Change the Song


cover: flowing background. Close up on young Black man with natural hair, headphones over his ears, eyes closed. Listening.

What do we do?

We change the song. We listen to a different beat. New words. We shift perspective.

When I write, I pick a song, put it on a loop, plug my earbuds in, and go. The song on loop takes care of the part of my brain that wants to criticize, worry, argue, and take control. In order to enter the flow, I need to invite that part of me to sit in the back of the bus. To not drive right now. I need the more intuitive parts to drive. My subconscious needs to come to the fore.

If I don’t do this? The story stutters, and often stalls.

I was talking with a client this week about perfectionism. I mentioned that if I’m sitting down to write and having a hard time getting into the flow, I pause, breathe….and I change the song.

My conscious mind needs something different to latch onto in order to cede it’s worry and control. My critical voice is a perfectionist. The other parts of me are excited to simply experience the world and to tell the story that wants to come through.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, many of us struggle with perfectionism, so talking about repurposing those voices might be useful. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting on two other essays on the topic.

But my thought process today is this: things currently feel like chaos. Many of us are in a panic, trying to figure out what to do. Stress levels are through the roof for a larger portion of the population than usual. And for those who have been dealing with violent, oppressive stress for decades? The impact hits even harder.

So what can we do?

There are many options that I, and others, have written about in the past few years. But I’ll tell you what’s been getting me through lately:

I go for walks. A lot of them. And on my walks, I don’t plug in earbuds. I don’t listen to music, or the news, or podcasts, though in the past I’ve done the latter two.

Why? I want to change the song.

I want to notice the small things. The slug lifting its small head from a white fence post. The Anna’s hummingbird trilling from a wire. The squirrels chasing each other up the trunk of a maple tree. The dad pushing a stroller while corralling a small dog. The woman walking a miniature pig on a leash.

I want to notice the way sunrise looks different every day. I want to notice the way the crows congregate at dusk, having one grand meeting overhead. I want to notice the orange underwing of the flicker in flight. I want to smell the rosemary and lavender bushes, and the sweet jasmine, too.

When the global gets me down, I need to shift my attention to the hyper local. It helps. A lot. The shift in perspective shows me that not everything is on fire. Not everything is urgent. I can slow down inside and breathe.

When I change the song in my writing practice, it helps my creativity answer the question, “what comes next?” So I write the next sentence. And the sentence after that.

When I change the song in my life, it helps reground me in what is immediately real. It helps me ask, “What can I actually do?” So I pick one local thing to lend my energy to. And then one national or global thing. And I keep showing up.

What is your strategy right now? What’s your version of changing the song? How are you refocusing your attention instead of getting caught in the maelstrom of light and sound?

I hope you’re finding ways to change the song. To write the next sentence. To pay attention to the small things. To breathe.

To find the next thing you can do.

October, 2019

 

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