intention

hand and cat in shadows

I’ve experimented with many different blog writing routines. For now, the one that I’ve settled on involves sitting at the laptop in my studio every weekday morning before I leave for my paid work. I sometimes write on weekends, but not at the same time of day, or with the same intensity. Weekends are for play. Weekdays are for The Work.

I write for about 45 minutes, and if I’m lucky, at the end of that time I have three blog posts. Sometimes I only have one. Sometimes – like tonight – I have to pick up my writing later in the day, and finish it before it’s scheduled to publish the next morning. I write one day ahead, not counting Monday’s posts, which I write on the preceding Friday.

I illustrate all my blogs with my own photographs and illustrations. So during the 45 minutes that I write every morning, I also need to choose the images for my posts. If I’m lucky, I already have suitable photos in my archives. Often I end up taking a quick shot on the fly – especially for this blog, for some reason. Like this photo, which is me leaning against the wall where I was writing that particular post. Or this one, which is my kitchen clock, frozen forever at 7:33:12 a.m. on Wednesday morning, June 6, 2012.

Today’s photo was supposed to be my hand, resting loosely in my lap as I meditated. Except that one of the cats decided he was suddenly starved for attention, and crashed the photo shoot. He craftily wrapped himself around my left knee, preparing to claw me familiarly. The light of the lowering sun, streaming through my studio window, hit my palm.

I struggle with intention. I have a sneaky feeling that there’s a lot of truth in the saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” And to me, intention often feels like planning.

In the case of the photo for this post, I intended to take a picture of my loosely open palm. I saw a patch of sunlight on my hardwood floor, and I planned for the light to hit my hand a certain way. I moved my meditation cushion over to the patch of sunlight, and I planned to take a well-framed photograph. I planned to upload it and add it to this blog post before pushing publish.

The beast who came running over to writhe in the sunbeam and claw my leg had a completely different intention. He wanted to feel good. He pushed his way into my shot, and my plans threatened to scatter. What did I really want? Just a photo for this post. And as I smiled wryly at my companion, I saw a new answer. My intention refined itself. Focused, like the light on my palm. Blurred a little around the edges, as life messed with it.

I can’t imagine a better illustration for this blog post, now. It’s all there: body, flesh, animal instinct, darkness, light, mind, spirit, strength, focus, and the flexibility to allow the paradox of the “but/and”. Maybe this is a better definition of intention for me to explore:

Our intention as artists is to get better, to go deeper, to work closer and closer to the bone.

Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

How do you use intention in your life? Is it rigid, or flexible? Does it limit you, keep you on track, protect you from distractions… or expand your experience?