New Year’s Inspiration

One of the staples in the Christmas stockings at The Aerie for the past couple of years has been a couple of magazines. These are usually ones that we commonly don’t get and are often of the silly or trashy varieties. Sometimes though, they are thoughtful and lend themselves to relaxing afternoons on the couch.

I received one like that this year: a copy of Poets & Writers magazine. Now, I consider myself a “writer” in the same way I consider myself a “musician”. Still, writing, like playing the piano, is something that I enjoy.

The main feature of the issue was a set of essays on “Inspiration” – where it comes from, or doesn’t. What it feels like. Ways that “we” as writers might stack the deck in our favor so that it comes to roost more often.

I think my favorite was a piece by Frank Bures entitled “Inner Space: Clearing Some Room for Inspiration” which described something that I think we all (writers or not) are dealing with: how to manage and thrive in a world where we are constantly being barraged by gigabytes of data through our computers and phones. And how that to be creative (or finish any task really), it is beneficial to have a workplace that is free from distraction.


Easy to say, but so difficult to put into practice. For me, the true digital danger is what I’ve come to think of as Compulsively Needing to Remove Numbers in Parentheses Complex.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one with this disorder. If you’re like me, when you’re at the computer you have a number of tabs open – email, RSS feed, twitter, etc. – and when a new message or update comes in there’s a little number in parentheses telling you that you have something unread. To me, and my OCD-leaning brain, these numbers have to get cleared away. And then it’ll be better. Erased. Neat. Tidy. Gone. Even if I have to stop doing what I’m currently doing, because you know, it will only take a couple of seconds, right?

How many times do I interrupt something (reading, writing, conversing) to “just check” those feeds? Because you know those little encapsulated numbers might be the harbinger of SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT – or at least something sort of funny. Of course, each one of these “just checks” means you have to re-boot your attention to the task that you were supposed to be focused on. Bures’ article makes it clear that our seamless access to these feeds is not a bad thing at all – it really is a modern wonder – but that it is best if there are times to “gather information” (i.e. surf) and times to shut the feeds off.


So, I think my New Year’s Resolution will be to take control of my CNRNPC. I will configure my workspaces such that feeds (and their parenthetical distractions) won’t be seen and that they can come out only during free times, breaks, and when other tasks have been completed.

Maybe for many of you, that goes in the “Duh” department because it’s so obvious, but I think this simple exercise will increase both my productivity and who knows, maybe even find me inspired a little more often .


19 thoughts on “New Year’s Inspiration

  1. I don’t think this is in the “Duh” department at all. Sometimes these things that should be so obvious need to be consciously looked at. Good idea for a bit of mental decluttering!

    • Thanks Lauri — it seems like all this time-and-information management stuff should be easier than it is. I think it’s just so easy (for me at least) to get distracted by the bright, shiny object.

  2. Good luck with that. The only time I can have “devices” is when I’m home and I’m awake, so I enjoy seeing the numbers-in-parentheses and feel kind of dejected when they aren’t there.

  3. Gosh, if I could do that I would get so much done……I need to ban devices from my workstation except at designated times. Maybe I can tempt myself with the expectation of seeing a (37) instead of a (1)? Worth a try. :)

    • Mello — exactly! I think there’s this weird “I might miss something” feeling about clearing the board. But isn’t that the point of most of these electronic communication forms — that you can reply when you want to??

  4. I do so enjoy reading your thoughts on various topics!

    I only do the tab thing when I’m home. Too busy at work!

    I tend to CNRNP Twitter, for some reason. Can’t. Seem. To. Help…!

  5. I agree, the gadgets are a distraction: I think of all the books I could have read or the work accomplished in the time I spend playing video games, checking my Twitter feed, or reading WordPress blogs. ;-)

    But have you read about the author who wrote short stories on Facebook? They’ve been published in book form, and they sound very intriguing. I think the times call for a new genre of literature similar to your Drabbles, Steve: abbreviated, disciplined, and structured, like haiku.

    • HG — I think the goal is to remind ourselves that the gadgets, computers and networks are tools for US — not the other way around. I love the interactions that I have online — they are important to me and my community is probably the biggest source of inspiration that I have (other than maybe pictures of Penny). And like with physical tools, maybe it’s a good rule of thumb to put them away when we’re finished using them!

      I hadn’t seen the bit about 420-character stories. It’s amazing how creative people can be, regardless of the medium. Or maybe it’s the creation of a new medium that inspires creativity in people.

  6. Pingback: At Stevil’s blog: New Year’s Inspiration (managing digital distractions) « TechsWrite: The Helpful Techie

  7. With the bad wifi at the marina I’m forced to embrace this concept. I don’t like not being able to check in on my own terms. Maybe I need to add another resolution…sigh. ;-)

    • BD — a forced absence is one thing. When I was on vacation this summer, I had limited access and it was okay — in some ways it was good to step away for a while. I wonder what it’d be like if I had a profession that wasn’t computer-intensive?

      A new resolution? I thought you had all the ones from last year still left?? :)

  8. Compulsive Deleter–not just of my own blog posts but my JOB is receiving & triaging electronic art. When busy, I can hardly do my other job aspects because something new dropped!

    • MT — I am fascinated by the notion of being a deleter. One of the things I like is that vox and now WP has been sort of a living document. I’d be heartbroken if I lost it.

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