Sunday, May 8, 2011
“If you are going to be a writer, you must write every day,” Miss Beaumont told young Michael Ventura. I wish I’d had someone to give me that advice at a comparable age – but – would I have taken it?
9:20 AM. I’m sort of blank, at the moment, so I hope you have an idea for the morning’s entertainment. I didn’t post yesterday’s conversations with Papa, short though they were, because they seemed too personal. Well, and I don’t want to discuss in public the plot ideas he and I were discussing. But I suppose I could post a little bit from last night.
You could – or you could discuss something here. Or you could begin or continue some actual writing project. Or – you could continue reading Hemingway by Lynn, or could do nothing much. It’s a matter of consciousness, of intensity of consciousness. Of focus.
Let’s talk about that, then. What you are calling intensity of consciousness I think I would describe as willpower.
This is a subject worth a few minutes’ thought, and this is the way to get you to think about it. That is to say, when you write, you don’t tend to wander in the way you do when you try to just reason something out in your mind, finding that something ate the breadcrumbs you’d planned to use to mark your path.
What is willpower, after all? It sounds self-evident, until you look at it. Willpower is the determination to do or keep doing something (or to keep not doing something; it amounts to the same thing). Could it not be seen as the preventing of a different “I” from coming to the fore as circumstances change?
Well, say some more.
You have experienced from inside what it is to have a mercurial nature. The advantage to it is adaptability. The disadvantage is lack of stick-to-it-iveness. Neither is an absolute, of course. There is nobody on earth (so to speak) who is entirely mercurial or entirely fixed. But it is a useful polarity to explore.
Leos are said to be fixed fire, an innate contradiction.
Yes, but your moon in Cancer means that the parts of you that are drawn into action (or in-action!) in resonance with lunar-dominated matters responded as Cancer – that is, as cardinal water.
To stay with the astrological metaphor (for of course it has its explanatory value, as would any worked-out system) we would draw a distinction between your case and theoretical other cases.
Your combination is
sun – fixed fire
moon – cardinal water
ascendant – cardinal air
Note the inherent contradictions. If you were cardinal fire, say (Aries), you wouldn’t have the check to your initiative that you do. OTOH if you were mutable fire (Sagittarius), you’d find it harder to initiate anything. All would be receptivity.
Or, to take the moon position, if you were fixed water (Scorpio) you would have great staying power combined with great receptivity and external adaptability. If mutable water (Pisces), you would be extremely susceptible to any change, and your initiatives would have to come from some other part of your chart.
Or, if your ascendant were fixed air (Aquarius), again your resolution might be greater but your receptivity and your innovation less. If mutable air (Gemini) you might sparkle, but you’d have to find stability elsewhere in the chart.
But all of this is mere analogy, as indeed is astrology itself, or any mantic art. These are metaphors. Useful sometimes, and, to the degree that one absorbs the feel of the symbols, instructive on non-verbal levels – but metaphors. They are not science, not description, so much as intuitive assistance.
To return more closely to the subject of willpower and continuity. How can continuity result despite changes of the guard, so to speak? Well, how does it proceed in the Navy, say, or in any ongoing organization? The departing watch leaves messages for the incoming watch. And how does that happen in practice? Two ways. Unusual things requiring special attention are noted; usual things are contained within routine.
Now, an organized person – either naturally so inclined or one who has been trained to be organized (that is, to engage in orderly habits) – has little difficulty in dealing with life’s routine, and so has more effective attention for the unusual. Someone who is not organized, OTOH, may find himself continually or (more likely) sporadically hampered by the need to do with attention that which might have been done out of habit.
I’m well aware that you have encouraged me, over the years, to develop and live within workmanlike habits, and to the degree that I have done so, I have profited.
For completeness, let us say that any quality good or bad may become its opposite – that is, the good may become bad, or the bad good – depending upon circumstances. Someone who was particularly punctilious to keep his or her entire life habitual and organized might be at a great disadvantage in a sudden emergency. We mention this only lest someone think we were regarding any particular set of attributes as an absolute. Still, within limits, the benefits of neatness and of good habits – that is, organization in space and organization in time – are considerable, in that they free up psychic energy for other things.
However, merely having the energy available does not guarantee that a person is going to be able to use it for something constructive – and it certainly does not guarantee that he or she will be able to stick to something. It is true, without enough energy, it will be hard to do anything. (Although, one thing that can be done at a lower level of energy is stubbornly continuing to do or think or feel what one is already doing or thinking or feeling. Obstinacy is not perseverance in all cases. Sometimes it is merely a desperate clinging to a board in a flood.)
It feels like you’re circling around this somehow.
We are, a little, because really the subject deserves more attention than you have available at the moment! But some things can be said. One is, willpower is more complex than you may recognize, because it is an amalgam of orientations that may last or may not, depending. You, Frank, in particular know what it is like to have no effective will – and you know what it is to drive something through, and you know what it is to sort of sleepwalk day by day but still accomplish something over time.
I do. Very different states of being.
When you have a measurable project with easily comprehended steps and a defined endpoint, you have no great problem in engaging in sustained effort. Thus you edited, thus you write books.
In the absence of a defined endpoint you are inclined to flounder around, perhaps still working but having to fight against a sense of futility. In the absence of defined steps toward a known endpoint, you are inclined to jump in and swim vigorously, hoping for the best – and perhaps becoming discouraged and/or disoriented, and stopping suddenly or gradually, consciously or behind your back, as something else begins to appear to be more real, more realistic. And when there is neither endpoint nor intermediate steps, you despair of beginning, or continuing. We have posed all this in terms of tasks (self-appointed or other) but it applies to life in general, and we use your own example mostly to keep your interest. This type of analysis could apply to anyone, but the proportion of the time they spend in one or the other condition would vary vastly.
Why? Not because one or the other person had “more willpower” or less, though that’s the shorthand that is employed. Instead, you could look at it – to revert to the astrological metaphor – as a different admixture of the traits that lead to continuity of attention.
You just came out of the same whole you went in, it seems to me.
As we said, it requires a time when you are more alert, and that cannot be forced (by “willpower”) but can only transpire by lapse of time in light of good or bad habits of nutrition, exercise, and rest, among other things.
So then, quit for the day?
Quit this, anyway, if you wish.
See you next time, then.