Circling Around, Settling Down

circling around, with clouds

Years ago, I watched a master stone mason build a fireplace mantel and surround. He was a family friend, a warm, gracious man. But that morning, he said a brief hello and no more. The design had been agreed on, the materials and tools were ready.  He set to work immediately, assisted by my uncle. Within a few hours, the beautifully crafted design came into being and the woodstove could be set in place. I learned something about focus that day.

I think too of Liz Rusch, a talented, prolific children’s writer in my Portland critique group, Viva Scriva. At writing retreats, Liz was probably the first one down in the mornings. She grabbed a quick breakfast, sat down, and began working in a focused way for two or three hours before going on her pre-lunch run.

I wished I could be like her. Instead, I’d get a second serving of Baked Oatmeal… Chat with other Scrivas as they emerged into the common area to eat… Journal before writing… My project finally had me in its arms just about the time Liz left hers to go run.

But then I think of a former boss, entertainment lawyer Irwin Spiegel Osher. He’d represented many famous musicians and artists through the years, including Sonny and Cher, back in the day, and Neil Young, when I worked for him. No sloucher he. Still, as I came to know him, I learned some things about his working style in these later years of his career. Sometimes he’d immediately do what he’d planned for himself. Other times, he’d first circle around.

One mid-afternoon, my mom called. By now I knew a bit about Irwin’s rhythms, and told her, “Soon, he’s either going to settle down and finally write his brief, or he’s going to leave and maybe send me home early.”

He settled down. I carried on with whatever I was doing.  A couple of hours later, Irwin emerged with a sheaf of pages for me to type up in the morning.

So not everyone is the same. Oftentimes I, too, need to circle around before settling down to work.

Which is your style? Have you made peace with it? And what helps you launch into your work right away? Or to settle into your work sooner, after first circling around it?

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