the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Time, Attention, and Creativity

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the new direction Merlin Mann is taking over at 43 Folders. His new focus is less on productivity, and more on "time, attention, and creative work". It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

What difference does it make if I'm twice as productive, if I'm wasting my time and focusing my attention on something marginal? For widget makers, as long as they can sell the widgets they churn out, I suppose productivity is all they need care about. But what about writers, artists, musicians, and anyone else creative? Wouldn't we all be better off creating something of lasting value, instead of whipping out words (or cartoons, riffs, what have you) no one cares about at the time, let alone three months later?

Yes, a knowledge of how to work more effectively is good; it might mean the difference between a life's work that comprises a single ten thousand page novel exploring the meaning of life, or two ten thousand page novels... Seriously, I do think some effort to improve work habits, learn to get things done more quickly, and so on, does pay off, if only in a bit more time to do the things you really want to.

In my opinion, the important difference is in the effect your efforts have. If they do leave you more time to do the important work, they're worth keeping up. If you're just losing a lot of time downloading cool software you'll use once and forget, you'd probably be happier doing something else. Yes, you have to allow room for mistakes; that's part of the learning process.

The point isn't to be so cautious, so miserly with your time, that you avoid all mistakes. Almost nothing is truly wasted when real creativity is applied to extracting some meaning from it. The point is to remain aware, to stop the experiment as soon as you've learned it is a mistake, instead of going ahead out of habit, or some sense of duty.

How do these thoughts apply to my blog? I haven't fully decided yet whether or not Blogger will remain its permanent home, but I will keep a blog. I will try to post to it with something approaching semi-regularity. As I learn to focus my time and attention where I want them, I may even do a better job of posting. What I won't do is spend much time writing "filler" posts. Either I'll write a post on an issue I'm trying to work out my own thoughts on, as in this case, or I'll post about something I believe may be of real value to my readers, which I also hope this post may prove to be, if it gets you thinking as well.

If you do start thinking about this, remember, the point isn't to focus your time and attention in the place I think it ought to be, or anyone else, for that matter. The point is to make up your mind where you believe your efforts will best be spent. If you're at all creative, you ought to be able to find someplace fulfilling to spend your energies.

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diigo it


Anonymous Paul said...

Good post. I'm looking forward to checking out the 43 Folders articles.

December 22, 2008 4:24 PM  
Blogger App said...

When it comes to creative work, once I get inspired I have to pursue it, and I don't want to stop till it's finished. And I think most creative types are this way.

But at the same time, you can't force creativity. It happens when it happens and if you try to force it, it just doesn't work. The quality is bad, uninspired, forced, unnatural.

This is why most mainstream music these days consists of albums with one or 2 good tracks and the rest are crap, churned out to satisfy contractual obligations that stipulate a certain number of albums within a specific time frame. You can tell which tracks were inspired because they are the only few worth listening to.

If the artists were allowed to compile & release albums on their own schedule that matched their creative energy flow, you would see so much more in the way of incredible works worth every penny of their purchase price.

With forced creativity, you also get blogs in which the author posts faithfully every day whether he has something worth writing about or not. Maybe he will have a few quality posts, but the rest will not be worth reading. It is much better in my opinion to post less frequently, and make every post count.

As a reader, I would rather see just 2 great posts standing alone, than to have to dig through hundreds of crappy posts to find those few gems. (Not referring to you, so don't worry)

Now going back to what I said about real inspiration leading to not wanting to stop working...

This can make you prone to burnout, and that isn't good either. So remember to take frequent short breaks, and know when to call it a day.

April 01, 2009 12:31 AM  

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