Monday, February 11, 2013

A Wonderful Productivity

The spring break at the school where I teach is always arranged to fall about halfway between Christmas and Easter.  We’re on a trimester schedule, so we have a long school year with extended vacations to divide the trimesters, and shorter ones in the middle to give us a much-needed break.

I love the intricate paths you see from airplanes!
I tend to go on trips during the mid-term vacations.  In the past I’ve visited college friends in Texas, my brother in California, family in Kentucky.  This year, it was time to see Vasnefy in New York, and I’d planned a visit last Fall, but Hurricane Sandy ferociously intervened.  I postponed my trip to just this past week. 

Travel has always been something I’ve enjoyed, as long as it’s not too frequent.  An occasional trip, say two a year, is refreshing and enjoyable, but more than that begins to make me go a bit crazy.  I’m not cut-out to be a jet-setter!  But since this was my first trip of the year, it was quite perfect.  I stayed for a few days in upstate New York, then drove down with Vasnefy to Washington, D.C., to attend a play.

It was a whirlwind, but still enjoyable, because it woke up my mind.  In the 10 hours driving from New York to Virginia, my friend and I talked and talked, discussing our jobs and our friends and family, the ins-and-outs of personality and relationships, and of course our story inspirations.  Then on top of that mental stimulation, we also attended a D.C. performance of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses

The play was magnificent.  Using the vehicle of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, it presented the soul’s search for love, moving from tales of obsession (Midas and the golden touch was the initiation of the drama) to stories of perfect love and harmony with Eros and Psyche, followed by Baucis and Philemon, whom the gods turned into intertwined trees so that they might never live or die apart. 

The most striking idea of the play came during the Eros and Psyche episode.  The narrators, watching the girl and the god play out their romance, commented that when Psyche was convinced by her sisters to disobey her husband and discover what he looked like, fearing that he was a monster in spite of the sweetness of their love, she lacked ‘radical trust.’  Slowly, slowly over the years as I’ve thought about the world and people and our roles as human beings, I’ve also become convinced of that need for radical trust – in God, in our friends and lovers, in human nature.  However, I’d never put the idea into two perfect words like that. 

What is most beautiful about art is how it encapsulates our greatest ideas and gives them back to us, transfigured and clarified. 

Even a good view can be inspiring!
So as you can imagine, the play alone made the trip completely worthwhile, but on a more pragmatic note, it also allowed me to accomplish a great deal.  It’s enjoyable to travel with a friend, of course, but when one’s life is busy (as so many of our lives are!) a solo flight is the best.  In the hours and hours of quiet and stillness, it’s possible to tackle an amazing amount of work.  I always recommend a plane trip to anyone who needs to get some writing done!

As I’ve chronicled in my blog, the process of editing my novel, The Art of Dying, has been a bit stop-and-go.  I seem finally to have hit a good schedule of a couple pages a day with it, but the trip also gave me an enormous advantage.  During three of my five flights, I edited no less than 20 pages.  It was an exhilarating feeling. 

Moreover, since editing goes fast in such a quiet environment, I was also able to read a good 2/3’s of Life of Pi (perhaps a review of that shall come later when I finish!), write a couple of letters, plus take a couple of naps.  It was lovely. 

Making small and steady progress is a wonderful feeling, as I’ve discovered since becoming more faithful to writing/editing a bit every night, instead of only on weekends.  However, occasionally we need the mood booster and the triumph that comes from getting a lot done at once. 

We have so much opportunity!
Of course I was joking earlier when I suggested that we all fly when we need to accomplish something, but I do recommend that we seek out occasions to throw ourselves into work and thus renew our resolve.  If you have children, perhaps an evening when they’re out for a sleepover is an option.  If you work at a bank or school, perhaps Presidents’ Day next week is a perfect opportunity. 

Obviously it’s impossible to achieve maximum productivity at all times – what with the 1000 other things we have to do, it would be a good recipe for insanity – but moments of maximum productivity re-energize us in a pleasantly paradoxical way.  Or at least, that’s what I find.  I’d love to know what you all do to wake up your flagging spirits and gain a new lease on creativity.  


  1. I did enjoy 'The Life of Pi' - and because I liked the book I have no desire to see the movie.

    I think as time passes definitions of productivity changes. I told myself I'd attempt one entry/submission a month this year. But I haven't found one for February yet. But then if I counted the blogs where my friends have posted a piece or two...I could get by with saying that I've accomplished my goal.

    I'm still writing everyday. Which is something I don't consider work ...So is that also being productive? It is for me. :)

  2. really enjoyed reading this - particularly liked your point about "radical trust" - I love all those greek myths - there is so much to them!