Shhh. He Doesn’t Know He’s My Kinda My Guru

It’s been forever since I’ve blogged. I’ve been working full time for almost a year now and *insert-various-excuses-here*. But this is going to change, because…

…let me introduce you to Patrick Sherriff.

I first met Patrick back in 2011. I was new to Twitter and there was this really neat group of cool expat kids in Japan called #youguys. They liked to talk, tell jokes, and share stories (advice, information, what-have-you) via Tweets. Those were some seriously fun times.

And then the Tohoku Earthquake hit.

Now, Patrick wasn’t Patrick back then. At least not to me. He went by the pseudonym “Our Man in Abiko” and his avatar was a very 007 silhouette. All I knew was that (apart from being mysterious AF) he was the one who jumpstarted this idea to pull together a group of writers and artists to donate works (stories, essays, art) and compile them into a book. This book would then be sold and all the proceeds would be given to the Japanese Red Cross to help with earthquake and tsunami relief. Our Man spearheaded, organized, edited, and accomplished all of this in a little over a week. And we’re talking also about getting pieces from Yoko Ono, William Gibson, Barry Eisler and Jake Adelstein. We called it The Quake Book, but it’s real title is 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake and it’s still a phenomenal thing.

Here’s what Patrick had to say about that when I asked:

“Ah, Quakebook. Yeah, probably that will go down as my crowning publishing achievement (although I did it all anonymously at the time), getting 100 contributors, including celebs like Yoko Ono, to contribute pieces about the Tohoku earthquake for free to raise money for the Red Cross. To this day, I don’t know how we pulled it off other than to say it was the right thing to do at the right time. A lot of people helped because of this. And that’s the lesson I take from the experience: do the right thing at the right time and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Although the converse is probably more common. It’s only after the event that you realise what a fortuitous opportunity it was. Grasp the nettle, Terrie!”

That was 2011. I pulled away from Twitter, more or less, and life-things happened. But I kept bumping into Our Man (whom I learned was Patrick Sherriff) on Facebook, Instagram, and the Twitter I’m still trying to wean myself off. And what I’ve discovered over the years is that this guy does all variety of things and he puts his whole heart into each and every pursuit he pursues. He’s a whole like who I wanna be.

Something I think Patrick and I have in common is there are so many things we want to do in this life, and so many things we want to do well. We also like trying new stuff we’ve never done before and that might be a little bit (or a lot) out of our comfort zones. The ideas just don’t stop. The difference between Patrick and I, however, is that he seems to have the secret sauce as to how to go about getting shit done. I have no such sauce recipe, as yet.

See, the thing is, I’m used to having great stretches of uninterrupted time. That’s how I got all my stories researched and written and how I scoured the markets and they ended up in print. Well, that was then and this is now, and now I’ve got to be grown up (like most people) and figure out how to chase all my dreamy dreams as best as I can with what bits of free time I can snag during a day, because life ain’t that long, ya’ll, and every second we do have is valuable, dammit. 

So, I was dealing with all this (having too much to do, too much I wanted to do) when the Japan Writers’ Conference snuck up on me. Because often times my dreamy dreams involve something difficult that I’m afraid of, I raised my hand and pitched an idea for a talk. Lo and behold, they gave me the green light, and I went to the conference. Patrick (whom I’d never met before in real life) said he was going as well.

I was both stoked and nervous to meet this person I’ve known online for so many years. I think he still had some of the mysterious Our Man in Abiko vibes about him in my head. I had no idea how super nice he was IRL. Now, add to those nerves the fact that I’d never given a talk before in my life, so I had that rattling around in my bloodstream as well. The day of the talk, I walk into the room and there are all these people and my little heart is like, “Yep, I’m outta here.”

But before I could turn around and bolt, I looked out at the crowd and I see a couple familiar faces and one of them is Patrick. He just smiled at me and I totally relaxed. Later we talked and had lunch with a  group of writers, and it was like chatting with an dear old friend. He was smart and friendly and despite being so hard working and accomplished, he was so very mellow.

I’m sure I asked him then and I think I’ve asked him a dozen times since, “How do you do it? How do you get so much done and done well? You read loads of books, you write, you paint, you play instruments, you run a school, you write your own textbooks, you write reviews, you support other artists and writers and friends, and you have a newsletter with really cool stuff in it!?”

(Look at this! I still think this is one of my favorite self portraits.)

Alongside quite a bit of encouragement, Patrick has given me advice about how to assign small blocks of time for the things that are important. He’s talked about how he’ll give himself 30 minutes every day to read a book. Thirty minutes reading, uninterrupted. Stop. Then on to the next thing. He’s organized and careful and passionate. And he also know how to relax and have fun. It makes very good sense to me and I’m trying to implement his approach into my hectic days. 

Fast Forward to a little while ago, when he came to me via email and threw out the idea of us interviewing each other for our own personal blogs. I’ve never interviewed anyone, much less written a blog post about a person I admired. I don’t have the first clue what to do, what to ask, how to consolidate the answers I get, so easily my answer was, “Hell, yeah!”

It took awhile because like I said in those first two sentences up there: all worlds-of-busy are on me, and I have such a difficult time getting to things that matter. But I took a proverbial page out of Patrick’s book, and I set aside the time to do something important and I got it done. Today. Cue happy dance. 

See, it’s not that I don’t hustle. I think I do hustle. I’m just not necessarily doing it as well as I could be. I get stressed out and panicked. But then I look over and I see Patrick and I nod and think: That’s what I need to be doing. So my plan is after I get good at divvying up blocks of time and concentrating on the tasks at hand, I’m totally going for a more chill attitude.

My goal is to grasp that darned nettle, all the nettles(!), and then, eventually, to do it will a mellow demeanor, just like my humble guru, Patrick Sherriff.

And if you want to read what was really asked and answered in those emails, here is Patrick’s site. 


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