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Reflection

Ideas: To-do List or Wine Cellar?

Monica Wojciechowska

picking grapes on the Polish countryside (Blażowa, Poland)

I haven’t ‘officially’ written anything for about 9 months. But that doesn’t mean the ideas weren’t flowing. In fact, there were so many “potential” adventures to document, topics to reflect on, ideas to share, that I became paralysed. I just didn’t know where to start. As if you're on a boat and water starts seeping in from all angles. First you fix one hole, but then you spot another one and switch focus until you realise that a third is there too, and a fourth, and so on, until you call it a day and realise you might as well go for a swim instead ;)

Is my idea generation procrastination? To some extent, probably, yes. It’s easier to think of new ideas, than to build out ones you already have. The former requires only a burst of inspiration; the latter requires contemplation. And that requires effort... and time.

If processing bursts of insight and formulating a coherent statement on their behalf requires more time than just slapping that insight onto an unorganised list of ideas (which it does), than my ideas list will likely grow with time. So, we have a growing list. Sounds pretty similar to an evermore unmanageable ‘to-do’ list to me. And that’s exactly how I lately started to view the ideas I jotted down and untouched... 

But what has recently made all the difference? Wine. Maybe all those ‘untouched’ ideas, all the topics that didn’t make it past the bullet-pointed mind dump, aren’t items on a to-do list, but wine in a cellar? A good harvest is something to be grateful for, not intimidated or stressed by! Because it's not possible to immediately consume all the grapes a given season gives us while they're fresh, we turn them into wine and in the cellar they go. The bottles sit there. Sometimes months, most times years. But they are not losing value; they are gaining it! Fermentation is doing its magic. And just as wine gets better with time, so can our ideas. 

Eventually, though, they do have to come out of the cellar to be enjoyed. So the new question is, when should we take a bottle out of the cellar? When should an idea become an article? When it’s had enough time and it fits the occasion. Time and timing. If the bottle’s uncorked and those two criteria fit, oh how sweet (or ‘sweetly’ dry if you prefer dry wine like me) that wine will taste!

And this is the key difference between treating ideas like items on a to-do list vs. wine in a cellar. Once a to-do is done, it’s gone. It’s forgotten. The joy is in it’s elimination - as fast as possible. To-do list items are meant to be crossed off. Wine is meant to be savoured and shared

So returning to the original list of ideas - how come this thought was the one that made it out of the cellar? Well, it found it’s perfect pairing: homemade kiełbasa-and-Camembert sandwiches made earlier this morning, free Wifi at the Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, and only a few hours left between me and the America I haven’t seen for over a year and a half. 

Na zdrowie!

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