Friday, February 15, 2008

Stalling vs. hammock time

There's a difference in active stalling on a project or performance and necessary daydreaming time. Today I'm stalling. I have seven hours before my World Premiere of Queen Berta and King Pippin (tonight, Lawrence Visitor's Center/Union Pacific Depot, 8 p.m.). Am I working on the story? Am I thinking about working on the story? Am I kicking myself for not having even run through it once in the last week? Is my stomach in knots? Do I have to answer these completely unnecessary questions?

The story is ready. I know it. Could I do more work on it? Of course. I'll probably be uncovering new information within the story and within myself for years. I've only been working on this one for a little under a year, not counting from the time I first read an English version of it (maybe two or three years ago).

Here are some ways I've already stalled today:
  • I had a long leisurely breakfast, then did the New York Times crossword online. I'm not sure if that counts, because I often do that,
  • read a bunch of blogs unrelated to storytelling,
  • made myself a delicious asparagus-cheddar omelette (have to keep my strength up),
  • called a few friends about non-story stuff (dang, they weren't home!),
  • looked around on the Internet for French radio stations. Listened to some,
  • patted the cat,
  • ate some chocolate,
  • wrote this blog post.
It's early yet. There's still time to do a little online shoe shopping, run to the store for something unnecessary, wash the kitchen floor, clean the office, chop some firewood, freak out about not being ready, remember that I was going to make a program for tonight, go look at a house my friend is thinking of buying, talk to more friends on the phone, clean out my e-mail inbox.

I'm a gifted staller. Once when I had a big performance, I took the back off the dryer to clean out the lint. It gets better: I had to go to the hardware store to buy a socket wrench set in order to do that. Aaah, stalling at its very best.

This is different from hammock time. That's necessary daydreaming, incubation time for stories. Maybe that's the difference--hammock time is earlier in the process, before there's pressure. Stalling has much more anxiety to it.

For years I've been trying to find a way not to feel guilty about either of these behaviors. This seems to be how I work best. In college, I tended to write papers the night before they were due. I did the prep work in advance and then let the topic sit, percolating in the back of my mind. Once I decided that I would do a paper right away, as soon as it was assigned. I got a mediocre grade on it, while those written under pressure were much better.

Maybe I'll go for a walk.


BYRSTN said...

Come to my house the next time you need to stall. I can keep you busy for hours. And I do have a socket set.

Granny Sue said...

Boy can I relate! At work I'm seen as a real go-getter, but when it's time to do the monthly report I'll do ANYTHING to avoid it. i clean my desk, return phone calls, clean out the 4000+ emails in my inbox, complete a multitude of small projects...anything rather than sit and write the report!
But when I do finally buckle down and write, it flows easily. I think, like you, that somewhere in my subconscious mind the report is writing itself without me knowing it.

The same thing happens with storytelling. I will have an important gig coming up but rather than work on the stories, I'll scrub the bathroom floor, clean my office, pay bills...and the whole time be stressed out because I'm not working on the stories. When I finally look them over, I'm fine. And the performance is always great--it's the ones that I over-prepare for that seem forced.

Go figure...

Tim said...

Yay for stalling!
I've always had that tendency, but in college, at a storytelling performance (sort of a public demonstration of what we'd been learning in Rives Collins' course), I was pacing and muttering to myself 30 minutes before curtain.

Nancy Donoval walks in, watches me "work" and says "if you don't know the story by now, Tim, you might as well just give up."

For a moment, I was stunned, and then I couldn't stop laughing for the next half an hour.

Sean said...

"Percolating" is a valid step in the creative process. Our brains are working on what we need to work on while we blog, scrub, sleep. So. Very. Cool.


Stalling - I know it well. Thanks for this new word for it. Neat post. Ellouise