Friday, January 11, 2008

The Long Now

I went to a grant-writing workshop sponsored by our local Arts Council this week, a practical, quick-and-dirty presentation of how to apply for individual artist grants offered by the state Arts Commission. It's good that our Arts Council offers things like this -- at no charge -- and better still that it was held in their main gallery, where we were surrounded by the work of local artists. An altogether inspiring 90 minutes.

Except... I don't have a clue what projects I might want to be doing 12 to 18 months from now, which is the grant's time frame. And I don't know if I can figure that out by the end of this month, which is the deadline for applying.

Here is my recent history in charting a 12-18 month time frame: About two years ago, after reading Barbara Sher's Refuse to Choose, I created two notebooks. One was a Big Book of Grand Ideas (I wrote about that here), and the other was a three-ring binder of specific categories and goals, things I wanted to accomplish within 12-18 months. I had entries for my musical stuff (learn to play the banjo; book a few public performances), for my art (make some paper; paint some canvases), my garden (plant bulbs; grow herbs), my writing (do more!), and my income prospects (get some!). There were anywhere from 6-12 items per category. I was on a roll.

Over the course of the next year and a half, I accomplished about 75% of what I itemized. I think I was successful because my goals were gentle and fun and infinitely do-able, things like "learn to make polymer clay beads" and "plant twenty tulip bulbs." The things I didn't get done were things I'd lost interest in, like songwriting, something I had enjoyed doing at one time but felt no great urge to continue as the months went on.

The time frame of the goals in that three-ring binder expired last fall, and after perusing the book around Thanksgiving, I set it aside, thinking I'd renew it with a new set of items for the next 12-18 months. Only I didn't do it. Not even January 1st inspired me to declare myself for the new year. I remained resolutely irresolute.

Since taking that workshop this week I've been wondering why I haven't set out any goals -- or intentions -- specific to the next year and a half. Am I afraid to venture past my current three-month comfort zone? Am I lazy? Or am I just living like one of my cats, in an ever-present Now?

I suspect it's a combination of the three. Don't we all crave some post-holiday down-time? Don't we naturally move to a seasonal groove? And don't we all love serendipity, those unplanned encounters with inspiration that infuse us with desire and renewed zest? And doesn't this all argue for resisting the urge to live our days in future-tense, with all those plans and aspirations, and instead embrace this idea of Being Here Now?

Well, yes... it's good to Be Here Now. And still... serendipity took me to that workshop, where I was confronted with the consequences of my reluctance to consider a somewhat Longer Now. Not necessarily the Long Now of this web site, but at least a 12-to18 month Now.

So here it is, January 11. And guess what? There is still time to sit down with my three-ring binder, to write a bit, and to apply for that grant. There is still time to consider what I'd like to do in the next little while. The end of the month is three weeks away. And wouldn't it be nice to look back two years from now at another list of gentle, fun and infinitely do-able things I've managed to accomplish? Of course it would. Silly me. I'm off to find my binder.

Credits: Tiki, my three-year-old calico hooligan, looking lovely at 8 a.m.

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