The Benefits of Disequilibrium
Yes, bad can be good. Hidden blessings and all that.
I’m not talking about disequilibrium in the medical or economic sense. Disequilibrium is a term coined by authors Laura Davis and Janis Keyser of Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, but it doesn’t just refer to new parents. It’s also a state often visited by writers, both amateur and professional. In fact, I’ve found it to be a pretty accurate description of life in general.
Disequilibrium is a state of unbalance, but more importantly, it is the effort to strive for balance that makes being unbalanced a state of disequilibrium. Some people can live their entire lives without attaining balance and be perfectly happy, if not sane. This does not apply to them. This applies to those of us that work constantly toward a goal regardless of how far away that goal seems to be… and how much farther it gets away from us despite some of our best efforts.
For example, there is no doubt that kids keep us endlessly guessing. It’s how our infants teach us how to care for them, because we sure as hell do not know anything before they do.
Here’s what I mean:
Baby won’t sleep, so after days and days of trial and error, you come up with the perfect solution: nurse baby, then rock baby in glider while singing and having the white noise generator on “rain,” then swaddle baby (but only in the green swaddle— the yellow will not work for some reason), then place baby in swing and turn on music while continuing to sing. Rub baby’s head and make forceful shushing sounds intermittently between verses until baby stops crying and yawns, then turn down the music volume by one and turn up the swing momentum (during a louder part of the song, because the motor will make a click sound that will, inevitably, wake the baby.) Finally, continue singing as you move out the door and down the hall. And ta-da! Baby is asleep. It took 40 minutes, but you did it. This routine works for a whole four days, but then baby tires of it and you’re faced with another challenge. How long will it take to find a new solution?
Welcome to disequilibrium. Children develop faster than we can keep up. Our struggle to keep up includes failure, the first state of disequilibrium. Frustrating, overwhelming… but necessary. We learn the most while we struggle, and by comparison, we learn next to nothing when our lives are completely, effortlessly balanced.
And we’re not just learning about our kids. We’re learning about ourselves, our partners, our lives, our values, and our priorities.
Likewise, the daunting task of writing comes with a ton of disequilibrium. In fact, everything up until the final product is happily unbalanced.
Ignore the disequilibrium and write frantically. Here, the ideas are more important than the quality. Right now no one would ever want to read your manuscript because it sucks. You have a lot to learn about yourself as a writer (regardless of how many other projects you’ve completed), your subject, and how your influences will affect your story. But this is all necessary. The first draft has to need improvement so that you can improve it.
Revision, Editing, Proofreading, Etc.:
Now’s the time to dive into disequilibrium. Let it take over. Figure out solutions where you think it’s impossible. Nothing is impossible: this is your writing, and you can make it be whatever you want: good, bad, pretty, or ugly. Disequilibrium will make you want to tear out all your hair and perhaps even gouge out your eyes, but it won’t pay off unless you refuse to give up. There are rewards ahead. But this moment is rewarding, too. Just think of what you’re learning by fixing all the problems your writing has inherently accumulated.
The Myth of the Final Draft:
There is a version of your project that might leave your hands and fall into those of an agent’s, a publisher’s, a reader’s. This is the point. But if you’ve ever read your own final draft, you know it can’t be final. Not in your head. You’ll likely revise it endlessly, or at least wish you had made some last-minute changes. Just here and there… and there and there and there, too.
So what was with all that rushing to the end? The irony here is that there is no end. Not to parenting, writing, or learning about life. It’s a ceaseless journey and the destination is never as important as the route traveled.
Without being faced with challenges, we could never overcome them. It’s as simple as that. And we all want to achieve something. Embrace disequilibrium and respect it for what it’s worth: invaluable lessons on how we can improve ourselves and our lives.
Posted on 2011 Jun 25, in Ramblings and tagged Becoming the Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years, Family, Laura Davis, Parenting, The Writing Process, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.