Celebrate Your Wins

It’s time to write.

Don’t get me wrong. In the (long) time that has passed since I’ve last posted here, I have written and submitted multiple postdoctoral fellowship applications – and got multiple postdoctoral fellowship rejection emails (too many to count – but I’ll try counting them when I write a post about postdoc applications), completed a PhD (I’ll write about that too), got pregnant (won’t write about that part. You’ll have to figure it out yourself), turned one of my dissertation chapters into an article, which got accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, gave birth to a beautiful daughter in the midst of a global pandemic, got one partial ‘yes’ that gave me a three months long postdoctoral fellowship (‘partial’ because I applied for a year’s fellowship and got three months), revised the article while watching my daughter asleep in the monitor beside me, won a prize for it (nope, not for being a writing-mum. For the article), sent a book proposal to a publisher – who then accepted it (!!!), and – hey, listing these makes me feel a bit better about not having an academic job yet! – here I am.

The day I submitted my revised article – with my then-three month old sleeping on the monitor

I really should write a post about all these rejections, how the future feels so uncertain, and how every rejection now feels like I’m letting not only myself, but my newborn daughter down. BUT – I woke up this morning (well, it was the third time I ‘woke up’ this morning. Babies do change one’s sleep patterns…) and felt like it was about time I set up some new muse traps. And I started writing this post – it’s been about ten minutes since I started, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write, just let it flow, and now I’m determined to just write one last paragraph and post it as it is (spoiler after finishing to write the post – it’s a bit more than one paragraph. But just a bit).

I started writing that first paragraph of this post with the intention of letting my multiple (kidding. But I am truly so grateful to all ten of you!) followers know what I’ve been up to, and possibly to make excuses for why I haven’t written here in over two years! And — Lo and behold! I accidentally trapped a muse. I swear I didn’t mean for it to happen. I guess sometimes you do just need to write and they will come (didn’t I say it myself somewhere in this very blog?). I’ve been feeling somewhat uninspired recently. It’s been almost a year since I submitted the final copy of my PhD thesis, and I still don’t have a ‘job’ – or a long-term postdoctoral fellowship, for that matter. My partner always tells me, like a mantra, to celebrate my wins. And I never do it. Because every single rejection trumps ten little win, or so it feels. Because it hurts. Because I forget the wins so very easily, or because these wins are often so quickly overshadowed by a failure – e.g. being shortlisted to a fellowship but then, following an interview, being told that they loved me but I’m their reserve candidate (never got that fellowship. I’ll apply again this year). But writing that first passage, I somehow feel just a little proud of myself. Maybe I don’t ‘feel accomplished’, but it’s an accomplished feeling – if this makes any sense.

I want to remember this one. I’m celebrating this feeling as a win now. And all the wins I’ve listed above – if never before, and if never again – at this moment in time, they count. This one is for you Matthew – with an apology for never listening to your advice.

And for anyone who needs it right now.

Write down your wins. Count them – don’t enumerate them, but have them count. They make even the failures feel much more educating than depressing.

What were your wins since I’d last written here in July 2018? Or this year? Or over the last decade?

Hope to see you here soon. In the meantime, stay safe and take care. I hear there’s some nasty virus going around…

Yours,

Avital

Muses at Your Doorstep

What if I told you that you could order your muse on Amazon and have it show up at your doorstep, all you needed to do is be home to sign for the delivery?

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Well, you can’t. Sorry.

But wait, you almost-can. I’ve been thinking some more about that Pablo Picasso quote with which I started my first post at MuseTraps: Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. I’ve recently been showing up at the library on a daily basis, sitting there for a few hours a day, doing some writing exercises (I’m hoping to review this wonderful free online course after I finish all fourteen days), reading some, essentially doing whatever, but… showing up. Showing up every day (with occasional days off if I feel like I really need them, but yeah). And the more I do this the more I agree with this Picasso quote.

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Pablo Picasso, Le Rêve (The Dream), 1932.

Last night a little analogy came to mind that might help me explain just how effective it is to insist on sitting to write, rather than sitting and waiting for the muse to land on you out of nowhere and then write it down.

You see, in a way, muses are like parcels that you order over the mail. Imagine this: you order something you’ve really been wanting to buy for a while now. It’s a signed-for delivery. So, you order it but… then you go out instead of waiting at home to receive it. The next day, the delivery person comes again, only to find that you’ve gone out again. Let’s say, hypothetically, that they can leave you a message and leave it at the nearest post office. But you? You don’t show up to collect it. Remember, you were desperately hoping to receive this mu… ummm parcel. Yet, you do not pick it up.

Muses are the same. Little parcels of creativity sent to you (especially if you summon them, but sometimes, like bills and brochures, just out of nowhere, uncalled for). If you don’t show up with your pen to collect them and sign for them, though, you’ll never see them on paper. They’ll never bud and bloom and become wonderful ideas. And when they’ll be vacating in some land of the lost muses or something; or running off with your neighbour who found them quite attractive, you’ll be wondering why on earth you can’t find them.

Simply put, we work better when… well, when we work – than when we don’t (like a 100% better, right?). As I mentioned on the first post – I spent the last few months mainly conceptualising my thesis. I thought it through to the extent that I can talk about it for an hour without blinking if you just ask – I can describe the structure and the ideas, the methodology and the main arguments… but how will I ever see all these on paper if I don’t put them on paper? How will I find the words by which to write them if I don’t write any words?

So what are you waiting for? What was I waiting for those past few months?? Order your muse, find a comfy chair and a comfy desk, do your thing, write and write and wait for it to arrive. True, it might take a while (you never know, maybe the muse-men are striking, maybe there’s traffic on Idea Road), but you’re much more likely to end up meeting your muse if you’re waiting and prepared for it.

Let me know in the comments if you agree with me on this one.

And go get it!

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