Friday, December 16, 2016

Post #2 "Locking it down"

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "locking it down." By this I mean doing something to its very end, until it's locked into place and complete.

I have the tendency to not lock things down. Essays, violin pieces, projects, books poems. I get things--sometimes really good things--to a point of almost locked down, and then I abandon whatever it is and end up playing Words with Friends or watching tons of Ellen interviews. I have great ambition to start things. And I'm not the person who has a million barely-begun projects around--once I start, I follow through really far before my brain decides it's time to move on to something else--writing whole drafts of books (but never getting to the final draft), learning most of whole concertos (but never completely learning those three hard runs, or memorizing the whole thing to be concert ready). That kind of thing. I just don't have a lot of experience with "locking things in." But I want to get better at it.

 Doesn't this selfie I just took to make this post less huge-blocks-of-texty scream of someone who is learning to "lock things down" really effectively? Thought so.

This pattern even holds true for me in reading books. One of my favorite books, Tess of the D'urbervilles, is a book that I have read until the last 20 pages and then stopped reading, never finishing,  twice. (Side-note, the fact this has happened twice is also significant--I rarely, rarely read a book twice.) It's almost like something within me feels opposed to putting the finishing touches on things--like my internal self is diametrically opposed to the idea of completeness, of making something static, of making it end. It might be perfectionism, but I'm not so sure it is. It's partly just a personality feature I think. (For example, other personalities seem to be extremely adept and attracted to finishing and putting final touches on projects, or "locking things down" but sometimes describe having less ability to get a project off the ground.) I also think there's a component of inexperience, too. I think it's just a thing I'm not practiced at doing because it requires a certain kind of assiduousness and attention, and it's the type of attention I'm not really great at naturally, especially before I was medicated. (Did I mention I'm on Vyvanse now? I LOVE IT.)

This is the thing I have to work at. I often don't have to work at getting "good" at the things I'm naturally talented in--for me often the talent is just there. Instead, I have to work on working to the end. I can't tell you how difficult this struggle has been in my life at times. It has felt like the kind of torture given to Greek Gods--to be able to be "talented" in certain areas I love, but also unable to take the final steps necessary to close the deal, to finish the thing, to get it out into the world in a viable way--just because. Just because my brain is like "Mmmmkay we're done with this now, byeee!"

Learning how to approach "locking things down" has been a long, multi-year lesson that I a still learning. And it's important to me that I learn this all the way (locking it down, if you will) so that I can accomplish many of my goals.

So, just like someone who is not naturally as good at writing or music or whatever else, but who wants to become good, can put in the time, put in the practice, and little by little learn the skills and habits that will make them proficient, so too can I put in the time and put in the practice of learning how to "lock things down" so that I can become proficient at doing so--proficient enough accomplish the things I need to accomplish during these precious, finite adult years.

It's actually really, really hard to do--practicing this skill.

This blog has been one of the greatest tools in this effort. Writing a blog forces a person to take viable drafts and then make presentable to a large audience. I've had to read through drafts enough times to make them public-ready. I've had to do it over and over again. I couldn't just "turn in the rough draft" on this blog--that would have looked sloppy and unprofessional, and doing so would have felt uncomfortable. Because of this, I have had to be more thorough than I naturally would have been, and the repetitive nature of this task has been extremely good for me. It's shown me that I can finish things. That I can work a draft into something finalized. It has actually become very gratifying--this cycle of finishing things, putting it into the public sphere, and then moving forward knowing these things are done, complete, finalized (instead of existing, somewhere in the back of my mind, as yet another thing I'll "get around to eventually." (Life-lesson: "eventually" never, ever, ever happens in that set-up.))

One thing I'm doing right now to practice this skill is learning a violin concerto all the way. Actually, just one movement of a violin concerto. I've decided on the Bruch because I already own a copy of it, and it's pretty cool sounding, though it's not the most ambitious concerto to learn. However, I think it's a good place to start for "locking things down." I am playing the same runs over and over and over. I'm memorizing all the passages and trying to think of them as a musical whole. I am learning this piece and not just doing the best I can with it as I play by the seat of my pants, hoping it all sounds okay. I'mma learn this sucker.

It feels different and good and unusual to me. It's also hard, and makes my brain work in ways it's not used to. And that's probably a good sign.

One "locking it down project" that I need a teeny bit of advice on is this: I've been transcribing my mom's journals. I've been doing it for years now.

It's probably not a job that should take years. But it does for me. I average about one entry per week, and I structure the process this way: I transcribe an entry, then send it in an email to Grandy, my mom's mom. Knowing I'm sending it to her motivates me to get the rough draft version done. I do it hastily oftentimes, right before church on Sundays, and then I spit out an email and off it goes.

But it is the finished project that matters here. That's the thing that needs to go to my siblings so they can read the words of their mother. That's the step that has held me up for years now.

For Christmas (but really it will be after Christmas) I am giving my family copies of the first completed journal (which is has literally been done since 2014, waiting to be "locked down." I'm doing this, though. I have a draft that is as close to "final" as drafts have ever gotten for me. I even hired an (amazing) editor to help. (Plug: Her name is Holly Welker and if you ever need something edited, I promise she is one of the best you will ever find. And she works incredibly fast and incredibly thoroughly and because of the combination of those two things and incredibly good deal. Also, turns out that today happens to be her birthday, so if you have something you need edited before Christmas you should give her the gift of your patronage--though I can imagine her queue for Christmastime projects might be filling up. Here's her website and here's here Facebook page.) Anyway, I am doing this, y'all. I am finishing this. I has taken years of work, but I am going to do it.

Perhaps that's just how it goes for me. Maybe projects that would take others less time take me much longer for me for a while, as I get better at this. I'm okay with that.

What I'm not okay with is leaving this world with a long listed of projects that never see the light of day because I only got to the 85% mark and then went on to something else, leaving them hopelessly lost, unable to be finished by someone else, but so close to being all the way done. It is important to me to learn this skill. It is good for me. It challenges me. I helps me grow. And as I work on my memoir, I can already sense that I will need this skill in ways I never have before. So, it's time.

Okay, time to ask for some really practical advice.

I have to get my Mom's journal bound. I want it to look pretty, and I want these copies to last a long time, even through decades of Weed negligence. How do I do this? Have any of you ever gotten something bound? Where should I be looking? Cheap versus quality? Please, bestow upon me the knowledge of the hive mind so that I may finish this project, give it to my family, and LOCK THIS SUCKER DOWN.

In closing, I have edited this post, but you will probably find some error. And if there is one, I'm probably going to just leave it, because that's just the fun of writing a blog: irony, among other things. I mean, how funny is a bunch of typos in a post all about locking down finished products? The amusement of that is my gift to you--an early Christmas gift. (Unless there is no error, in which case I AM ROCKING THIS NEW SKILL.)

Bye guys.

(Here's the Bruch concerto if you're a nerd like me that adores classical music. The orchestral part near the end before the revisit of the original theme is one of my fave orchestral sequences ever. Too lazy to look up the time. (See? Lock-down resistant to the end!)):


  1. I've gotten a book of letters bound for my parents this year at a local print shop in Utah - I took them all the pages and they bound them in a hardbound book for me for only $15. It's like those scrapbook books that Shutterfly does (hardbound but you can put pictures/text on the front and back). Kind of hard to describe, but I'm sure any local print shop will be able to do that for you. Good luck! That will be a wonderful present for your family.

  2. Sure enjoy reading all your posts

  3. This is funny - I do love that Bruch and I've spent my time on that first movement. And the second movement. But the last movement is still a work in progress. As are many crochet, craft and other projects. And the funny part is that I'm right now in a phase of attempting to go through and finish many of them and send them on their way in life, even if that way is just me using them. Thanks for the encouragement. It's a good companion, that Bruch. I'm not ready to practice yet, but I am playing sonatas once a week with my pianist brother, and slowly getting better at some passages that used to be impossible (now they're just a mess!). Hugs.

  4. Check out for your mom's journal entries. I don't know if they're exactly what you're looking for, but my friends say Blurb is the BEST(!) book publisher for blogs, photos, and other personal documents. I haven't used Blurb yet...I still need to print out my first blog that I wrote from 2008–2013! Ha ha.

  5. Hi Josh, I love your blog! I commented once and may have ticked you off๐Ÿ™‚ I suggested you stop making fun of yourself this instant๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚. I hope you will forgive me, my intentions were to let you know you are a rock star, but my hunch is you already know that, and if not, well you are!!!! I just wanted to suggest a book to you because as a dancer, it has helped me get over the shame of trying to produce good art and not be sad if a dance isn't what I thought it would be and then realize I am a rock star๐Ÿ™‚ It's called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Love to you and your family!!!!!

  6. That pic is so cute of you with your headphones/mic on!