Just before breaking for the holidays I had a coffee with one of my graduate students. During our meeting, he asked about how many pieces of writing he needed to complete in order to be competitive on the job market. My answer to him was a bit of a platitude, but also a reframing of the question.
"Writers write," I told him. By which I meant that he was better off figuring out how to cultivate a regular writing habit for himself that would sustain him over a number of years, rather than setting a goal of an article or two and trying to check those boxes.
Recently, I've had opportunity to reflect on how I might follow my own advice a bit better when I am out in the world.
Like many this holiday season, I spent some time during this break standing in a line at the post office. On the second of my two trips of the season, I became aware of my tendency while standing in line--smartphone out, seeking stimulation.
When I do preliminary internet research on the topic, I find statistics which claim that we spend anywhere between 6 months of our lives to 10 years (this seems like an exaggeration to me) waiting in lines. With the addition of modern technology, it seems safe to imagine that this time is spent on one's smart phone, alieviating the painful waiting.
Given that I'm a line waiting person for 6 months of my life, that makes me want to reconsider how I do my line waiting. As I've noted before, checking email and facebook can have an anxiety-increasing and happyness depleting effect: we actually hold our breath when we check email (email apnea) and we make false comparisons between our lives and others' when we check facebook (Ugh, I am waiting in line, everyone else is drinking Mai Tais at costume parties and hugging puppies).
One of my simple resolutions this New Year is to change my line waiting habit and reclaim those 6 months or more for the person I would perfer to be: a yogi and a writer. To cultivate the writing opportunity that line waiting presents, I'll be tossing a small notebook into my purse, or, for situations in which I can anticipate waiting (the doctor's office, DMV, etc.), I'll bring pages to copy edit. My other choice is to focus on breathing, which I chose to do during my second holiday post office trip. Simply counting my inhalation and exhalation and gradually working from a breath cycle of 3 counts on both inhalation and exhalation to one of 8 counts converted the line waiting experience from one of gathering frustration to a calming activity.
What other ideas do people have for improving the way we spend these days of our lives?
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