It doesn't seem possible, but after a full week of aggressively unsubscribing and unfollowing, there's still so much more I can do. Today I unsubscribed from another dozen e-newsletters. And I'm unfollowing on FB and IG - at least 10 per day.
Twitter is another matter, would love to unfollow 1/2 or more of the 4,000 I follow, but it seems like a lot of work to find the ones I'd let go. Ideas or hacks welcome. I know, I could just shut Twitter off. Might do...I keep Twitter primarily to support others, I get no real joy or value from it.
Related but different - I'm also discarding and/or donating items. Silly stuff, like a garbage bag full of shipping peanuts. Why was I keeping these wormy magnetic things? And I have stupid stuff - like cases for phones and keyboards I no longer own.
I'll tackle the books another time and tell you about it. That could be super painful but needs to happen. It's like staring at hundreds of balls of yarn that you know you'll never turn into scarves. I have some yarn, too.
I'm not becoming a minimalist. I'm a less-crap-in-my-way-ist. How will I concoct new misadventures if I'm checking my email every twelve seconds? I'd be a piss-poor attempt if I did.
I've been thinking about the act of creation and the dilemma we face because we need to unplug to create.
Some of you might argue with this point and say that you can create while your email pings, cellphone vibrates with a new text, or you overhear eavesdrop on (we're all secretly voyeurs, don't you agree) several conversations.
Maybe...but not likely...and we could be creating at a much deeper level if we focused.
My email just pinged. I went to look, deleted the new message and now I am back. It is taking me a few moments to get back into what I was writing for this post. Sip of coffee might help.
… We need to unplug to create. I know this to be true for my writing. My best stuff flows when I shut down all outside influences for at least four hours. This is tough a challenge impossible with all the plugged-in things we have managing our lives (it's like they're in charge, isn't it?). Add to this the warm-blooded people and pets who seek our attention.
And then there are bodily functions, thirst, temperature, and other physical interruptions that pop up.
My writing was just halted by thoughts of being cold. I couldn't decide whether to turn the heat (no, because it will be hot later) or put on a fleece pullover. Or perhaps I should get on the WaterRower and generate heat. That seems like a lot of work.
Creation demands our undivided attention. And yet, so many of us find this a hard gift to give ourselves. Even the little red squiggly line that pops under misspelled words can disrupt our thinking.
Another ping. Should I look? Heck, I've already diverted my attention, might as well look. Two messages, deleted them both.
Where was I? Still cold and, oh yes, creativity.
Perhaps instead of a sensory deprivation tank, we need a disruption-free module somewhere in our home or office. We could remodel an Airstream Bambi and make it a safe zone. Or get one of those new office sheds. But the key would be to NOT bring cellphones, email, phones, or other potential distracters into the module. Or if a tighter space would be more practical, we could repurpose an abandoned phone booth (aren't they all?), paint it black and use a barstool sit on and the little shelve for your pad for laptop. Like a tiny house craze for offices!
Another ping. It’s OK, I'm still distracted because I'm shivering and haven't put on another layer. Why? My fleece pullover is in the other room and I don't want to get distracted. Wait, this email is GOOD – the REI summer sale starts today.
When I think about great writers – Hemingway, Steinbeck, other dead guys – I imagine they went to secluded places where they could write undisturbed. I've been to Hemingway’s home in Key West and, other than the genetically mutated extra-toed cats, it seems like a place that would have allowed him to focus while writing.
I am now distracted by my own mental interruption. I can’t help but wonder why there are BOTH too many wild chickens and too many street cats in Key West. It seems as though one would take care of the other and they would just have too many freaking fat cats. Having an extra toe means having an extra claw, too. Doesn't it? Not sure, but if so, they'd have one more weapon against the chickens. Will google.
But this has nothing to do with creativity.
The heater just kicked on, which tells me that I was not being a sissy, it was cold in here (we have the thermostat set at 67, so it must be colder than this).
I'm trying to think back to the last time I was able to create in a –
Another ping. It’s my daily Publisher’s Lunch email. I love seeing all the deals agents get for their clients...who write and FINISH books. How is it that some are so prolific? Do they not have a life or any friends? Or Twitter?
I am trying to think back to the last time I was able to shut out disruptions. It's been a while. I've read about famous writers who said that they took years to write a book. This seems like a long time, but maybe this is because it takes that long to string together bits of uninterrupted writing time.
an hour here
25 minutes there
two hours last week
I am distracted by the fact that this is likely the first time I've ever typed out the word etcetera in a sentence. It looks strange. We get so used to abbreviations.
The heater is still going, which tells me that it was VERY cold in my office. No wonder I was having a hard time thinking. Jeezze.
What is the solution to this conundrum fight never-ending bloody battle? How can we create works of beauty within the ugly mess that is our everyday lives?
There is no magic pill. Not legal, anyway, and drugs are never rarely the answer. We need to embody personal accountability (there's a sexy phrase, said no one ever). We need to do the best we can to reduce distractions. Turn all pings off, wear a diaper (kidding), dress comfortably, go for a pre-thinking walks, pet the cats and then lock them in another room, and then fill up a large mug of coffee and create.
I'm as Type A as they come and my swirling mind constantly takes an inventory of how things are going. I'm a world class list-maker and until recently, this was the problem. WHY? Because I was listing the wrong stuff. The silly little gnatty items that, when checked off, felt momentarily satisfying.
But then left me feeling hollow inside thinking. Is this all there is to my life - tasks? Which is silly, I know, but a problem I created.
I don't want to die a person who crushed to-do lists filled with meaningless, soul-sucking tasks.
Epiphany time! What if I changed what I put on my to-do list?
I love the Todoist App. This is the first to-do list app that I've enjoyed, stuck with, and feel is totally worth paying for. You can make it "do" whatever you want. And when you check things off, you get "karma" points which I psychologically love earning. And this is the first app that has flawlessly synched across all my devices (had major frustrations with others in this regard).
Want to create a list of dumb stuff? Check. It can do that.
Want to create a list of micro-misadventures? Check! Ding, ding, ding! Let's do this.
And so that's what I'm doing now, and it's helping me have better days. I still have basic reminders on my list, but I ensure I have 2-5 items that have misadventure potential. Apps work great when we put great data into them. Here's an actual pic of today's to-do list in my Todoist app. You'll notice a mix of the usual boring stuff (take pills) and more interesting stuff.
Give it a try!
And now I get to check off a fun thing I've done today.