Statistics can be an awful task master. My last posting was my last Monday Night reflection. I am wondering, where did the creativity go, and what is my measure of productivity.
Last week I hurt, Monday was a euphoric good news day. The reality was somewhat mixed, while I found out I don’t have cancer, which is good news. The fact is, the cells in the biopsy are pre-cancerous, and that means monitoring for changes, more biopsies and more waiting for results in the future. In addition, the pain that led to two hospital stays came back. Life slows down, I am tired quicker, I need to sleep more, and sleep is more disturbed, and I am slower. Everything takes longer when I hurt, and mentally the sharpness goes. The spring of creativity can become a plod, to a trudge, to nothing. Last week, it became nothing. Prompts lost their attraction, I was feeling that I was relying on prompts far too heavily, old material looked like spent ammunition, not many recycling options, and for new material I wanted to look at different inspirations, expand a horizon or two. I got bogged down, I read, I read my usual mix of relevant and useless material, but ducked things I knew would be really relevant.I spent a lot of time on Facebook. I had no desire to create, no desire to consume, no desire to engage, I didn’t even want to want. I wanted my life back, where at the very least I have some desire to create or produce something.
I felt that my week had been unproductive, that I had accomplished nothing because I had not posted on my blog. I was disappointed that I had created nothing and that I had let myself down. I suppose, luckily, I sat and did a little bit of wallowing in that feeling. I quickly started to realise, that my blog is not a stick, it exists and an outlet and medium for one aspect of my creative self and as a safe place for the Mouse, that part of me that deals with past trauma and experience. My squeeks are my own, and they exist because I made them exist to serve me and my purposes, I was by feeling guilty and beating myself up over non-production in a very bad place and creating the very negative relationship with my blog that I had consciously moved away from not so long ago.
I also realised that not only was I slipping into a negative relationship with my blog, but this was a negative relationship with my creative self. I had literally forgotten that I could create something other than poetry and that, in fact, exploring creativity outside poetry was really exciting. I had made space to write poems, not space to write anything else, read anything else, do anything else. There are things I wanted to do that I had suspended completely. It also became clear that while I had been cultivating a negative relationship with my creativity, I had also developed a negative and unhealthy relationship to productivity. My todo list had gone from a mixture of things I had to do, usually one or two, and things I get to do and things I would like to do (often too numerous to be realistic) and had become a checklist of things I had to get done to feel like I had earned my place in the world that day.
The problem being that I was still writing my list as a mixture of have to do’s and would like to do’s. My list of would like to do’s can be impossibly long and serve only as a reminder of a wish or thought. Even the reinstitution of my ideas pad, quite simply a ring bound A4 pad where I write things down, from usernames, id numbers, booking references to ideas, thoughts, and things I would like to remember. It is ring bound so that I can go back over it and nothing is thrown away until its time is done. I use pages facing up, then when I get to the end turn it over and use the backs going the other way, that somehow makes it easier to use. In the same way having 2 screens reduces distractions because I can have what I am using up on both. For example, I could be writing this on one screen and have some picture research on the other and I can switch as my attention span wanes. I have a tangle to help my fidgeting when I am listening and trying to concentrate. I realised that I had slipped into a one-dimensional productivity mindset. Done and done within a rigid framework, had become the measure of whether that day was good or bad. This is a terrible idea, when anyone is ill their productivity will change, and their ability to do certain tasks, maybe even all tasks, is diminished, combining this with an impossible to-do list is setting myself up for disaster and negativity.
However, this negativity trap was not the only problem, my view of what was productive had become narrow. If it was not my blog or something that increased revenue directly, it had lost value. The problem is, that driving income and revenue is not my goal, my business project that had stalled while being ill is not about generating an income, it is about being positive, spreading positivity, and making people happy. My belief is that by following what is important to me that enough income will follow. I have done this before and while the enterprise was not perhaps the financial success other people wanted to be, the fact that so many lives were changed in such a short time and the impact was so positive that I have am still asked to do it again, is proof enough of concept. Following your core values and seeking to be a positive change is a worthy goal even in business. My losing sight of what productivity in my life means had resulted in a negative view of myself and my role.
In the week of no blog posts, I have been a good friend and supported friends through tough times, something that takes time. I have spent time just being with my wife, letting the conversation wander and the two of us sharing fears, concerns, hopes and dreams. Nothing unusual in that, we have always done it, even when we were dating, however, it is important, and worthwhile acknowledging this is doing as much as putting the bin out. I have done house errands like shopping and getting prescriptions, continued sorting through my things, been to the post office to send items sold, said thank you. I have also cooked, cooked a lot and am even hosting dinner this week. Today, I have painted a picture frame that is being recycled for a 21st birthday present and cooked some more. Looking back without the blinkers of my rigid mindset, I have done a lot. Talking with a friend in need is not a burden on my life, it is an essential component of my life. More than posting a parcel or writing a poem, that half an hour is the difference to them and it is the world to me. When my friend rang me in tears, it was the greatest compliment I could get, that they chose me to be the shoulder they wanted to cry on. Humbling hardly encompasses how it feels to be chosen by someone vulnerable in that way. Two days later I was able to spend an afternoon with them, and stand with them as they struggled with the new situation they faced. Those things may not make a to-do list; they are what life is all about.
My productivity focus was an alien one. I do not like to say, it was a getting things done approach because I am actually a big fan of the GTD approach from David Allen because it frees up both time and headspace for the most important part of life: relationships. It allows you to focus 100% on what you are doing, knowing it is the best thing you could be doing. In the negative sense of getting things done, however, that is exactly what I was doing, seeing life as a checklist to rattle through quickly so I could get onto the next checklist. The slide happened imperceptibly and very nearly locked itself in. Perhaps being sick had made me vulnerable to the change, or maybe, I had simply taken the path of least resistance and conformed to the world’s definition of productivity; and the very antithesis of mindfulness.
As I run out of steam, I am still hurting and I still have things to do, in fact, there are things on my todo list still. Luckily they are small 5 minute or less items, and I have done much more besides what is on the list. Time has gone insanely fast, and I have been slower than I would have liked to be. I feel, sincerely, that I have perhaps dodged a bullet or averted a war in realising so soon that I was becoming so negative and so bound up in values and attitudes that were not my own. That I was conforming to someone else’s reality and standards.