The Ethics of Looking, Part 3

A shorter post than usual — Wednesday is choir night, after all.

I’m following up on previous musings regarding the topic-cluster of domestic violence, NFL culture, media news vultures and Ray and Janay Rice. Here are parts 1 (soapbox mode) and 2 (my own complicity).

Let’s call Part 3, “When ethics cause inconvenience; or: walking the walk.

Apparently, John Stewart had some very insightful, incisive and funny things to say on The Daily Show last week about how the NFL handled Ray Rice’s February assault on his wife (then fiancee) — or, one could say, how they didn’t handle the incident.

I wouldn’t know. Or at least, I wouldn’t know past the 30-second mark, ‘cos that’s when the first frame from TMZ showed up.*

Continue reading “The Ethics of Looking, Part 3”

At War with Stephen Covey

Have you ever seen Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants of time management? I wouldn’t be surprised if you had: Gaia knows they’re everywhere across the Internet, and they’re also featured as a core component of many many management and success seminars.


I’ve cherry-picked a reproduction of the quadrants that makes the point I want. The trick, according to this structure, is to maximize your investment in the “Important but Not Urgent” quadrant, so that important things don’t elevate to “Urgent and Important” (i.e., crisis level). In the meantime, be very wary of the “Urgent but Not Important” category, because this is where the majority of the time sucks and distractors are likely to be housed. (The expectation here is that “Not Urgent/Not Important” things are fairly easy to jettison, while the urgent unimportant things can sometimes be harder to let go of. Fair enough.)

But what if it’s pretty much all urgent and important?

I feel as if I live much of my life by what I have come to call the “bonfire method of project management.”  Which conflagration is burning hottest and brightest, most likely to take down the homestead? Well, throw a little water (effort, time attention) in that direction so it dies down a touch. Now re-assess: which fire is hottest now?

Lather, rinse, repeat. (Yes, I know: I’m mixing my elements along with my metaphors. Bad witch!)

This pattern may be nothing more than an ongoing demonstration at the way I suck at self-motivation and planning ahead. Regardless, I am living a week where pretty much everything feels legitimately Important. And the tension I’m feeling is that the most urgent (time-sensitive) of these important things are all the items driven by external responsibilities — hitting the next work deadline, doing my homework for the retreat weekend, packing for the trip — while the items on the list that are arguably less urgent (i.e., most readily postpone-able) are the tasks and practices I have chosen for myself — journal-writing, ed-reading, JALC.

priorities_despairYes, this is, admittedly, an oversimplification. After all, no one forced me into my wacky non-profit career, and even though the retreat homework and travel is a function of me following someone else’s  direction, the retreat is also an investment in my soul’s growth.

Still, this is another pattern that often runs in my life: putting a higher priority on my responsibilities to others as compared to my responsibility to myself. After all, one of the trickiest parts of Covey’s whole structure is figuring out an answer to this key question: Important to whom?

I was listening to The Jayhawks recently, and there’s a snatch of song lyric that captures this for me:

I don’t expect you to see
But she’s important to me, babe
I guess it’s just one man’s problem


After all, I bet those “Urgent but Not Important” things you’re supposed to be so wary of in your ruthless Covey-an self-management structure are things that are actually legitimately important to someone, if not to you. So that ruthlessly efficient choice setting you up for success could also be the kind of choice that’s screwing some other poor sap over.

Maybe blogging or journal-writing or reading about education all seem like stupid priorities compared to Huge Essential Work projects and Elevated Cutting-Edge Soul Development work. Or, at least, maybe they would seem that way to someone outside my skin, outside my system, outside my soul and aura.

But they feel vitally important to me, babe. One woman’s priorities.

Which is why I continue cheating my sleep these past few days, trying to sprinkle some water on every last one of these important bonfires.

I don’t exactly know how I’m gonna make it to the plane intact at this pace, or, after that, how I’ll have enough gas in the tank to survive the weekend. But I’m just gonna have to figure that out step by step and minute by minute.

Because every bit of this matters.


Image credits:

Covey’s quadrants:



“Showing Up” In Virtual Space

Okay, I’ll admit: I am not feeling flush with inspiration tonight. I’ve looked at some of the go-to feminist sources on my Facebook feed for something to pontificate about. I’ve been thinking about what’s going on in my life to see if there’s something insightful or reflective that I want to say. And I got nuthin’.

However, I’m quite aware that I skipped posting Friday and Saturday night (though I did try and compensate with a split-the-difference Saturday afternoon post), so I’d like to turn that trajectory around by getting something up.


Especially since I’ll be off-the-grid at the end of this coming week and through the weekend — meaning, inevitably, more silence — and it’s another crazy deadlines week starting tomorrow — which may mean yet still more silence.

So what’s a young girl middle-aged blogger to do?


I’m sure we’ve all heard, at one time or another, the notion that the most important ingredient to any learning/mastery/creative process is to “just show up!”

For example, this quote from an interview with Isabel Allende:

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

Show up. Show up in front of the computer or the typewriter. And if I show up long enough – it happens.

Or this post from a blogger who cautions against advice that makes writing seem too “difficult” — an excuse for us to continue procrastinating, he says — and who insists on the simple necessity of the “just show up” message:

I am not about to tell you that writing is easy. Writing is hard. Writers never stop fearing that what they write isn’t good enough. They can’t come up with good ideas. They come up with brilliant ideas that don’t work. They write terrible things and good things. And they try to make sure that people never see the terrible things, and that as many as possible see the good things.

No writer I know thinks writing is easy.

But no writer I know thinks writing is complicated.

If you’ve been waiting to write because you think that one day someone will give you the advice that makes writing easy, stop waiting. No one can make it easy.

All we can do is make it simple.

Show up. Write.

Or there’s any number of similar sentiments in this collection of bits of writing advice from actual real writers.*

And I get this approach. I do. I believe in this approach. Even though I eventually decided not to finish my dissertation or my Ph.D., I will tell you that my most productive months on that project were once I was able to shift from a place of full-on “frozen by depression and writer’s block” to embracing the idea of daily writing on the project. Every day, putting my inner critic into her lockbox for at least a tiny little bit and putting fresh words on the page. (I know the recommendation of a Ph.D. dropout may not mean much in this context, but this was one of my productivity bibles. I can’t speak highly enough for how it benefitted my life and my work.)

So, yes, I’m a believer in “just” showing up at the page.** It’s why I strive for a daily journal-writing practice. It’s why I am often the one at work most willing to send out that “sacrificial first draft” to get a project moving. (‘Cos this much I know for sure: if we don’t get started, we ain’t never getting to the finish line.)

Mucha-MuseIn short: I am not the kind of writer who sits waiting for my muse to waft in looking like an Alphonse Mucha engraving, with her artful Art Nouveau tresses and dresses wafting on an unseen breeze. But I’m not yet sure I’ve figured out the finer points of bringing this insight into my blogging practice.

Because everything I know about “showing up at the page” is predicated on the notion of there being a first draft — whether you call it “sacrificial” or, following Anne Lamott, “shitty” — and then an editing process by which the first draft becomes something more polished, worthy of publication. But when the draft-to-publish cycle is as truncated as it is in the blogosphere, what does it look like to have the practice of showing up at the (web)page? Does it mean publishing things that are half-formed, rougher? (In short, publishing shittier things?) Does it mean cultivating more of a practice of drafting, revising, and editing for blogposts? (Which, I’ll admit, feels a touch daunting for my life’s schedule. Maybe I should cut back on even more TV…)

I don’t have this conundrum worked out yet. But, with the willingness to navel-gaze and write about the writing process, I at least found something to reflect on that justifies a post for tonight.

I’ll take care of tomorrow’s post — if there is one — tomorrow.

* ‘Scuse the snark — the post’s title, although clear as clear could be just hit a nerve tonight. D’you think maybe we’d be expecting writing advice form fry-cooks or makeup artists?

** Had to use the scare quote, ‘cos the word “just” in “just show up” kind of cheapens how essential showing up at the page is. It obscures the raw, radical courage of showing up.


Image credits:

Secret to a bestseller:

Mucha, “Muse”: