“I Can’t Talk Now; I’m Peeling Carrots!” Finding Inspiration One Carrot at a Time
Updated: May 13
Today's WRITING WEDNESDAY is a conversation with my friend, author Pamela Jane
Pamela Jane is a (fabulous) author and writing coach with more than 30 books to her credit and essays that have appeared in the NYT, The Wall Street Journal, and Writer’s Digest. We've never met in person, but we email frequently, talk on the phone, and work together on memoir writing projects. I consider her a dear and, more importantly, wise friend. In truth, her work ethic and determination inspire me.
Today, I want to share with you a recent conversation. We began discussing the disadvantages to women of multitasking. You know how we all brag about our ability to multitask! (OK. I admit it. I was bragging about my recent achievements in multitasking when talking with Pamela.) Pamela pointed out how that "talent" actually gets in the way of the necessary mindfulness we need to live an inspired life.
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When I asked Pamela to explain what she meant, she said she didn't have time at the moment, but she'd follow up on our conversation with a little story that she'd send in an email. Here's what she wrote:
Pamela: I clearly remember when I walked into the kitchen a few years ago. I wanted to ask my husband, John, a question.
"I can’t talk now," he said. "I’m peeling carrots."
Huh? Wouldn’t someone who was peeling carrots want to have a conversation to make the task a little less tedious? But the truth is that John, who was a teacher and academic, could do only one thing at a time – though he did that brilliantly.
...on the other hand, are always bragging about how great we are at multitasking. And we truly are! But sometimes our amazing multitasking skills get us into trouble. Here's my real example:
Up and down ...and almost up the stairs
I had been sitting at my computer entering heath insurance information for my daughter on her college's website. At least I was doing this with one-eighth of my mind. The other seven-eighths were engaged in a fantasy about moving to the English countryside, debating about whether to inoculate our oak trees for bacterial leaf scorch, and wondering if we could afford a fancy vacation, half of which would be tax deductible as research for my memoir.
Oh, and reminding myself to pick up a book I’d bought recently called Ten Zen Seconds.* I really wanted to read it, but I just hadn’t had the time.
Then, at my computer, I realized I needed some information from my health insurance company for the college website, so I ran downstairs, called the health insurance company, punched in the member ID in response to a recorded message, and ran back upstairs to the computer.
When the representative answered, he asked me for the member ID number again. Feeling annoyed, I ran downstairs to get it. I was on my way back up when I tripped and fell with a loud crash, breaking my foot while on a recorded line to my health insurance company. Oh, the irony of it! So much for multitasking.
While my foot slowly healed in its orthopedic boot, I had time to think about those ten Zen seconds I didn’t have time for before. I even had time to practice the ten Zen seconds – take time to take time.
What does this have to do with mindfulness and inspiration?
When you consider it, finding a source of inspiration that lets us lead the kind of life we want requires mindfulness. We can't be doing a million things at the same time. We can't be figuratively running up and down the stairs all the time. We have to stop and remember, and to reflect deeply on what we want to be and do. We have to interrogate reality -- what is real, what is essential, what is our personal truth?
Understand the past and the present to create the future
Actually, that is also what life writing requires of us. We have to synthesize the past and the present so that the two can create a harmonious (or deliberately discordant) whole. And with success in understanding ourselves, we can find the inspiration for creating the future we want.
By digging for story currently hidden in the chaotic mess of life, we can uncover the life narrative we want in our future.
Mindfulness leads to inspiration
Since I'm a writer, I fully understand the link between mindfulness, inspiration, and achievement. In particular, life writing is, by its very nature, the ultimate exercise in mindfulness. You'll never write about life unless you focus, focus, focus.
But it is never all that simple
Yes, we need to be focused, to be mindful in order to find and achieve an inspired life. However, as a woman who probably can't help multitasking, don't beat yourself up. Because, oddly enough, the intellectual rigor involved in discovering and pursuing an inspired life is a supreme exercise in multitasking.
Just keep all that multitasking oriented to life goals that are worthy of you...
...AND don’t try to run up and down the stairs while you’re doing it.
You can do it, ONE CARROT AT A TIME.
*Ten Zen Seconds: Twelve Incantations for Purpose, Power and Calm by Eric Maisel, Ph.D
Matilda: I want to thank Pamela for our conversation and her follow-up email. Pamela, as you know, I love your series of children's books. The video version of C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan is super clever. I've added a link to the video to the left.
And Pamela, I'm excited to get the news that you have a new children's book coming out in June -- wow, that's almost here.
Matilda: Hi everyone. I hope today's conversation with Pamela Jane gives you a new perspective on your life and an approach to finding your own inspiration. At RosieCentral, we strive to bring you sources of inspiration so that you can live the life you want and deserve.
Say, Are You Interested in Sharing Your Inspirational Story? Enter Our Contest.
Would you like to share your inspirational story? Consider entering our TALES OF INSPIRATION Contest. Did you know that writing can help you focus on your life -- be mindful about your life goals? Be sure to sign up below and we will send you information about our first-ever Tales of Inspiration Writing Contest. In addition, when you sign up, we'll send a FREE PDF of our Introduction to Writing Alchemy (a $11.97 value) that we sell on Etsy.
RosieCentral's PROMPTS FOR WRITING AND ACTION
Our new WRITING WEDNESDAYS will always include a prompt for writing and/or for action. We know you are busy, so our prompts are designed to just give you enough time to focus on writing or taking action to help you incorporate the week's inspiration into your life.
Today, we hope you'll take 5 to 10 minutes to use either of these two Writing Prompts:
Write about a time when multitasking meant you forgot to keep your eye on the ball. (Hopefully you didn't fall and break your foot like Pamela Jane did!) Think of a specific example of when multitasking--so rewarding much of the time--meant you didn't do any of the jobs well or that you were so busy that you forgot a more important task. Be specific. Recall where you were, who was with you, the scents in the air, the words you or another person spoke. The more detailed you can be the clearer the memory will become and the more you will get out of this exercise. Let your last sentence or paragraph specify what you learned by looking back and how the insights on mindfulness will help you more forward.
Think though a next step you want to take in your life and write for 5 minutes on how you can better focus on that goal. It takes real discipline to not get distracted. Need to better define your goal? Need to write out the steps you should take? Perhaps you want to figure out what is holding you back and the specific next step you now need to take. What resources do you need? What person can you call on to help you take the step? Let you last sentence specify your timeline for the next step...
...AND THEN TAKE IT!
Remember to be inspired by your own life as you move forward.
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