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 .