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On the Virtues of Peer Pressure or, Great Expectations

Did I say liveblogging? Well, yesterday I wrote all day and then went to the gym, made it home, ate, attended to a few details of home administration, and promptly fell asleep. Sleepblogging. I’ve accidentally left my notes from yesterday at home but I remember a few choice ones and I’ll report on this morning too. Then the final installment – yes, there will be cake – will be on this afternoon.

Every day we have started off with a meeting and there has typically been some way in which we participated together – discussing a writing issue in breakout groups, or volunteering ideas to write down on a big paper pad at the front of the little alcove room where we hold our meetings. After lunch, save for yesterday, which was taken up (in that same alcove space) with a hatha yoga class, we reconvene again and restart. At the end of the days, though, leaving is unceremonious. The strike of four marks quitting time and we all trickle out, glancing behind us disconcertedly at the little bastions of productivity we’re leaving behind, wondering what else we may have accidentally left behind in the form of personal effects, and maybe feeling it just a little odd that we aren’t marching out triumphantly together.

We were given post-it notes the first day on which to write our goals, first for the morning, and then for the afternoon. Those post-it pads have been floating around availably for the remaining days, but I have missed the encouragement to write on them before commencing with fingers to keyboard. (It’s an all-day-long keyboard solo, in the words of my closest neighbour in the Harry Potter room). The point, I have learned, is not so much which rules you follow but that there are rules at all. Rules and expectations. I have long been an admirer of the concept of enabling constraints. But I have mostly thought of them in terms of art-making and social critique. Today I found myself charmed by the efficacious simplicity of the fact that as part of a working process, the point is of course much the same. By setting parameters you know how to do what you have to do, but your sense of the meaningfulness of doing it is also derived from working within them. I repeat this refrain to myself: it’s not so much the rules as the presence of rules at all. It’s something maybe more of us than you’d think have to get over, having been acculturated to value individual liberty in the ways that we do. (That’s an example of what I meant about enabling constraints vis a vis social critique).

As a group we opened this morning by considering how to make writing a priority when we leave this place and how to start shelving other things as effectively as we have too often been able to shelf writing. I wrote a note to myself that asked “how to shelf other things – re: phone and internet?” The answer for most of us won’t be to put answering email on hold for four or five days straight, but it may be to compartmentalize on a shorter timescale (“rigorous compartmentalization” in the words of Writing Center Val, which is truly as much about emotional management as it is about administrative organization). Maybe answering emails – and all the emails – every other day, for a couple of hours, is the ticket.

Well. I’ve cut five minutes into this morning’s writing time (sorry Colette! I know, I’m only cheating myself) so I’d best get back to it. I love this camp like a kid loves camp. I wish this were my full time job.

Wait a minute…

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