Okay, so I find myself at the time of year when, more than ever, my days are filled and dictated by the demands of production. I get up at 5 AM to carve two spoons before my girls wake up. Production. I go to the farm and harvest bales of balsam greens or tie wreaths. All day. Production. I edit manuscripts in the evening. Production.
There are times, particularly with the wreaths, that the scale of the task is overwhelming, the time stretching out ahead filled with an amount of work that is daunting on a good day. On a bad day it can crush you.
So here's what I do about it. There are four layers to my approach, and each successive layer gets deeper into the heart of what makes for a good life. The first layer is mastery. If you are faced with a job you intend to do, the first thing to do is to get really really good at it. Tie wreaths until you can do it with your eyes shut. Carve spoons until you can do it at five in the morning, bleary eyed, and have your work come out better and better. Edit until you can spot a typo when scanning at top speed or catch a subtle misstep of logic. Own your task. Crush it.
This obviously takes time, but striving towards this sort of mastery keeps you engaged with the task at hand, and constantly improving. The next layer down is variety. When possible, I carve different spoons one after another, or tie wreaths one day and harvest greens the next. I mix up editing with these more physical tasks. Spreading around the production I'm asking my body and mind to accomplish means that I stay sharper and fresher than if I had all my eggs in one basket.
Even if you only do one thing, you can very the day-to-day tasks it involves, and emphasize different cognitive and physical skills intermittently. If this is not possible, proceed directly to the third layer, which is diversion. I work mostly alone. I lean heavily on podcasts, music, daydreaming, and yes, Instagram to give my brain something to chew on or bliss out to, and in the case of Instagram it gives me a community that I interact with daily. This helps structure an otherwise solitary day. When I'm struggling through a really difficult manuscript, I'll even entice myself along by watching movie trailers between sections of editing. Whatever it takes.
The last, deepest layer is purpose, and that is the heart of the matter. I produce these things to earn money, and that is important but it is also only a piece of it. There is a deeper purpose that informs why I am dedicated to these activities. With the spoons it is sharing these objects and these skills with the world. With the editing, it is the relationship I have with my father from creating this business with him. With the Christmas tree farm, it's carrying this farm into the future, both as an example of what is possible, and to preserve the tradition of all the families that come here. Whenever I hit bottom with one of these activities, this purpose is down there waiting for me. It reminds me why I'm doing it in the first place. It reassures me that underneath the flash and the chatter, this is important. Worth doing. And it reminds me that underneath it all is the relationship with other people. It's not about the task or the object or the experience. It's about the people. Always was and always will be.
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My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.