Viewing entries tagged
laying track

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Death to the Stuck Whiner - Life to the Creator!

Dear "It's Good Friday, I'm Dying and Can't Seem to Get it Together to Even Create a Good Death" Self,

You always think that you have to do something dramatic to signal a new track in your life: move houses, acquire a new mode of transportation (boat, scooter), do a big physical cleanse, set yourself a series of goals in a fresh, new journal. Death to the old and life to the new. But by now you are starting to get the idea, at the ripe old age of 38, that the big changes are always little ones.

I moved houses 3 times this winter, into two different house sits and back to my little cabin in between. Each time it was like a fresh start, a “wow, look at this beautiful space I can be in and think of all the work I can get done!” kind of feeling. But I’m still me. I’m messy, leave unfinished projects everywhere, don’t pick up after myself til company’s coming, indulge in TV and wine and distractions as soon as work is somewhat accomplished (or whenever I can justify it). And then I tire of the place, or feel trapped by it, and I need a change again. Death before life.

So, big moves don’t usually signal a deep change, they just make me feel better for a time.

However, some significant changes have taken place over the last few months, and I did get into an actual routine of working. But it wasn’t the moves or the new space or access to internet that suddenly changed me from being a whining, stuck creative, to an actually working creative.

You know what's changed in the last few months? I began to be grateful, I began to see opportunities instead only obstacles, and I started laying track for The Work. When I was complaining, whining, crying and using distractions to cover my fears that I couldn’t bring my ideas to reality, I just didn't see any way forward. It seemed impossible. As I focused on my own inability, I was choking out the creative process. And without creativity and imagination, nothing will ever get done.

Creativity requires room to breathe: it needs hope like humans require air. When I became grateful and saw opportunities, I began to have hope. When I have hope, I stop panicking and can see the next step ahead of me. I started to see what I could do, right here and right now.

Creativity requires a track to run on. I finally gave it an outlet into The Work, instead of being imaginative and creative with all the ways I was avoiding work. When my creativity is stifled, I find it expressing itself in all kinds of random ways in my life. It goes berserk and runs in other directions, sometimes harmful ones. 

Like, hmmm... I become a little obsessed with posting details of my precious life on Facebook. Or I put my imagination to work imagining what my ex is doing with his new girlfriend, and what their relationship looks like. Or I start having great and wonderful ideas about all my friends' businesses, and start blabbing about how I could help them achieve what they want to. I spend time reorganizing things and making grand plans. All because I'm not directing that creative energy to my own work. 

So when I look back at it, the three biggest changes in my life have been small ones. I write down something beautiful that happened that day in a gratitude journal every night. I stopped saying 'yes' to everyone else, and said no to some significant jobs that I knew would cost me time in my own work. And I look for chances get some traction on my ideas, rather than opportunities to avoid The Work.

Another little trick I've recently discovered is that tackling things I’ve procrastinated on for months, or even years, can also unblock the creative side. For some reason, my little task-oriented brain is compulsively running over a list of things I have to do, and when I finally do one of them, it frees up some harddrive space for creative work. Isn’t that weird?

Tobi with chickies.jpg

And then of course, the more track you lay, the more you get done. As I wrote yesterday, the more I get done the more I want to get done. 

It’s refreshing to realize that I don’t need to overhaul my life to get on track. I just need to start with something small, right now.

Death to procrastinating and whining, life to hope and creative track-making.

Right now.

 

Love from, Your Newly-Hatched Baby Chickie Creative Self

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The Perfect Workweek

My Dear Driven Artist and Compulsive Overworker,

I've always known that working 40 hours per week was not for me. It was always either 70 or 80, or 10/20 ish. I believe I'm really only productive when I'm working flat-out, obsessively, enjoying the rush and stimulus of expediting food for a conference of 1000s of attendees for example, or fitting in a leisurely 2 hour work period as I do in my late 30s, between caring for horses, large dogs, gardens, and packing or unpacking my things from whatever housing arrangement I have at the time. 

Now I have scientific proof that working less is better for me, and is more productive in the end. I hereby present: The Ideal Workweek, According to Science, by Simon Parkin.

ideal workweek poster.jpg

Basically, he explains that just because "we live in a culture that venerates overwork", doesn't make us more productive. In fact, a lot of the research shows that four hour stints of work is about as much as anyone, from artists to philosophers to athletes, can handle. And even that might be best broken up into one hour work segments, with 15-20 minute breaks. 

My challenge, and perhaps yours too, is that my brain has been transformed by the ADD-inducing nature of social media culture, to the point that I can't seem to concentrate on a single task for more than 20 minutes before I'm actively looking for a distraction.

Ironically, when I'm "working" on social media content and surfing the web and Facebook for marketing opportunities, I can sit there, zoned out like a zombie, for hours. But when I'm standing in front of the computer doing some actual creative work to do with one of my documentaries, it takes about 20 minutes before my brain starts to drift, and if I can harness it at that point and wrestle it back to attention, I'm still only good til around the 40 minute mark before I have to do something else. 

Why is that? Why can't I focus on the work that is most meaningful and will produce the most long-lasting feeling of satisfaction for me? At the end of a workweek, I don't look back on my social media posts and go, "wow, those were some creative pieces of work there, Tobi, well done!" OK, so I do pat myself on the back a little bit for the bloggy bits that actually take some storytelling skill. But when I think about what I've done that week in terms of "real work", it's only the time I've put in to actually putting bits of video on a timeline, or words on a page, or ideas and research in a publishable format, that I really feel a sense of accomplishment about. 

The problem perhaps is, that the sense of accomplishment comes long after I've actually done the work, not while I'm creating. I usually have a sense of un-accomplishment while I'm creating something. It feels always rough, unpleasant, not enough, not polished, unhappily unfinished. So I go away from it with the nagging sense that I have to come back, and it bugs me. Whereas social media publishing work has an immediate sense of accomplishment, a reward right at the time of posting, and I feel a little rush and sense of satisfaction that makes me want to do more. 

So instead of limiting myself to a single post, like an addict, I have to replicate that post's success, doing it in multiple groups and trying to get even more traction, chasing the dragon of more reach and interaction. But it's a high that never lasts, and I don't think about it beyond that limited period. The gain is instant, and instantly over. 

But real work... the hard, uncomfortable stuff that I have to do daily if I'm ever going to finish one of my documentaries... the grinding, hair-pulling, sweat-inducing valleys and troughs I have to push myself through to actually lay track... this kind of work can only be done in short bursts.

I take hope in the evidence that far greater artists and thinkers than I am have traditionally worked in short bursts and then taken their leisurely time to do the rest of life, and let their mighty creative minds and juices slowly recover. Here's to a better workweek, and to working with less pressure and compulsion, for all of us. 

Hang in there,

love, Me.

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