The positive side of reading a biography is its potential to inspire. We see another human working away who finds answers, takes actions, who receives benefits, or overcomes obstacles in some manner we wish to emulate or fate grant us. We want what they have. Maybe not all of it, especially the part about suffering or travails.
Last night I saw the last minutes of a multi-part series on Frank Sinatra. It contained rare photos and films, and voice overs of those who knew him and had spent some time traveling his life’s road. The presentation, of course, made everything about Frank appear fascinating. Even Frank’s downturns and blemishes looked heroic, meaningful, poetic, or at least colorful. The director moved us through a dozen emotions. There was:
-sadness at Frank’s retirement,
-elation at his return out of retirement,
-grief over his passing, and
-rejoicing at his triumph over poverty and non-fame to riches and power in New York, NY.
Fun stuff and a great dopamine rush.
Stepping back from this experience, I can see something hidden in this biography and the many others I have enjoyed. My inner critic detects fodder for self-judgement. How in the world can my life ever stack up to, not so much to Frank Sinatra, but to any creative person?
My inner critic finds my story wanting. In comparison with biographies, I always come out: smaller, drab, undisciplined, untalented, with darn few crescendo moments to speak of and with no future mourners or current fan base.
What started as a source of inspiration contains the undoing of my creative self-image and project motivation. My inner critic is happy, but I’m not.
Biographies are stacked against us because they are poetry and art and not reality. “Wait a minute, they used real facts and figures. They didn’t make anything up.” That’s true, but poetry and art do something to facts and figures. Nothing wrong with that. That’s the power of the arts.
Biographers sort and choose what best fits their writing goals.
Biographers develop a story or narrative arc.
Biographers look at a person’s life from 10,000 feet.
Biographers usually know how things are going to work out.
Biographers think they can reduce complexity to simple cause and effect
Biographers match a person’s life events and character to transcendent archetypes.
I would leave this discussion as something only I have to deal with, but I hear it between the lines of many creative people. “Enter and be judged,” demands the inner critic. “Speak and explain how you are as worthy as those celebrated in this high stack of biographies. Justify how your life merits examination and artistic rendering in a Ken Burns series, a David McCullough lengthy read, or a History Channel treatment. Who dare stands before me?”
How to Handle Biographies
1. Get thrilled, enjoy and get inspiration from biographies, but be on guard. Biography feeds two mouths: the inner muse and the inner critic.
2. Remember, people in biographies did not live their lives from the perspective of their biographers. They lived daily life, under the same ground rules that we live. Biographers short-cut, simplify, glorify, amplify, and minimize. We have to take the long road, accept complexity, live with the mundane, and take life at whatever size it presents.
3. Limit the inner critic/judge by disputing its comparisons and think of it as a very ill-informed and belligerent person who is trying to give you advice. No thanks and move along.
4. Turn your attention from unimportant comparisons back to your work at hand. If you don’t have work at hand, that’s a problem. Get busy and get some. Keep consistently busy.
5. One last time: Don’t compare yourself and your life to a biography.
Click on image above to go to video or use this YouTube direct link here.
Today, we’re going to concentrate on information from our insight series, series of information and videos on observations and things to know about being stuck and getting unstuck.
The deeper reasons we don’t work mainly come from the unconscious. They come from a place we don’t know much about. They come up in an unexpected sort of way. We don’t know that they’re even happening frequently. They come from more of a visceral place, a place of feelings, a place from our heart that really set us up to either move towards something or in this case we go in sort of the default stance of automatic avoidance.
The thought comes up, an idea comes up about doing our work or an idea, and from our depths from outside of our normal conscious reach, comes an avoidance saying don’t go there or pull away or wait.
We begin with The Comfort Watcher. The Comfort Watcher is something I haven’t heard other people discuss, but I certainly have seen within myself and with other people. The Comfort Watcher I think is there to keep us within our boundaries, boundaries that are familiar to us. It’s constantly observing. Any time we step or start to push those boundaries or step just beyond those boundaries, the Comfort Watcher wakes up and starts to hit us with all sorts of logical arguments of why we can stop going beyond those boundaries or how we can pull back or how we can reassess and come up with new goals that there really isn’t any need to push those boundaries.
Perfect example when outrunning, and these set up the next step sort of goal for myself, nothing too far-reaching but the next logical goal for myself. While I’m doing that frequently, the Comfort Watcher comes alive and starts giving me persuasive arguments of why I’ve done enough for that day or is this safe or aren’t I feeling so uncomfortable or this is so odd, it’s time to stop or I can come back tomorrow or I can just stop and no one is going to know. I don’t have to tell anybody since it was a personal goal. Here’s been so many logical reasons to pullback and to stop. Comfort Watcher can come up and keep us from doing our work.
Another part of us is just ready to come alive is what I call the Inflator. The Inflator immediately reacts as though something is very large, it’s huge, and usually clicks in. I think when we’re looking at something it’s unknown or something we haven’t looked at for a while, suddenly it’s very big, it’s overwhelming, it’s so big. How do we tackle this? It just balloons up faster than we have a chance to really say what’s involved here or what can I bring from my past or what resources can I bring to this to bring it down to size, but it gets blown up and that big can be scary, and we’re going pull back.
Just as the Inflator can make things big in a matter of split-second, the Overwhelmer can do the same thing. Thinking my god there are so many details, where would I begin, there are just too many going that direction, this direction. There’s too much to know. It’s too much to figure out. It’s just too, too much, and we’re overwhelmed. When we’re overwhelmed, the human psyche, the mind does not like that at all. It’s threatening, it’s confusing. Above all, it just splits us apart. We just don’t know where to turn first or next.
At times, there’s something within us that isn’t ready for any movement or any movement beyond what we’ve already done, and when we approach it with a new idea or a new request or a goal, it just cannot start moving and it sounds like hard work even though we may have done it before, even though we may want to do it. The immediate visceral response, this is hard, maybe it’s too hard. I’m not ready to move. I don’t want to move. Moving is beyond my imagination at the moment.
I gave at the office attitude or stance beings, “Look I’ve done everything that people were expecting of me or that I’ve promised people or what I can do within a typical day. I made it to work. I made hundreds of things happen at work. I finished up. I’ve done this and this. Day is over. The day is finished.” Now, that is a personal contract. It’s not unusual, but we make sort of unconscious personal contract that may say, “You know once dinner is done, that’s it folks. Nothing more is going to happen” or some other line of demarcation that we have established saying, “Nothing happens beyond this point or only things I feel like doing that I’m up for happens beyond this point. Period.”
99% of us 99% of the time will have to change to be able to do our work. We will have to find ways that we are moving at the pace of our work. There’s lots that we can’t rush. Some things are highly complex. We need to change to fit it. If we can’t do that, if we can’t be malleable, then we’re not going to work.
Of course, we need to make some comparisons of how other people have done things, how well other people have done things, how they approach something, but a lot of us get locked into over-comparing that we can’t really get beyond comparing. Sometimes we compare ourselves as beginners against the most masterful people within our field. It’s illogical comparison. We have to get beyond that because self-comparison will slow us down. It’ll be too self referential always referring to ourselves, we can’t be free to open up, to be malleable, to learn about our project, to learn about our field.
We’re always looking over our shoulder or looking out of the corner of our eye of what other people are doing when a lot of the time we have to be here and now and focused on what we’re doing and focused on how we are doing it in the moment. Being locked in comparison doesn’t get us there. It doesn’t keep us focused and usually it keeps us down. It demotivates us. It discourages us.
Most of us want to take on projects we’ve never done before or not really clear to us or of a scale that we’ve never approached before or a frequency of turning out something much faster than we ever have before. We just don’t know all the details. The path is not clear because we haven’t been on the path before. If we don’t like that ambiguity, if it makes us totally uncomfortable, and we don’t like feeling that loss, that out of control, we’re not going to do work. We’re just not going to pick up our project. We’re going to pull away very fast.
Many of us have never followed paths that have not been well defined for us or maybe we’ve been given help or instructions to follow particular path that when we’re not following path that’s been given to us, default is to wander.
Some of us manage our time by chasing only those things that are urgent. The bill is due or is past due or the boss tells us something must be done, so it’s deadlines, it’s deadlines, immediate deadlines or deadlines right on horizon and everything else moves out of the way. Then, we’re going to overlook those things that are quiet, that are in the background. It’s on our list of things to do or within our calling or interest, but they don’t have the same urgency as other things do.
Some of those things that are urgent, maybe not that important but yet they’re ringing a bell saying pay attention to me, and we go ahead and get those things done whereas the quiet, important things that are not urgent always gets pushed away, always gets pushed to side. We never get to that sort of work.
It’s easy in the society to be attracted to that which is fast, but unfortunately or the reality is creative work is slow. It is slow to get this work started and to move through it and to understand what we’re doing and to know what the next step is and to really refine our technique. It is slow work compared to so many other things that we can do or we see other people doing or it’s shown to us in entertainment as being exciting and driven and fast.
Some people find that hard to come down to earth to travel at the snail’s pace, but that’s the reality of creative work, and speaking a reality, it’s dirty, you get your hands dirty. It is very finite, it’s very physical, it’s very mental, but it isn’t like the ideas up in the sky. It is one thing after another. It steps its goals. It’s one foot from another.
We need to accept whatever the realities are of work, but that can be hard if we like ideas, if we like staying in the sky, and we like flooding from here to there. To get our work done, there’s no flooding involved. It is focus. It’s concentration. It’s consistency. It’s here on the earth one step after another. If we’re not comfortable with that, we like the sky better than the earth, we’re not going to work.
Something I don’t see discussed in the literature about motivation or helping people be more creative or productive is addressing the issue of depression and anxiety. These are very real conditions and they take a heavy toll.
The idea or the notion that we can be highly creative and highly productive while we’re depressed or anxious, it’s a real challenge. It can be done, but such a heavy burden we carry when we’re facing depression or anxiety or both, so it shouldn’t be a showstopper. We should just recognize as a heavy burden to carry and perhaps and I strongly suggest that we give some energy and some time working with others to help us with our depression. See if there’s something we can do to lessen it, something we can do to contain it so that we have more energy and we’re freer to live a creative life.
We will avoid work, we will pull away from work if we’re simply too depleted to work, and it’s easy place to get into where we’re not spending enough time. We don’t really know what relaxation is. We don’t know what it means to recharge or to refresh ourselves, and we just keep going and we just keep going and keep going.
If we don’t know how to recharge or refresh ourselves, we won’t be able to have the replenished amount of energy that we need to be called to projects, to be called to productivity. They just won’t be there.
We all have negative people and negative experiences that we’ve had in the past or we currently have or will have. We have to watch our own negativity however, because negativity carry too far and too long. It starts to make us negative totally, and it closes off doors. We need to have the doors open for hope and for experimentation and for flexibility and for optimism and just being receptive. Those doors have to remain open for us to be drawn to our work and to continue to work.
Direct link to video on YouTube here
This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Which means this blog post has also been turned into a video. So…you can read this post below or you may watch the video version at YouTube, above. It’s the same stuff. It’s your choice.
Welcome to part two of Working Daily for Creatives. Again if you were in part one, or if this is your first stop here on this whole idea of working daily, believe me I know what you’re thinking and you’re feeling. There is no way I can work daily. Well, there are ways to do that and you can.
For simplicity sake I call this whole thing about consistent daily work, I call it the daily appointment. Fortunately, there has been research around how do people follow through on their intentions. They have something that they want to do, what separates one group of people, the ones can actually get it done versus another group. It seems to boil down to this, the successful group came up with a simple checklist, they make decisions around that checklist, once they’ve formed it they just follow it on a daily basis.
The unsuccessful group doesn’t really specify where, or how, or what, or when they want to follow through so everything just slides, it doesn’t get done.
The Steps to Building Your Appointment
Let’s go through the steps of what you need to know to make one of these checklists, to help you get to your daily appointment, and get through your daily appointment.
Step #1: Figure out your When
The first item on the checklist is, when are you going to have your daily appointment. We talked about working short, but specify during your day the best day or best times to work that short time period, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five minutes. Think that through, when’s the best time for you. Probably come up with a plan B if the first time doesn’t work you know what the fallback position is. That’s item number one on your checklist for the daily appointment.
Step #2: Figure out your Where
Item number two for your checklist is where. We talked about having a lot of flexibility about being able to work in different locations. Go ahead and pre-specify where you’ll likely be doing your work, and again come up with a plan B. Where will you be when you have that appointment at your specified time. It’s okay to visualize again a plan B of where you will be when that time comes around.
Step #3: Figure out your General What
The third item on the checklist is going to vary from day to day, is what will you be doing at that time and in that location. Now you can start off first specifying it in a general sense what sort of work. I’ll turn to writers, it would be maybe a certain level of productivity say shooting for one hundred words during that work session. It would be about a particular topic, but as you get into that work you will be able to specify a day or two ahead of where you need to be and what you need to do that next day, or the day after then. Get that clear in your mind so you know when you sit down in that location at that time you’ll know the subject matter, but what specifically are you going to be tackling during that work session.
That’s it for Part 2 of Working Daily for Creatives. See you at Part 3, Cautions and Success Hacks.
This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Which means this blog post has also been turned into a video. So…you can read this post below or you may watch the video version at You Tube, above. It’s the same stuff. It’s your choice.
Today we’re going to look at the realities of how frequently we should be working, if we want to get our projects started, and if we want to get our projects done. Clearly there’s power from working daily. If we are honest and if we check around constant steady work has the power we are seeking, but what is steady work? Well we can answer that for ourselves by working through the following questions. Would working once a month get your project done? Would working only twice a month get you to where you want to go? Even better, would be to work a little bit, and the emphasis is a little bit, each and every day, and there’s a lot of benefits for that which I’ll go through in just a minute or two.
In just pausing for a moment I know what you’re thinking, “This is not going to be possible.” Well trust me it is possible, and we’re going to go through some steps on how to find that time. Here are the top three secrets or objectives for getting work done every day.
Secret Number 1
First one is work short. The only way to get what reality requires, which is consistent work, we should look at what are our assumptions about daily work, and when we look at them I think we’re in for some surprises. First of all, the common notion is we can see ourselves working hours at a time on a project. That’s great, but for most of us we can’t do that. We don’t have hours each and every day to work on our project.
The next vision that we have is if we did daily work we’d have to shove all sorts of other things out of our life so we would have hours available to work. Well, what happens if we don’t have to have hours? What happens if we shift that? Then our assumptions change, and then what seemed to be impossible before will become possible. Let’s set a more realistic goal. Let’s say we’re setting the target of every day work of about ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five minutes, or thirty minutes that’s our target. Now certainly the possibilities, the probabilities greatly increase for us of finding ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, or thirty minutes each day to do our work.
The possibilities of actually being able to do that becomes a very strong likelihood, probably ninety-seven percent of us can find that amount of time per day. I know many of you have special interest, say visual artists, jewelry makers and others who require a whole setup that takes a fair amount of time. You’re going to have to look a little deeper, look a little harder to see what you can do on a daily basis that gets you closer to finishing your project. Maybe it’s sketching something out, maybe it’s planning, maybe it’s thinking things through until you do have a larger block of time, but it’s a constant, it’s a consistent focus on your project each and every day in some manner.
Secret Number 2
what is really freeing is finding a way to be able to work on your project in more places than right now that you’re envisioning. Many of us envision just one place as being a place where we can do our work. Bend that flexibility, look around and see if there’s more places where you’re going to find yourself as you go about your typical day where you can work. For writers that’s easy, you can write on the bus, write in the airport, write in coffee shops, write at lunchtime.
Again, I know there’s many fields, grade of fields that have limitations on this, but be creative about your creative field, and see what you can do on the road as you move around. You may not have to do that, but the more options as far as locations the more likelihood you’re going to be able to do this consistent daily work to gather the power of daily work.
Why Daily Work is Powerful
Daily work gets its power from a variety of sources.
1) First of all it keeps us close to our project. It’s so easy to work on a project one day and put it away, and weeks will go by and then we have to remember what did we do last, and why are we doing it this way, and what’s coming next? When we work daily we’re thinking about this thing daily, and we keep close to our project, sort of circling around it. It helps us keep focused.
2) Working daily also magnetizes us. It keeps us alert for opportunities, for insights, for new ways of doing stuff. If we’re working our project every day we’re thinking about it both consciously and in-consciously, and surprising things will happen. We’ll start to see new connections, new opportunities are going to pop up, and we’re going to be ready to be able to grab them.
3) Working every day makes us stronger, it makes us more flexible, it develops more skills quickly versus working just a couple times a month. We learn how to work under all sorts of conditions, and also all sorts of moods, because we’re trying to work daily. We know the mood storms and ups and downs will come, but there’ll be a consistency to our consistency of working regardless of environmental conditions around us, and regardless of our inner weather as well, so there’s real power to that.
4) Now, if we keep at this long enough it will become a habit, and habits, as we all know, are powerful. They take time to get started, but once they get started they take care of themselves, they start to run, they’re automatic. They’re like robots that we set in place saying, “This is what we want to do. Get us there, you take care of it so I don’t have to think about it,” and it runs in the background. Before long we’re going to find ourselves drawn to our work, sitting down to our work or wherever we do our work, and we’re just doing it. We just show up, we just get there, and suddenly it’s become a habit, and it’s pulling us forward.
That’s it for this portion of How to Work Daily. To continue on go to the next part which is called The Daily Appointment. There you’re going to learn how to setup your appointment in a way that increases the likelihood and the ease for you to go ahead to get to that appointment and to get through it.
I’m on the constant search to find what motivates us to act and what keeps us moving forward. Especially important are motivators that are not far from us when we are anything but motivated. The most enduring I have seen so far, is calling:
n.1. a vocation, profession, or trade.2. a divine call or summons: a calling to the priesthood.3. a strong impulse or inclination: an inner calling.
You know you have calling by checking your history and by watching what you do, what you regularly day-dream about, and where you go. Past or present, look for (some or all):
Thank goodness for movies, teaching tales, analogies, symbols, illustrations, and whatever else we can hold in our hand and explore in detail. These are condensed representations of fast-paced, ever flowing, and complex reality. Condensation slows time, simplifies and reduces details, and freezes processes to a small set of steps. All of this gives us a chance to explore and learn.
The following condensed view shows clearly: everyone goes through creative obstacles; the obstacles are basically the same; obstacles suck; obstacles can be overcome; even so, obstacles suck but that is part of creative life.
A 2005 film has condensed a lifetime of creative obstacles down to two hours.The fact based movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played, uses the 1913 U.S. Open challenge between professional golfers and a highly talented outsider amateur to show what each faced to get to a pivotal playoff. We get a glimpse of their childhood and current situation. On top of that, brilliant photography swings from beautiful nature and dramatic shots to special effect representations showing us how champion minds focus and how they must face inner critics.
1. View the film all the way through for enjoyment’s sake (golfer or not, you are likely to enjoy this film).
2. Watch again and list all the shown and inferred obstacles the main golfers had to face.
3. Indicate which ones cause stuckness for you.
4. Work on accepting: these obstacles are not unique to you; obstacles suck but we have to keep working; obstacles can be overcome.
5. For fun and for additional surprising insights, step into the mindset as you imagine it of the two main characters. Play with imagining how they might overcome your obstacles.
Wikipedia film info
Image above: “The Greatest Game Ever Played poster” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia