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Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Throwing a rock into a hard place

Stuck between the intention and the act, we often fail to carry out what we’re meant to do. 

Motivation is fickle. Distractions are plentiful. Doing is not a matter of talent but discipline. Every repetition is a bicep curl for the brain. 

Wrote William James in The Principles of Psychology: “This very day I have been repeating over and over to myself a verbal jingle whose mawkish silliness was the secret of its haunting power. I loathed yet could not banish it. What holds attention determines action.”

What holds attention predetermines action and protects us against the pitfalls of the next shiny object or stirred emotion. 

Focus is our only guard, without all the narrowness of attention. We need to keep our eyes on the donut over the donut hole. 

So we keep going, showing up despite there being no guarantee of happiness at the end of the tunnel. 

Greater use of the palette insulates the individual from the dizziness of anxiety and the needless aim for the pedestal of fame.  

A creative flow hardens the brain’s sticktoitiveness and summons a type of artistic unity. 

We throw the rock into the hard place. The daily practice is our only durable storage. 

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Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Crafting confidence

Confidence is fickle. Better to start before you’re ready than wait until you have full faith in yourself. 

The key to crafting confidence starts in the imagination. If you can armor yourself with enough courage — even if it means acting slightly overconfident — you’ll have revved the engine for risk-taking. 

Synchronicities also tend to happen when you’re feeling more upbeat than depressed. Anxiety and darkness, while integral to artful thinking, impair memory and squanders productivity. The maker wants to establish a long-term rhythm of creating rather than weaning off the fickle energy of short-term dopamine.    

Even the wisest men need psychological tactics to regulate the monkey mind. Expectations drive achievement. Of course, one should expect sensible outcomes — no one becomes the best or gets rich by merely thinking it. 

Patient with results, impatient with action

Pace, purpose, and practice are everything. Only a few are geniuses; most are late-blooming opsimaths. Like the Japanese artist Hokusai once said, Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

Do anything enough — even if it takes decades — and you’ll begin to find your own style and workflow. Hard work usually compounds into something greater than expected and ultimately supports the joy of living.

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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Flow of attention

The creator goes from broad attention to a narrower focus. First, she aggregates, connects the dots, and then produces. 

She rides into the future, churning from a generalist to a specialist, wearing a badge of curiosity while facing past notes. 

She’s not obsessed with what’s novel, nor concerned with making any grand discoveries. She’s more intrigued by spotting information patterns and documenting them in her journal, the camera, etc. — wherever she can jot thoughts down so she can move on. Paying attention is the only way to create answers. 

She’s a collector, researcher, and storyteller at heart. The messy output called writing is what results on the canvass. 

Creativity offers a rare opportunity to climb out of the day-to-day doldrums. Making is a lifeline, the telescope where her attention flows. In other words, all the thinking about the beauty of life just seems to happen. 

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Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Never mind the mood

The work doesn’t begin or end at the mercy of mood. Feeling lazy or prepared is neutral — both are non-starters. The mood’s texture remains unchanged. 

Having a daily discipline is the best way to keep the shipping alive. Habits are stronger than moods. 

If your emotions or conditions get in the way because you’re either unmotivated, too sick or cold, exhausted, or missing the perfect seat, you’re screwed. 

Show up and ride the wave of frequency

Sitting in the chair and beginning promptly by 10 AM is non-negotiable. By sticking to a schedule, you alleviate the pain of starting while forcing yourself to dance with all the anxieties that arise. 

If you get frustrated or stuck, try running out the clock. So be it — you showed up but didn’t produce. 

Dissatisfaction is part of the creative process. Afterward, rest or take your thoughts for a walk to digest the reality of incompleteness. A blank canvass with even the most disappointing attempts is a refreshing experience. There is always tomorrow!

When your perspiration and dedication are the muses, the creativity always comes back because the motivation is the same. The sink keeps dripping. 

Even while going about your day, discipline pays off. Deep work compounds, as the brain uses rest periods to reconvene, reconnect, and make sense of all the input. 

Creativity is complicated, but moods are untrustworthy. Once you’re committed to the process while following your curiosities, there’s no wasted time. 

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Arts Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Imagining life without work

Some people are obsessed with work. It defines them, gives them a structure. Without work, they’d sail away at the mercy of the waves and get lost at sea.

But technology facilitates creativity. The accountant becomes a music producer at night, a photographer, or YouTuber on the weekend. He or she identifies more as being an artist than a professional who crunches numbers. Their online persona seeks some greater truth beyond the work, more aligned with who they want to be. 

Everyone wants to pursue something meaningful. We want to do something that matters while working hard without working hard. As the musician Brian Eno reminds us, “Try not to get a job.” 

Whether it’s the day job or an artist, work is supposed to reflect our life philosophies. Most jobs, though, are solutions to a practical problem: we need the cash to live. The money fact keeps man awake at the clarion call of labor.  

The pressure to blend work and life results from our obsession with careerism in a twenty-four-seven hyperconnected world. So what would we do with all that free time if we didn’t work? 

We’d just do stuff rather than getting stuck in a career. We’d read, hang out with friends and family, watch and play sports, and listen to music. It would be like all the activities we’ve immersed in during the extra free time of COVID lockdown, minus all the social distancing and depression. The future of work would look less like a vocation and more like an extended vacation.

Will we be ok when the robots take over and the concept of labor fades away? Will making art suffice? We’re born off balance. It’s how we dance with the uncertain future that shapes who we are.

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Arts Culture Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Through the wire

The world grows numb to the air of distraction. We’ve left the world of 2-D consciousness in exchange for the anesthesia of the brite lite’s bits and bytes.  

Freedom to do anything is the freedom to do nothing. Technology makes us more curious and ever-more cautious. But like a video game, unfettered space uses up attention and propels excess consumption.

The inability to disconnect and steer clear of the shiny object suffocates our attention. Restraint, on the other hand, is why limits are also so magnetic. They help us protect against an addictive environment. 

As we gravitate toward constriction, we stymie the possibilities of distraction.

We do more crucial work in stillness and silence than we do fritter time away in the tangled wires of freedom.

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Writing

J.K. Rowling revisits her masterpiece

J.K. Rowling reflects on annotating the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I wrote the book … in snatched hours, in clattering cafés or in the dead of night … The story of how I wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is written invisibly on every page, legible only to me. Sixteen years after it was published, the memories are as vivid as ever as I turn these pages.”

J.K. Rowling

Most authors refuse to revisit their old work. Musicians avoid listening to their old albums. Some actors refuse to see their movies after they hit theaters. J.K. Rowling goes back in time to relive all the scars. 

Art reminds creatives of their daily battles with the blank page, canvass, or script—a craft fraught with sweat and tears, pain, and pleasure. All the scars make it visible to the maker. 

The work always tells the truth. But it was also yesterday’s genius.

“There’s always more to be said, more to be felt,” Henry James once remarked. We can always do better. Yet finishing and moving on is the point. 

The grind begins again. And so we buckle up and start the next one.

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Daily Prompts Politics & Society Social Media Tech

The pointlessness of constant self-grading

We obsess with gauging the temperature of our present reputation. The numbers are public, ticking up and down like stock prices.

The internet is the grandest stage of them all, where we endeavor to present our best selves. We strive to prove our self-worth by using likes and followers to gauge our fame and pepper our egos.

A virtual reputation is never finished, stuck in progress, held captive by the screen’s anesthetic. There’s always one more person to attract and appease online. Social media is a vehicle for magnification, intending to reveal the real world. 

Yet, the perpetual chase of approval remains illusory. There is no need to install an elaborate series of checks and balances on fame’s usefulness.

Our mood, needless others’ temperament, is as fickle as the weather. Vigorous grading is neither suitable for the person nor the whole. 

If we measure ourselves by vanity, we’ll spend our lives running on the hedonic treadmill., prematurely ceding to external judgment. We close the world by opening our hearts and taking significant autonomy to remake ourselves into who we think we are. 

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Life & Philosophy Poetry Uncategorized

Facing opposites

We want to reduce the stress in our lives, yet we keep piling on the number of things we need to do. We travel arms wide open into a tidal wave of responsibilities.

We want to restrict the data tech companies collect from us, yet we swipe right at consent—all terms, all conditions, in favor of the Leviathan.

We want all the benefits of social media—influence, and fame—while maintaining our privacy.  

We want to think we’re a curious bunch, open to a world unknown, yet act like novices at the ways of seeing. What is new leads somewhere new, absent the spot.

We meditate to detach the mind from surfeit consciousness when merely going for a walk, doing the dishes, or shooting hoops produces the same relaxing effect. With little effort, the neuronal spike train intensifies in voltage.

We want to believe and remain certain without bravado. Little do we know that uncertainty is natural, confidence is artificial. 

Opposite to everything, without opposition to anything. Whatever one says is true, the reverse is equally valid

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Arts Creativity Productivity & Work

Beware the mind virus

Creativity dwindles with age. First, school sucks it out of you, and then corporate work puts the nail in the coffin. 

Patterns of normality and absolutes are leaches. Like a mind virus, they try to kill off the imagination and train your organic reflexes into compliant sheep. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll have no choice but to follow the siren song of vocation. Suppose that means becoming an artist; if it’s a bank teller, ditto. Follow up your calling way with the utmost passion. To echo Mark Twain, “The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.”

Never let your ambition slip out of sight. The happiest people chase their human truths to exploit time. 

As the musician Brian Eno reminds us, “Try not to get a job. Try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time and where you take maximum advantage of wherever your possibilities are.”

Following the herd is a mind virus. Ride the mind wave of opportunity instead. 

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

Creativity is a fancy version of productivity

People confuse busyness with productivity. Answering emails all day is mostly a waste of time, as is instant messaging co-workers. Doing something — typing into little boxes all day — fulfills the human desire to feel useful.

People also perceive what artists do is an unnecessary use of time. But creativity is a fancy version of productivity.

Nothing gets wasted when it comes to painting, songwriting, and any other artistic vocations. Scraps and shitty rough drafts give us something to play with. The art of gathering string — doing the hard work, heart work, and head work — expands the reality we perceive.

Sensible work gets us paid. Yet, when we photograph everything, we look at nothing.

Without propelling the imagination and practicing our craft, we’re just procrastinators and waiters. The whole point of making art is to do and ship something interesting.