“I protect my creative energy. I carefully manage my time to ensure the most creative and critical tasks are done in the mornings (when I work best) and free of distractions from family or meetings. I construct my daily to-do list to have pockets of juggling and coordination, and pockets of free space. I make sure I deal with tasks I am most worried about first, so they don’t creep into my creative time.” ~ Dan Blank, “Money and Time ARE NOT Your Most Precious Resources. Creative Energy Is”
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Just this morning I made a tiny decision that had a big impact on the rest of my day. When I first checked my email, I chose to open only those messages that I knew would be good for my creative energy. The others—well, one in particular—I am waiting to read until I’ve had a chance to set my own tone for the day, to get some writing in, to get myself moving emotionally in the right direction. A bit different from Dan Blank’s final words above, but the goal is the same, that of controlling what in essence is the only thing I can control, which I would argue is not so much my time, as my thoughts, the content of my mind:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ~ Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Of course, some people have more control than others over their time, over whether they can start their day free from family or meetings, for example, but the important point isn’t so much when we protect our creative energy, but that we do so. For some people this might mean trading a restaurant meal with colleagues for a solo writing lunch, a date with our creative selves. For others it might mean swapping child care so as to have an hour or two a couple of times a week to work on our novel in progress.
But even more important than schedules and to-do lists, I’ve found, is protecting our creative energy by refusing to let outside events, people, and circumstances affect our attitude, our mood, our energy levels.
Easier said that done. BTDT. And BTDT again.
Maybe that’s why it’s a theme I keep returning to here, because it’s a challenge that we never can say we’ve fully met. I doubt that anyone wakes up one day having controlled his or her creative energy levels, never having to revisit the subject or work on it again. It’s not a bad habit like smoking that we can give up once and for all.
It’s more like choosing a healthy diet, a challenge that we can get better at and that becomes more automatic, but that we always need to think about and modify and occasionally reassess.
Which brings me back to the topic of emaiI. I recently had to have my laptop serviced, and when I got it back, it had been re-imaged: wiped clean of any infecting and incompatible files and restored to its original settings. I have yet to install much of the previous software I’d used or recall the various passwords I need.
So, since I was already using my iPad for blogging, I began to use it for email and Facebook and Twitter, too, and I’ve found it’s a practice that helps me to preserve my creative energy. In a way, my routine got a bit of re-imaging, as well.
When I work on my laptop, I am tempted to toggle back and forth between writing and email, index projects and Facebook, blogging and Tweeting. As I wrote on Ollin Morales’s blog recently, it’s mentally exhausting.
However, when I use my iPad, I focus better. I’ve written this entire post without checking my inbox, without reading the latest New York Times headlines, without seeing who is up to what on Facebook. Sure, I could, but the procedure isn’t quite as simple as going back and forth between tabs. I’m not in the habit of multi-tasking with this piece of technology, and it’s not a habit I want to start.
So, on this Day 10 of iPadWriMo, I have realized that the iPad is just like any other writing and reading tool. How I use it—whether to preserve and nourish my creative energy, or not—is up to me.
And that is a freeing and energizing thought.