Friday, July 8, 2011

Magical thinking and how it can mess you up as a writer - The Friday Challenge

It is a clear, bright and beautiful day here in downtown Prospect Bay, Nova Scotia. I am FREE of duties in town so will be working my way through my home to-do list. I plan on a goodly amount of revision time with True and a long walk with the pooch among other tiddly-bits (overdue phone calls, sweeping up the dust elephants...)
Lately I've been considering hexes and good luck charms and other notions that belong under the rubric of magical thinking.  Let me share with you some thoughts I've had.
If you are anything like me, and I happen to think you are, you can be occasionally prone to think that there is something or some being operating the events in your life in some sort of order. You might be thinking this in a very unconscious and indeed subtle way - "I'm having a good day" is one example. If examined, you will realize that part of your day may be working out well, but probably not all of it. We tend to gloss over what goes well or ill when we decide to label a day, a week, a job, a task and so forth, as good or bad. That is the natural inclination in us all towards dualistic thinking.
I've been considering this because I became aware that I felt I was having a particularly long run of 'bad luck'. This includes, but is not limited to, relatively minor problems like communication failures, rejections in my publishing quest, missed opportunities and the like. It also included some fairly heavy losses - the death of my dear daddio, a terrible contract my husband was involved with, the break down of my son's marriage, etc... When I come up for air - the air of reason and awakeness - I know these things didn't happen to ME, they simply happened as a consequence of any number of factors. I also realize that many good things are going on - my meditation practice is strong, the ones I hold dear are healthy, I'm good with my writing and my husband and I have created a safe haven of love together.
The thing is, dear readers, both of these notions are traps. My perceived good luck and bad luck are merely delusions attached to magical thinking. It is so damn pervasive though.
Some things have gone well in the past week and instead of just enjoying that for what it was, I looked for some weird pattern. I'd remembered that, last year at this time, I'd done a project that I wasn't paid for. I checked it out, as this is a small yearly project, and sure enough both the organization and I had failed to notice. The check is on its way to me. All fine. But for a moment I harboured a thought that this was a harbinger of my luck turning. Now things would be all good. This lapse on my part had called up all the other stuff that had gone awry. Nonsense! Why do we tend to like these notions? Because if some being or thingy is in charge, we can rest and let our life unspool or spool any old way. Why worry? The grand to-do list is made and we are merely puppets without free-will.
THE FRIDAY CHALLENGE - I would like everyone to consider where this thinking might be trapping you as you work with your projects. Is there something you could be doing that you aren't because a part of you believes it to be of no use? What haven't you reached for because of some magical thinking you have? Or, on the other side of this coin, in what way aren't you careful enough because you think you have horseshoes up your wazzoo and don't need to worry about making things as perfect as you can?  Last night, talking to a visual artist who has been wonderfully successful with her applications for grants and residencies, I realized that I had stopped applying for some grants because I 'wasn't lucky at them'. Hogwash.
Let me know what you find out with this contemplation of the mysterious magical thinking that may restrict you.
Have a swell weekend!


Rae said...

Great post! It has me thinking of possibilities that I've been blind to. It does seem that some people have more bad luck than others...I suppose I've really been blessed most of my life.
Dust elephants? Is that what those are! lol

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, very nice reality check Jan. I'm sorry about the bad stuff that has been happening of late, but you're right--any day that I 2nd wrong thing happens, I start to wait for the third ('these things happen in 3s) when really... they don't... stuff just happens. I'm sending you hugs.

Karen Walker said...

I am quite guilty of magical thinking in the sense you describe here, Jan. I do tend to think, oh, I'm having a run of bad luck or good and then worry about when it will end. Instead, I'm trying to simply stay present in the moment with whatever is happening.

Jan Morrison said...

Rae - yes! what opportunities do let slide by because we believe we can't make them happen?
Tartlette - thanks for the hugs and I don't think it is 'bad' stuff really - just stuff. That happens to us all. But hey!
Karen - Exactly -staying in the ever slippery present moment is key.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh good! I need to take a look at my magical thinking, for sure. I have noticed that it's better if I *don't* enumerate all the things that have gone wrong for me...then it does make me feel like I'm in some sort of losing streak. Better for me just to roll with it. I'll spend some time thinking about where I might have some pitfalls with other magical thinking. Thanks!

Faith Pray said...

I was prone to compulsion as a middle schooler, feeling the need to carefully twitch each toe X number of times, wash my hands thrice, and scratch repeatedly over my handwriting until it looked like a blotty mess. Having carefully avoided that loose manhole cover, I *try* to step gently near its fellow, "magical thinking." But, I do admit to lumping a day as "a bad one" from time to time. Good points, Jan!