I did it! I sent in my application for a residential writer’s retreat next year. It involved two essays, and a ten-page writing sample, along with quite a complicated requirement for making 6 copies the entire application (except for the cover sheet) and collating them, but not binding them, before sending them off with a self-addressed stamped postcard and the application fee. The instructions even listed the order in which the items should be stacked in the packet. I guess crystal clarity is good.

At the last minute, as I’m standing in line at the post office, having sealed my Priority Mail Flat-Rate envelope, I panicked that I hadn’t put enough postage on the postcard. I was right. I tore open the envelope and affixed a 1 cent stamp I had just bought. I then realized that the US Post Office, in its attempt to become profitable again, has begun charging for everything, including tape. I had printed out the mailing label at the office, but, not having a Flat Rate envelope, I brought the sheet with me without my own tape, thinking I would borrow some tap there. No such luck. I ended up paying 3 something for a roll of clear packing tape. Fine. I wasn’t going to drive back to the office just for that.

I was at OfficeMax earlier and on my way there, I had this sudden feeling that I needed to add back in one sentence to one of my essays, which I had just slashed by one line in order to fit on the allotted single side of a page. I went over it in my head and realized (or thought) that by cutting the line, a reference in the first paragraph of the essay is left hanging, with no parallel reference later. I marched into OfficeMax, mentally determined to do all the copying except that essay, which I would print out at the office manually six times. Then I reread the essay while standing at the copy machine and said, You know what? It’s fine. Who am I to know whether that one sentence will make or break the application? The real purpose of my applying is to FINISH something, to experience COMPLETION, and to meet a DEADLINE. My deadline for this project was when I left my office to make the copies at OfficeMax. I am done. That means, whatever I have at the time of the deadline IS IT.

I wonder how many creative endeavors are stopped dead in their tracks by this “one more thing” kind of thinking. If I just change “one more thing” it will be perfect. If I find “one more thing” it can be better. If I had caught “one more thing” I might have been recognized for my genius.

Well, that’s not creativity. That’s paralysis. It’s self-talk. It’s unexamined fear. I can’t wait to be more fluent in all the life coach tools that can uncover the source of these things, and help unblock them. The thing is, sometimes our minds don’t want us to unblock them, because they are helping us defocus on a larger underlying problem. This month’s O Magazine column by Martha Beck deals with what she calls “the designated issue”. By this she means, something you obsess over, something that is tormenting you and remains stubbornly unsolvable, may be a run-of-the-mill problem that will get resolved like so many things every day in life, or it may be “the designated issue”, masking a deeper issue that you’re unwilling to face right now. By recognizing and labeling certain problems “designated issues”, we can slowly gain access to the larger, deeper issues that are really holding us back. To tell the truth, I’m not completely clear on this in my mind…I need to read again and study some more, perhaps after I’ve had more sleep! More to come…

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