Mental Exercises

While navigating through my most recent MFA residency I beat myself up for not taking the time to be more consciously extroverted. Though I am quite aware of society’s need for both introverts and extroverts, I was in an environment that had a lot to offer and unless I made it a point to capitalize, it could very well amount to nothing more than an opportunity lost. It behooved me to put on my extrovert’s hat for a while, or so it seemed. There were some specific things that I feared would remain elusive if I didn’t take action. So what did I do? I wrote them down and then proceeded to forgot about them. Ten days later I came across the list and realized that without any subsequent effort, they had all been accomplished. And with gusto.

This got me thinking about how strong the power of suggestion had been in my past. Nearly everything I’ve accomplished started as a wild hair, most of which became either a proper profession or something in which I found a sense of mastery. And by “mastery” I don’t mean to imply that I had it totally dialed in – rather, I mean I ended up feeling comfortable and confident in the doing of it, whatever it may have been. Comfortable and confident are two qualities that I’d like to see evidence of in all things about which I am passionate.

Embarking on an MFA has been about the most challenging thing I’ve ever attempted, but so far it’s also brought me the most joy. I can’t say where it’ll take me, if anywhere. In fact, merely considering that could be a vehicle for anything at all inspires anxiety. I don’t want it to propel me in any sort of traditional direction. If anything, I’d like it to deepen my sense of self. Make more clear my understanding of my place on this planet. Maybe even introduce me to people who will be lifelong friends. And though all this may turn out to be true, fact it is will propel me somewhere. But that somewhere is still unknown. And this is alright by me.

But now that I am in my 3rd semester I can nearly smell the barn. I’ve started thinking about what it is I want to do with this middle portion of my life. I’m not necessarily talking about a job here, it’s more about what a perfect day-to-day world would look like if I could create it. I know I’ve got a lot to offer but I’ve definitely got a lot to learn, too. I decided to nail some of my desires down and put them “out there,” so to speak. I decided to employ the same strategy I did at my last residency – I’m writing them all down. But because these topics are bigger than a mere, “Introduce myself to so-and-so,” or, “Sing at karoake,” I didn’t just write them down and forget about them. I look at my list every day as soon as I wake up. Who knows, maybe before too long they’ll be true and I’ll look back and wonder how I could have existed without them?

Here’s my list (not in any particular order). I ain’t asking for much.

1. I live as simply as possible.

2. I am a writer.

3. I make my living as a writer.

4. I read and write every day.

5. I keep my body fit.

6. I regularly have adventures, then I write about them.

7. I show my partner love every day.

8. I feed my body healthy food.

9. I harvest healthy relationships with friends, family and strangers.

10. I don’t waste my time doing mind-numbing activities.



  1. Kitty Lowery

    I, too, function from a list of intentions. Mine are internal, perhaps as a result of age:-). I enjoyed your 10 but ask that you consider number 10 again. It has a punitive tone, unlike the others. I find that intentions are so much about laying them on top of that soft bed of forgiveness. Presence is found there.

    Just a thought…and by the way, I admire your fullness of life, Tom Griffen.

    1. Kitty,
      I appreciate your comment, thank you for it. You’re right, number ten does seem punitive and, as such, a little out of place. I struggle with the idea of “wasted time” even though I logically know that it is an ingrained construct that is largely meaningless. I have a tendency to get heavy on my case in these regards and fully missed the judgmental tone of the intention. Though it resonates strongly, it might not be as constructive in it’s current form. Thanks for the insight! -tg

      1. Kitty Lowery

        Perhaps this…I will spend my time immersed in activities that stimulate my mind. Same intention, just with a little self-love twist.

      2. I dig it, Kitty. Thanks!

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