12 May 2013

The do-nothing place

Like some of my fellow ROW80-ers, for the past few weeks I've been suffering from general lack of motivation. Is it the stars? My diet? My irregular sleeping schedule? The warmer weather? Who knows. All I know is that I've spent the majority of this last week trying to get myself to write, to do my marketing work, to do the laundry, to do more than one thing a day. To be productive.

Be productive! One of the cardinal sins of our culture is not being productive. When's the last time you spent a day off doing nothing? No plans, no grocery shopping, no cleaning, no catching up with the family or those friends you haven't seen in a while, no yardwork...just existing. Just being with yourself and recharging. Watching movies all day if the fancy strikes you. Wandering aimlessly around town. Taking the time to ask yourself in the moment, "What do I feel like doing right now?" and then doing it. (You know, assuming it's not something like "sprout wings and fly away" or "teleport to Alpha Centauri.")

While it doesn't feel good to me to not be productive, I also see a practical value--aside from basic mental health--in making time to do nothing. It's not just about alleviating the pressure to produce constantly; not being busy-busy all the time is about creating a space in my life--or maybe I mean a particular kind of quiet--that allows me to hear my inner voices. Allows my feelings to surface. My thoughts to wander. Time and mental space to examine those voices, feelings and thoughts, to connect the dots between my daydreams, to connect with myself, to figure out what's up with me. This is a place that some of my writing comes from.

My writing comes from other places, too. But I'm thinking that creating that do-nothing space where there's no pressure to produce is also good practice for creating space for the Muse. She is one of those inner voices I can hear when I've momentarily forgotten my running to-do list and am not trying to process my Twitter feed or answer emails. Maybe that's why she comes to me most often when I'm on a walk or driving a car or taking a shower--these are the conditions under which I'm most likely to let my mind wander and not try to multi-task. Under which I will let my mind relax and not put pressure on myself to produce anything in that moment.

And then there's that part of me that feels intensely uncomfortable with the silence and the feelings and the inner voices. And another part of me that doesn't trust myself to get shit done if I'm not putting pressure on myself to be productive, which is possibly the same part of me that is really scared that I'm going to fail at this freelancing thing--when I had a salaried job, I could afford to have some unproductive days because I got paid no matter what, but that's no longer the case. What I'm saying is that relaxing and creating a do-nothing space is really hard and that I'm conflicted about it.

One of the things I did this week instead of write was read a book about writing process: Every Writer has a Thousand Faces by David Biespiel. In it, he talks about delaying the first draft as long as possible. He talks about his strategies for turning writing time into play time. He talks about giving yourself a certain amount of time every day to do nothing.

Okay, so he doesn't put it exactly like that. But he does talk about the creative value of setting aside time to just sit, without expectations around productivity. Creating space. A do-nothing place.

Is this an experience that you create for yourself? How often do you give yourself a break from the pressure to be productive? How do you get your mind to relax enough to let the creative juices flow?

Quick ROW80 update (click here for description of goals):
1. Much better job on my sponsorship duties this week. Read & responded to assigned participants' blog posts.
2. Finally received the chain story from Aliaa. Trying to decide whether to cry off or go for it.
3. - 8. No news to report.

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