Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lack of Focus...

Attending the schools I've been fortunate enough to attend in my young life, I learned at an early age how to write well. I'm not trying to imply that what you see here is always good writing, or that it is polished to the point of perfection, far from it.

Once I got to college, I certainly noticed the disparity between my writing and the writing of many of my fellow students. This became incredibly clear upon taking a core English course with a professor who delighted in a rather brutal form of grading that involved making copies of work that students submitted as finished work for his class. He would white out the student's name at the top of the page, make the copies, pass them out, and then as a class we would go through the paper noting problems with the text in front of us. And believe me when I tell you that there were some student works that were utterly massacred by a class of 40 students. Their precious paragraphs dissected ad nauseam to the point where every singe word choice was scrutinized, and the placement of every comma questioned. People cried. I'm not kidding. And while the professor was sparse with compliments, and harsh with penalty on papers, you always felt proud when you did well, because you knew you earned the grade. But the thing that he was consistently trying to hammer home in the minds of my fellow students was that while a good description of something is important, the most important thing was to retain a very definite focus on your topic, and to not let the overall theme get lost in tangential descriptions. Basically, he wanted us to learn to stick to the point, and elaborate only as much as necessary. Surely there are some of you out there saying, "But doesn't he know that greatness is in the details?" Yes and no. He loved it when you gave him details, but the details need to be pertinent to the main idea. There is no sense dallying on the extraneous.

So what am I getting at?

I think this is something that we need to apply to real life. (And by "we," I mean me, because I don't dare tell other people how to live.) And so we get to the heart of the matter in an efficient way. And when the job is done, it's done right. This might be why I have felt like I have been floundering lately, my lack of focus. And so I decided to try and take on things with a new-found focus. I'm going to try methodically grinding away at one task at a time. I focused on cleaning my bathroom last night. I took over an hour to scrub the grout lines in my shower with a toothbrush, and to polish the mirror to a streak free shine. I spent nearly two hours cleaning a room that is roughly 24 square feet. (Which is a little crazy.) But the fact is that while I was doing it, I was focused on doing the job right. I was consumed with the goal of making it as polished and perfect as I could manage. And when I was done, I was happy with the result. And so I'm going to try to work in a more task oriented way for a while. I want to see if the feeling of accomplishment at the end of each task is as rewarding as a spectacularly clean bathroom. And tonight's task? I think I'm going to take a run at that painting that I've been putting off for all too long. (For those of you familiar with my active canvases, the red one with the lady.) I'm going to try to focus on it and make it work.

No comments: