blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, writing process

Sharpening my pencils

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“When the sea is rough, mend your sails”

Everything I’ve Ever Done That Worked, Lesley Garner

Last time, I talked about dropping the oars and letting my boat drift. Taking the maritime metaphor further, the quote above came to mind. It’s been years since I first read it, but remembering the phrase led me to search out a book long forgotten in my bedside cupboard. It is full of insights, the kind of book to dip in and out of, different stories for different times.

Life can feel like a long and exhausting campaign.

Each battle is succeeded by yet another clash, a siege, an ambush. The right tools are essential, the right skills indispensable. (A large, well equipped army would help too.) But there must also be periods of rest, whether chosen or enforced.

We neglect our greatest asset at our peril. Running a car without fuel and service is sure to end in disaster, yet we regularly do the same with our own selves; whipping up a frenzy of activity with adrenaline and caffeine, neglecting downtime. We are addicted to busyness, and never stop to consider whether it is the right kind of busy.

Stephen Covey, in his defining book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talked about sharpening the saw. He advocates a balanced programme of self renewal, in the areas of body, mind, heart, and soul. He reminds us that this seventh habit supports all the others.

So, just as the marksman cleans his rifle, and the gardener oils her pruning knife, I will take this time to hone my technique. I will re-read old books and remember the comfort they can bring. The to-be-read pile beckons, with both fiction to enjoy and craft books to study. It is certainly time to step away from the screen and go outside, walk, maybe dig a little in the garden. Meditation might help me still the chatter, the anxiety about the future and regrets about the past.

I don’t know how long this will last. Not forever, because everything is temporary. But I can turn adversity into an opportunity to repair and regain my strength.

And the moment there is a fair wind, I will be equipped and ready to set sail once more. 

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