Let It Marinate

21 Jul

I am nearly finished with a project that the author and I have been working on for more than seven years.

Seven years!

When I think about that timeframe, it seems unbelievable. First of all, my kids were 11 and 8 when we started, and now they are 18 and 15 (what?!). The author has lived in three states. The way I spend my time during the work week looks vastly different than it did when we started this project. A lot changes over seven years.

Certainly, we could have finished this project in a shorter amount of time. Maybe we should have. But what this project has taught me more than any other is the benefit of letting a project marinate.

Yes, there is a place to set productivity goals and deadlines. Sometimes these are exactly what we need to keep moving forward, especially when faced with a project that is big and complicated and that sometimes makes you want to give up. Sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter; these deadlines are set for us.

But I wonder how many times these productivity goals and deadlines are actually a hindrance to the quality of the finished product.

Over the past seven years, there were weeks (and sometimes months) that I did not look at this project. Sometimes these breaks were because I was waiting on the author (this is not a criticism; this is the normal back-and-forth of a project). Sometimes they were because I over-committed (still working on NOT doing this) and there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

But sometimes I didn’t look at the project because when I did, I could not see the way forward. This was unsettling given that the author hired me to find the way forward! In these moments I felt incompetent, which frustrated me further. I don’t like not to be able to figure something out. I don’t like being unable to produce. I spent time and energy feeling anxious and even guilty.

What I began to understand, though, was that these breaks were not a hindrance to completing the project. They were a help.

After a break, I almost always had new insight. What had previously seemed an enigma was now obvious. Often, something I had heard or read or talked about during the time away was exactly what I needed to incorporate to give the project new insight and depth.

The truth is the project needed time to marinate. I needed time to marinate.

  • I learned to accept the uncertainty and messiness of a project at a standstill as a valuable part of its development.
  • I learned to trust that the project would not always be as it was.
  • I learned that, at the right time, I would receive exactly what the project needed to move forward.
  • I learned that it was less about me figuring it out and more about me trusting it would be figured out.

If I can accept these truths about the project, can I also accept them about me?

  • Can I learn to accept my own uncertainty and messiness as a valuable part of my development?
  • Can I learn to trust that, in all my mess, I will not always be what I am now?
  • Can I learn to receive what has been given to me as what I need to move forward?
  • Can I learn it’s not about me figuring it all out but rather trusting that it will be?

Yes, I can learn. Can you?



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