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:10 a day
my 1-year life-enhancement experiment
NOTE: This entry is postdated so it always appears first. Current entries will make more sense if you have read this entry.

Most people yearn for a life marked by "more"--more meaning, more depth, more activity, more friends, more stuff, more security, more health. We look around and notice that others we know seem to have what we want, at least partially, but the gap between where we are and where we think they are seems to be a chasm too large to cross, too time consuming to consider, or too impossible given our current reality. I'm one of those people.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

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My life has been a complete whirlwind of activity the past three weeks, and I am all but entirely overwhelmed with projects, family emergencies, and the like. So, here's a quick update, and some longer reflections will come in the next couple of days.

Project #1 was spending 10 minutes a day doing writing exercises. As of about a week ago, I've moved on to project #2: memory exercises, using the book that inspired my experiment: Brainfit: 10 Minutes a Day for a Sharper Mind and Memory. This is a 9-week program, quite a bit longer than my 30-day plan, but so far I'm finding the exercises are frequently finished in just 5 minutes, and that's doable past the 30 days.

I'm still doing the writing exercises on occasion, just not daily. They were a lot of fun to do, but ultimately I would always find myself wondering how much benefit there was in doing them. The point of the book seemed twofold: first, to get the reader to actually write regularly, not just think about writing. Second, to help the reader to loosen up a bit and just write spontaneously. Both are obviously good and valuable, and perhaps if I were writing fiction I would have found them to be more helpful.

The Brainfit book seems far more useful, but it's a book of techniques AND exercises as opposed to a book of just exercises, so that's obviously going to be the case. At the start of the book, the reader is supposed to take a memory test to help gage the gains made by the end of the book. Trouble is, the kind of memory issues I tend to have (i.e. recalling personal events from my past) don't seem to be something the book will address a whole lot. Still, I'm enjoying the daily exercises and am certain that there's much I can gain from the book.

Current Mood: busy busy

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As I sit here in an airport, taking a breather from a whirlwind of a week, I'm aware that exhaustion is creeping up on me. Perhaps that's reflected in the fact that I have not posted to this blog in several days (although I have continued to do the writing exercises - more on that shortly). When I survey the many projects of my life, it's quite apparent that the load I'm carrying up the mountain (a la The Mission) is a burden that causes me to "stumble" at times.

That doesn't mean, though, that the writing exercises aren't worth it. Far from it! In fact, I think what I am discovering is that at times like this, it's even more important that I keep on going. Why? Because writing is something I'm passionate about and want to do better, and because not doing them will only mean that the "tyranny of the urgent" wins.

Though this is day 19 of the experiment, so far I have completed exercises on 16 days. One day I accidentally missed thanks to the fact that I left my book at work. One day, I intentionally decided to skip; I recognized that my creativity and energy were zapped, and I'd be doing myself no favor to waste ten minutes on a writing exercise. And today isn't over yet, so there will be time for today's exercise when I am in the next airport.

I don't really know how one can really judge the effectiveness of a book of writing exercises after this length of time--or any length of time, for that matter. It's not like I have a statistical way to assess whether or not my writing is more or less creative, not as I would with something like--say, weight loss. All I can say is that I'm having fun with the exercises, I'm starting to actually look forward to them, and I feel a little internal shift in my willingness to approach each exercise in a right-brained way. It occurs to me that with many of the new projects I'll take on this year, progress will not be easy to measure with a confidence level of +/- 4%.

Earlier today, I heard this quote from Thomas Merton that really seemed appropriate:

"How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun. A small green apple cannot ripen in one night by tightening all its muscles, squinting its eyes and tightening its jaw in order to find itself the next morning miraculously large, red, ripe and juicy beside its small green counterparts. Like the birth of a baby or the opening of a rose, the birth of the true self takes place in God’s time. We must wait for God, we must be awake; we must trust in God’s hidden action within us.

Current Mood: tired tired

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OK, this is just a quick note, because I really need to be an evangelist of sorts for a moment...

If you use a Mac and either journal or want to (or for that matter, just type lots of notes of any kind), there are few programs I've got on my iBook more delightful to use than Journler (and yes, I did spell that correctly). Amazingly complete feature set - far more than MacJournal, its better-known and more expensive competitor - and it just plain works. Bonus - it works seamlessly with LiveJournal, and it's FREE! (Well, technically it's donationware, and I swear you'll love it so much you'll be selling your stuff on eBay so you can handsomely reward the guy who created it.)

End of commercial. Now, just go download it for yourself.

Current Mood: ecstatic ecstatic

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Thanks to the fact that all but one person was a no-show for my Living the Questions group tonight, I found myself with an extra 90 minutes in my evening. I love my LTQ class completely, but like anyone I absolutely enjoy a surprise night free.

With each successive day of my new life-change experiment, I'm finding myself reflecting more and more on the whole "minutes a day" concept. For example, it occurred to me today that virtually everything I do takes just a few minutes. Sure, this is no great revelation, but I just hadn't really given it a lot of thought before. With the exception of meetings and classes that I lead, just about everything seems to be completed in a matter of a few minutes. (Sadly, its in the meetings that the least amount of good often seems to be accomplished.) Send someone an email...3-5 minutes. Edit a poster I created...7 or 8 minutes. Drive home from work...9 minutes, tops. Sort through my mail...11 minutes. I'm not sure why it never really occurred to me before, but much of our lives are 10 minute segments strung together. Well, maybe not for brain surgeons who spend twelve hours in surgery, but who knows--maybe they think of each surgery as being a succession of little tasks, too.

More importantly, though, this experiment is starting to really get me thinking about the power and potential within short periods of time. Perhaps I need to see every ten minutes as being just as possibility-laden as those in which I'm currently doing the writing exercises.

Although this is just day 6, today's exercise felt like a bit of a success. I found myself to be just a bit more willing to break from my usual analytical approach and try something much more free-flowing and unusual. It's been said (the truth of which I cannot really verify yet) that it takes 21 days to build a new habit; if indeed that's the case, I'm starting to get excited about day 22 and beyond!

The third thing I've been ruminating on all day has to do with the place and importance of blogs in my life. I already have a blog related to Christian education for theologically-progressive congregations, though of late I haven't had or made much time to update that. Then, this weekend I discovered the United Methodist Church has revamped their website, complete with its own social networking site. Naturally, I figured I had to jump in to that one. All of this has me writing and thinking about writing a lot--not to mention it has me thinking about the ways the nature of faith-related dialogue is completely changing thanks to these sites--but it also has me puzzled about how much time is a "good" amount of time to devote to these sites. For me, it used to be "So many books, so little time" but now I'd replace books with blogs. How do you deal with the time factor in your own reading of and contributing to blogs?

By the way, if you're interested, the first book I'm using is The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing by Bonnie Neubauer. It was an accidental purchase thanks to forgetting to reply to my Writer'sDigest Book Club email, and it sat next to my desk for nearly a year, lonely and unloved. Now, though, it sits by my placemat on our dining room table--an honored guest and friend. Get yourself a copy if you want to join me on my experiment.

Current Mood: pensive pensive

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Today's writing exercise had me writing about resolutions for the new year. After writing about why I don't normally make resolutions at the start of the year--it's an arbitrary date, and I'm all for ongoing life transformation begun and continued every day--I read the little extra "Take the Next Step" activity:

"New Year's resolutions are passé. Think New Day resolutions instead. What new writing-related thing do you resolve to do in the next 24 hours?"

Seems I was already on the same page as the author. And what do I resolve to do? [Clicks the "send to blog" button in Journler]

Current Mood: rushed rushed

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Perhaps I should have done the memory activity first! After a crazy and late day at work, I came home...only to realize as I was pulling into my driveway that I had left my writing exercise book at work. Aaarrghh! I knew there'd be a day when I made a blunder like this, but day 2? Oh well.

But at least I spent some time writing today, as well as getting my LiveJournal site set up, so it wasn't a total loss. Still, it's rather disappointing. What can I learn from this, though? Either leave the book at home, or make sure I set aside a designated time to go through it at work. Don't rely on my memory, and don't just plan on doing it when I have a few spare minutes in the day. And always remember that tomorrow's another day with another chance to goof up still again!

Current Mood: frustrated frustrated

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It's day 1, and I'm already off to a bumpy start. First, I woke up an hour later than I had intended to. Then, I had an unexpected 90-minute interruption at work. Squeezing in a 10-minute writing exercise just became even tougher in my already packed day.

I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised. Lots of days are going to be like this, after all. Practically every day brings its share of unexpected problems and opportunities, so I'll just have to be ready for them. It certainly raises the question, though: what's the best time of day to do my activity? First thing in the morning? Late at night? During lunch? Guess I'll have to do a little experimenting.

2-7-2007...what an interesting number combination for a start date! I'm not especially superstitious of think certain days are more lucky than others, but I like the symmetry of that number. Two is where I start--a dual nature in which part of me is rarin' to go, and part of me thinks this whole experiment is a little nuts. Seven is where I want to end; in some ancient cultures, 7 is the number representative of perfection. And in between...well, either a whole lot of nothin', or two reminders that there will be bumps on the journey. Though the day I started this was not chosen intentionally, it was a bit of serendipity.

And, it suddenly dawns on me...this whole journaling thing is also taking time. 10 minutes of journaling time already, and I haven't even done my first writing exercise. Sheesh. Or, maybe the journaling is something I need to add to my list. Many times I have wished that I kept a regular journal. Guess I'm doing it now!
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So, 4 1/2 hours after the entry above, I finally did it. I lost my writing exercise virginity! Well, truth be told, that happened in some english teacher's classroom long ago, but at least "DAY 1" of my book is now filled with my pretty-much illegible scrawlings. More irony - the exercise was about the ways I feel like a gerbil running around and around the little toy in the cage. It's time to step off the ferris wheel...and then, it's time to escape the cage!

Current Mood: satisfied satisfied

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Well, I told the writer's group about my 10 Minutes book, and they just loved it! Enthusiastic responses all around. They encouraged me to send out book proprosals soon, to start a blog connected with it, and to consider how it could be a novel rather than a nonfiction book (not so crazy about that idea, but I'll give it some consideration). Yea!

So, tomorrow I start. This is going to be an adventure!

Current Mood: anxious anxious

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