It is remarkably easy to get out of a solid groove. The groove you lost may have been one centred around a good habit you had, or one for a skill you built up and were maintaining. Either way, we can break out of these with surprising rapidity, losing the characteristic we worked so hard to establish.
You have probably heard the expression “it’s like riding a bike.” Have you ever climbed back on a bike after a long hiatus from riding? I have. It was hilarious and dreadful at the same time. I wobbled back and forth, found the breaks touchy and unnerving, and couldn’t make the sort of confident, sharp turns I remembered doing as a teen. Granted, it only took a few minutes to get most of my old riding skills back, but sharp turns eluded me for a good day or two…or three.*
Speaking, writing, making good conversation, interpreting messages – these are skills that are effortless when we’re in our groove and damned difficult when we aren’t. We often take our ability to make conversation or write a good blog post for granted, but neither of these things are easy. The longer we wait to resume those activities, say by hosting a dinner party with friends from different social circles, the harder and more intimidating it becomes and the more we avoid it.
I was recently jarred out of my blogging groove by some business regarding a family-owned company that my husband and I were involved with. The situation completely sucked away all my reserves of mental and emotional energy. Despite the fact that this commotion had very positive effects for my own family, it was still exhausting. I cut myself some slack for a couple of weeks while my husband and I worked our backsides off dealing with the problem. Sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack. But the slack got away from me; I went from giving myself some time for a mental vacation to making excuses not to blog or even go online to falling back on the worst excuse of all: “I’ve got nothing to say.” Last night I was whining about it to my husband. He said I needed to clean up my office (which became a disaster over the past month) and then sit down and post something. Anything.
He was right.
If a groove is worth developing, it is worth maintaining. It’s harder to re-establish one than it is to simply keep it going. I continued giving lectures and professional workshops during my maternity leave so that I could maintain my skills as a speaker and instructor. I’m posting this naval-gazing drivel because it is better that I get off my backside and put out one whiny, self-indulgent, “reflective” piece and then get on to making good stuff than it is to sit around and wait for perfection.
If you have lost your groove, don’t expect to produce perfect work while you are getting back into it. It isn’t easy to watch yourself produce crap where you once produced shiny gems. But you need to do it. So put on a noseplug, clean your office, and produce some crap so that you can get back into the habit of producing gems.**
*My anxiousness about falling and getting some nasty abrasions fuelled the slow return of the making-sharp-turns ability. I can be spectacularly clumsy and have picked out an unreasonable amount of gravel from my knees.
**For the record, this post is going to embarrass the hell out of me shortly after I hit the “publish” button. But I’m hitting that button anyway because it is important that I do. The Groove demands it.
Up-cycling, reusing, re-purposing, refinishing, and other activities that take old things and polishes them up into something newly relevant are very, very hot at the moment. This surge of interest in making use of well-worn objects can be chalked up to a number of factors: frugality movements, tough economies and lower disposable incomes, environmentalism, and so on. Good for the environment, good for the soul, good for the wallet – and coming up with re-purposing schemes can give your brain a heck of a workout, too.
So why are we so hesitant to do the same with written or spoken material?
I’m not talking about completely ripping off someone else’s work and claiming it as your own; plagiarism is an unnecessary and unforgivable sin in my heart. Rather, why do we shy away from addressing topics or writing stories or giving speeches that have been inspired by what we’ve heard from other authors or speakers or intellectuals? Why is there often an expiry date attached to classic materials that make us reluctant to dredge them up after a few years – or decades – or centuries?
Taking an old piece and re-working it in order to increase it’s meaning in today’s context is an excellent exercise. We have a huge intellectual history on myriad topics that is available for us to draw on. Taking lessons from our past and reformulating them into something relevant today has huge value. Simply because someone has “said it before” doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be said again. It’s likely that we can use our own contextual nuances to put a new spin on an old idea. Old doesn’t mean dusty and irrelevant. Nor does revisiting someone else’s work mean that your work is unoriginal and uninspired.
Plus, it’s a fantastic way to get over writer’s (or speaker’s) blog. Ssssh! Don’t tell anyone!