Idea Drafts

Walking Through an Explosion: An Ode to Wandering

Sometimes life tosses you a hand-grenade and, if you’re lucky, it fragments and shreds all of the paper mâché you’ve propped up as walls.

I take a long walk every day (it’s one of the newest pleasures I’ve discovered about being self-employed.) I walk without headphones — just me, the dog, and the world around me. And I carry a small notebook in my pocket for all the little things that might swirl around in my head while I meander through suburban neighborhoods. It’s great idea generator. Mostly though, I walk to let my mind drift. I walk to find space. It’s become the most important part of my day, to wander and then to come back home feeling refreshed and somehow cleansed. Sure, some of it is the endorphins from 1–2 hours of continuous movement, but as a result of this behavior there’s also something fundamental happening in the way that I think and react. As I explained recently to a friend, “Walking stabilizes you. You’re less jumpy. You’re able to take things in before leaping, claws out, ready to attack everything that moves. You don’t move slower, you just react more effectively.” Little did I know that just days later, those words would be put to the test.

It was nearing 3pm when I ambled in the door, head full of tree-canopied lanes and houses with curled roofs (architecture is a new love as well.) I took the harness off of the dog and he ran off to his water bowl. I took off my shoes, sat in my chair, and opened the email app on my iPad. And there it was, news that the Chinese tariffs had hid me. One of my clients was being forced to “baton-down the hatches and prepare for the the storm ahead.” Part of his financial prepping would mean that he’d need to reduce our business together by 50%. In one short email, my monthly income had just plummeted 40%. Hand-grenade.

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I’m not sure how I ended up in the website and marketing business. Obviously, I know the step-by-step story of how it happened, but I’m just not sure how it continued to happen. I don’t remember choosing it. It’s not a field that I enjoy, or have passion for. Some might argue that it’s not even one I have any remarkable skills for. I can do a job. I can follow through. I might even have a few decent ideas, but I’m not going to blow anyone’s socks off. It’s simply a base-level skill that I have, which I’ve been able to leverage into a decent business. Not everybody out there is looking to have their socks blown off. Some people just need a few simple things done. Meat and potatoes. I’m the meat and potatoes. Isn’t that inspiring?

My true passion is the written word. It’s where my actual skills lie. But it isn’t really something that I’ve leveraged much professionally, and because of that I don’t have much of a resume to prove my actual skill. I’ve written pieces for companies like Todoist. They did really well (one being covered by LifeHacker and another republished by The Observer.) But that’s about the extent of it. And to be honest, even that writing isn’t my best. My best is fiction. And the best of the best is my dialogue. I can write stellar conversations. (Someone should honestly pay me to fix TV scripts.)

So, what is Mr. Meat and Potatoes to do when faced with this kind of email? Jump into a bush, sit and quiver, lick my wounds, whine, and then begrudgingly find more clients in the field that I fell into. But, that’s not what I did. In fact, within ten minutes I’d messaged six people for writing work. Just like that. Asking for writing work.

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized the significance of those actions. I mean, it wasn’t a struggling process. I didn’t contemplate what to do. I didn’t debate between the safe work that I didn’t want and the elusive work that I love. I didn’t even complain. Or rage. Or fear. Or wonder what I was going to do. I just acted, decisively. I reached for what I wanted reflexively. Like it was instinct. I don’t even know that I deserve any credit for it. I’ve never done that before. In fact, in the last decade or so, without noticing, I’ve let all of these weak walls of excuses build up around me. “I don’t have the resume.” “I’m not good enough at that kind of writing.” “I can’t deal with deadlines.” “I’ll never make enough money.” “There isn’t enough consistency.” My life had somehow been contained by a toilet paper fort, and then here comes this grenade that spits holes through the white walls and makes them whistle when I breath. I couldn’t help but see them, flimsy flaps huddled around me. I punched my fist forward and tore though them. I didn’t even know what I’d done until an entire day later. A flash and then the sound of the explosion.

When I started, I thought this was short piece about the benefits of small catastrophes; about how we need to be shaken up every so often. But as I move through it, I realize that this is an ode to wandering; praise for perambulation (I just really wanted to use that word;) it’s a thank you note for one hour a walking every day. Without the space that walking created, who knows how long I would have continued crouching in that paper box. Who knows how long I would have continued doing what I’d already done, over and over again. But here I am — broken out, standing in the sun, sweating slightly in the breeze. No more wetting newspaper strips to repair the holes. No more safe and boring. It’s time to stretch. It’s time to challenge myself. It’s time to push another block because I want to what the houses look like on that side of the street. I want my feet to hurt a little bit every night.

Now, I didn’t land a bunch of writing work. The gods didn’t hand down a storybook ending. I snagged a few gigs with okay pay. They aren’t dialogue work…or even fiction. But, all said and done, if they stay consistent, and I continually push myself out of my comfort zone, I’ll be able to make up for about 60% of the lost income. I’m okay with that. I’m not thrilled, but I’m okay with it. Maybe I have to suffer a little for hiding away for so long. Maybe it’s time to learn new skills at writing in different styles. Maybe I’ll be happier as a struggling writer ever so slowly getting better than I ever was at meat and potatoes, emails and websites, paper mâché and unfinished drafts. And maybe it’s better to be underpaid for who you are, then it is to be paid well for cowardice. I guess I’ll find out regardless.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me and the dog to go for a long, long walk.

Broken Movies

I’ve spent the last week watching mostly 80’s films, Christmas films and general kids level fluff. And I’ve enjoyed the shit out of it. I think I’ve finally found a way to mute the creator mind and just watch something passively.

I like that these films are what they are. They have low goals, and I can give the inner critic the night off. It’s too easy to look for flaws in good films or films that should be good, but a movie like Fletch is somehow free from that. It’s just Chevy Chase waking the line between charming and goofy. The movie just creates occasions for that. Home Alone, is just Dennis the Menace mixed with Wiley E. Coyote, and that’s all it wants.

Maybe these movies are comforting for me because this it what most movies were like for most of my life. For every Taxi Driver, there were two Teen Wolfs, two Ghostbusters, and one Weird Science. I grew up with a short stack of VHS tapes like these.

Good wasn’t a measure of depth or execution, good was how far did something take me from my living room, how much did it make me think of stories in my own mind, and how many times could I watch it. Remember Clash of the Titans or Ice Pirates? Pure shit. And I loved them!

Maybe there’s something to be said about broken movies and low swings, because they have holes and those holes are nothing but space for us to seep into them. We become a part of what makes them work, we have to participate. We have to make up the difference.

My friend once asked me to prove to him that Goonies was a good movie (he’d only seen it as an adult.) I told him I couldn’t. It was too late. You had to grow up with it. You had to see yourself in it. You had to squirm between the cracks. You had to wear down its pages like a comic.

Growing up, I never got two comic books in a row, so I never knew how the stories ended not often how they began. I had to imagine it.

We have so many damn options now that we’ve become spoiled. We give up on tv shows after three episodes if it doesn’t meet our standards. Maybe we were better off getting stuck watching what was on. Maybe we were better watching broken films and re-reading comic books. Maybe we were better off getting lost in the energy of something rather than getting caught up on the quality.

Somewhere along the line we all became reviewers instead of enjoyers. And then we turned that on each other. Maybe we all just need to get excited about something shitty or imperfect, not because it’s cool, but because we want it to be and we’re willing to fill in the gaps.

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Time May Not Be the Problem

How We Use Time To Avoid the Truth of What We Value

The question of Time continually rears it’s head. I did two episodes of Creative Minds on Time this season and I know it’s only a scratch or two on a very rough exterior. Time is an obstacle for us all. How do we find enough? How do we manage what we have? Why does it go so fast? But Time isn’t always the issue. The real question is not how do we arrange our time, but rather what do we value?

Do you watch four hours of TV and then tell yourself that you don’t have the time to read? Do you continually flip through Facebook instead of mediating? We all do it. We all value things we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t. It’s a frightening reality.

Time can remain an issue for many of us because facing these truths can be very difficult and uncomfortable. We avoid them because they require us to ask further questions of ourselves.

Most of us know what we “should” be doing, we know that we could manage our time better, and we often know exactly where we are wasting it. But the question we are avoiding is Why? Why do I value Bloons Tower Defense more than my novel?

Because my novel is difficult; because it makes me feel like I’m continually failing; because winning a stupid level on a game feels better; because it’s fun and right now my life is sorely devoid of fun.

Underneath the question of Time is always another question, one without an easy answer that frees us from responsiblity like “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Look there. Dare to look there. What’s underneath your problem with time?

A Poor Estimate of Time

What’s the rush?

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Everything I do takes longer than I expect it to. I sit down to do a few edits on a podcast, an hour goes by. I decide to make a short little video clip for Instagram, 2 hours go by. I go to edit a vlog for YouTube and I lose 4 hours. The next thing I know, it’s 10pm and I’m sitting down to write something on Medium, which of course, “will only take a few minutes.”

I start getting anxoius on nights like this, always feeling behind; like I’m going to run out of time. My jaw gets tense, usually my heart rate jumps up to about 130 and all over some manufactured sense of urgency.

What am I rushing for? The only thing waiting me on the other side of all this stuff is a television and some tea, (maybe some Bloons Tower Defense.) Where along the way did I forget that all this stuff I’m trying finish faster is the stuff I’m supposed to be enjoying? When did it start mattering whether I published a post, a podcast, a blog and a vlog all on the same day — a Friday night when everyone is looking at a beer tap or a movie screen, not their phones?

It seems kinda of silly when I type it out like that and look at it. I need my passions to be passionate again — not some content that I’m pushing out to meet some imagined deadline.

Journaling Dilemna

Stuck between two worlds

Call it the perils of being forty (at this point in history,) but more often than not, I find myself slamming back and forth between digital and analog. I just can’t seem stay on one side of the issue. And lately, I’ve been measuring the two against each other when it comes to journaling.

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The argument for digital

This isn’t really anything new; anybody alive right now knows the advantages of digital.

  • It’s searchable

  • It’s far less likely to be lost or destroyed

  • It’s neater and easier to read

  • It’s taggable and sortable

And to get even more specific, when talk about the incredible Day One journaling app, there’s:

  • The activity feed — which remembers where I go so that I can add those places to my journal later. (For someone, like me, who gets caught up in what they are doing, this is huge. I don’t always have time in the midst of living to journal, so those little placemakers are crucial.)

  • The ability to add old scribblings and still get full featured entries. The entries I put in today will map my location and save the weather. Well, if I put in an old paper notebook entry from 1992 and I know where I was on what day, like magic it’s on the map with the weather from that day.

  • End-to-end encryption. This is about as secure as a journal can get.

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The side for analog

If you’re like me, you’re pretty much sold on the features I listed above. But (of course there’s a but,) there are just some things about pen and paper that I can’t let go of:

  • The feel — yes, most of us are sick of hearing it, but it’s true. I can’t let go of the way that a pen feels going across a piece of paper. There’s no inherent advantage to it. There’s no difference between catching words in ink, or on an iPad, or typing at your Mac. But after 40 years, the feeling of paper is natural; it’s security of another form. I’m still tied to tangibility as reality. If I can hold it, it exists.

  • You learn better when writing rather than typing. I’m not gonna pull up research to prove it, maybe it’s not even true for everyone, but it’s true for me. And journaling is about growth, thinking and learning.

  • It’s distraction free. No pop-ups or badges.

  • My eyes don’t burn after an hour.

  • I don’t have worry about charge levels or signal.

  • It has also been said that cursive handwriting stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously in ways that few activities do.

The Current Situation

I’m literally living in both worlds.

  • I carry a pocket notebook and pen with me everywhere. (I hate typing notes into my phone.)

  • I log my daily activities like where I go, what I do, what I eat and any other brief event-related thoughts into Day One every night. I like using the On This Day feature to see what I was doing in previous years.

  • I put my commonplace notes (what I read, and watch and listen to) in Day One as well, because it’s searchable and I like seeing what I was into years later and what I was thinking about them.

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I’m pretty happy with those three things. They work for me. But it’s the questions of what to so with my long personal journals that I’m worries about. I love the feeling of grabbing a notebook and scribbling out some stream of consciousness pages. It’s not the same with a keyboard. But of all the different things that I journal, these entries are the ones that I worry most about losing — because they’re as personal as personal can get.

Now, I considered for a bit the possibility of taking photos of my paper journals and dropping them into Day One, but that lasted about three minutes. I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna make something simple into something complex just because I can’t choose.

The Solution

One of the biggest problems for me when it comes to technology is that I get caught up. I get fascinated about the possibilty of something — which isn’t a bad thing. It just happens a lot because I don’t sit and actually think enough about my actual use and my actual needs. I spend hours debating features I won’t even use.

So, the reality here is, my long personal journals are morning pages. They’re about self-discovery. They don’t serve a purpose beyond the experience of actually writing them. I won’t ever be looking at them again. That’s not what they’re for. So, they don’t need to live anywhere digitally. In fact, I don’t wnat them to. When I get to the end of a notebook, I’m gonna shred it and move on to the next one. And everything else, all my other journals, they’ll live happily and securely in Day One.

My “Read Later” Queues Are Killing Me

Everytime I see a story I want to read, I bookmark it on Medium. I have lists like this everywhere but I can never seem to get back to zero. As I write this I have 43 articles save on Medium, 32 videos saved on YouTube, 13 podcast epsiodes waiting in Castro, 158 unread books in the Kindle app, and 53 random things stacked up in my Safari Reading list.

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By my estimate I should be able to catch up on these things in 4 years — if I dedicate 4 hours a days it. But of course, that won’t happen. I’ll keep adding to the pile. I’ll keep bargaining with the gods like the bespeckled bookworm in the Twilight Zone begging for more time. I keep saving.

Those number are a continual stress, and we haven’t even touched on my Netflix queue. My anxiety grown every day because the the damn lists are actually growing, not receding.

In time the weight of our promises to ourselves become abuse; continually battering ourselves with the stick of failure.

My “To Read” list on Goodreads is up to 7,126. That’s 70 years of 100 books a year. I’m fourty. I don’t think I’ll be reading a book every three days at 105. My list is longer than my life, and every time I see that number I’m reminded of that. Every time I add another book, I’m stretching further into borrowed time.

It’s weird a intersection of hoarding and FOMO, isn’t it. “I might never see this again, better stuff it in a coffee can.” But what would happen if I went in and deleted eveything right now? Nothing. I’ve done it before. It’s the reason that I’m not allowed to download feed readers on my phone any longer. Nothing is going to change until I change my perceptions.

When we throw something into a “read later” list what we’re actually is borrowing against tomorrow; we’re strapping libraries to the backs of our future selves sot that we can watch a Seinfeld rerun tonight. Tomorrow we will leave the next Sienfeld episode in the queue so that we can watch 20/20 tonight. While we’re at, lets add six movies to our watch later list. Over time it’s no longer about what we watch or read, it’s about what we tell ourselves we’re gonn watch and read someday. We live in someday.

It’s the same problem many of us have with finance. I’ll buy this on credit today and screw my future self. That’s how we live.

We’re continually stealing from next year.

So, how the hell do I turn it around? That’s the question every minimalist and productivity “expert” is out there trying to answer. The truth is I don’t know. Did you really think I would? Those list numbers I shared are current. I don’t have any answers. I’m galloshes deep in the river. I suspect the answer is being present and being grateful, but I also think we I need a good dose of “I don’t give a shit.”

Lounging Away Our Lives

How to use leisure to kill your dreams

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How many articles have you read online that tell yousocial media is worse for us than smoking crack? Or that the 24 hour news cycle is making us reactionary and ignorant as a society? How many decades have people been saying that 6 hours of television every day is just not natural? And it’s not unreasonable when we read these things; we aren’t shocked. In fact, it makes sense. We can feel all of this stuff going on inside of us, yet we continue to batter away, consuming more and more…

I know every night I should be leaving the television off. I know I should toss my phone onto the desk and leave it there. I know I should be reading. I should be enjoying the muted sound of silence. I should be meditating. I should put in a few extra hours of work into my novel. At the very least I should be brainstorming the next episode of my podcast.

So, how do I end up spending most nights? Screwing around with some dumb app on my phone while another epsiode of C.S.I. is on in the background being ignored.

It’s awful. I slow the progress to my goals by at least 70%. And somehow I accept it. I accept that as normal. And you know what? It feels shitty. It feels shitty because I know its easy to change and that I’m capable of so much more. It feel shitty because as creative as I am, I’m still only dipping my toes. After 40 years, I still haven’t learned to dive fully in and swim in that reality. After forty years I’m still scared; scared that one day I’ll wake up a failure and all the people who were scared too will be standing above me waving their 401Ks and laughing.

That’s terrible. That’s a terrible thought. How the hell do we let these things into our brains; these bullshit worms? How do we live with these false perceptions and define the choices of our lives by them?

You know and I know that Facebook, Nexflix and Fortnite aren’t to blame. We only use them like thick blankets to throw over the top of the things that we want to ignore. We’re hiding. I’m hiding. I know the man I want to be, I’m just not ready to follow him. I know how to get to where I want to be, I just have trouble believing in an invisible bridge.

Creative Poison

The Biggest Lie We Tell Ourselves

We all like to think that creative people are another class; that they exist on some higher plane than the rest of us where everything is easy and amusing. We like to think that they have a clear vision of what they are doing at all times; a clear vision of where they’re headed, and what they’re saying…

(If you’ll allow me a brief sports metaphor) we often talk about creative people the way that sportscasters talk about tall quarterbacks: “they can just see further down the field.”

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Now, let me first say that I use the words “we all like to think” with supreme confidence. This flawed image of creative people is something that I’ve thought (hell, there are still days that I think it.) I hear it out of people’s mouths and see it in their actions. We embody this belief that creative people are a different breed every time we use the phrase “naturally talented.” And that phrase, “naturally talented,” is arsenic to our creativity.

It’s true, tall quarterbacks may actually see further down the field, but does that really make the choice of who to throw to easier? Does being taller make the enormous men running at you move any slower? Tall quarterbacks don’t have to practice less. They don’t take the week off while the special teams run laps, and the linemen hit the sleds. Being tall might be a natural advantage but it also makes you a bigger target. Not every kid over six foot grows up to be Joe Montana (or to play basketball.) And not every 10-year-old who can play the piano grows up to be Mozart.

Now, sports metaphors aren’t normally my thing, but I think they work here. They work because creatives, like athletes, have to bust their asses. They have to practice every day. They have to bang their heads against the wall with frustration and then turn around and go back to work. I honestly think this is why child-prodigies don’t grow up to rule the world. Everything comes to them too easily, too fast, and too young. They never learn to struggle; they never learn to push. And when they finally hit the steep incline that everyone else has been pushing against their whole lives, the prodigies are baffled. “Why can’t I just do this.” Without the toughness and the tools that the rest of develop, they stop progressing, they retract from the obstacles, they get jobs selling tires and then they fade into the crowd.

As a teenager, I used to read interviews in guitar magazines trying figure out what these people, these famous musicians, knew that I didn’t know. I’d buy the albums that they bought, read the books that they read, dream of the gear that they used; in hopes that one day the creative code would decypher itself in gold holograms in the air before my eyes. I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to hear what they heard, see what they saw, know what they knew — because I thought that was the hard part: changing species. After that, I just supposed music and words and paintings came flowing out fully formed, like revelations.

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But that’s not the way that things worked; it’s not the way things work. Hendrix broke a lot of strings, Rodin ruined a lot of stone, Escoffier spilled a lot of veal stock. The only thing they knew that I didn’t was that novels don’t get written on the couch watching reruns. Albums come from blood. Symphonies spring from demoralized hearts; from desperation — not the desperation to be loved, or appreciated, or admired — masterpieces spring from the desperation to grow, to learn, to get one yard closer to an ever-moving goal line. Creation lives in effort, in the battle, in the unknowing and the pushing.

In the decades since my interview-scouring days, I’ve learned something else: I am a creative. I am a creative person because I choose to be. I am a creative person because I wake up every day and I make myself into one. I sit in the chair and I manifest imperfections. I embrace the drills and the dropped balls and the scratched out paragraphs. Because there is no long-term advantage to “natural talent;” there is no higher plane, no supreme species, no Rosetta Stone. There’s just us, nothing more than dreaming teens willing to crack and to crap and to suck and to keep reaching toward a distant point that we can’t even see.

Social Media Minimalism

I almost titled this “The Social Media Diet.” It’s a good title but for most of us the word “diet” insinuates restriction and elimination. I’m more interested in my lifestyle and altering my habits.

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I’m redefining my relationship with social media by deleting all of it off of my phone. And this is why I balk at using the word “diet.” I’m not labeling twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as bad things, the way that we label carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods as bad. I’m not even quitting these platforms. I’m not deleted my accounts. I’m establishing new habits.

The problem I find with social media on my phone is that I end up dipping into the apps all throughout the day. I use them to fill tiny moments while I’m waiting or sitting in the toilet. But it’s precisely those moments that I want back. I want the little empty holes in my life to remain empty, because it is in those vacuums that creativity flourishes. It’s waiting for a table that gives me time to sketch my shoe or the snake-like plant next to the bench I’m siting in. It’s in line at the grocery store that I begin to watch people, wonder about their lives and end up with characters in need of a short story. I want to spend my in-between time filling notebooks and napkins with descriptions of hand gestures and the textures of old bricks. I want to live in my imagination.

Is this something that I’m suggesting for everyone? I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to finish the book that I’m working on, I want to write more books, I want to have ideas to paint and I want to think of silly songs that make me laugh. I can’t do those reading another angry political tweet, or reading another article about how marketing has changed since yesterday, or pinning awesome leather jackets that I can’t afford to a new board.

These things aren’t inherently bad. I still plan on using the platforms, but when I do, it will be on my laptop, in a browser, with a block of time dedicated to communicating with people. I just don’t want to be able to pop in every hour to see how many likes my doodle is getting. I don’t want to be laying on the couch, with my phone in my hand jumping from timeline to timeline while a movie plays in the background. But that’s exactly what I’ll do if those apps are sitting on my home screen.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2013, author Neil Gaiman talked about going on a “social media sabbatical.” He too understood that creativity was a reaction to a void and that without those voids nothing grows.

“People ask me where I get my ideas from, and the answer is that the best way to come up with new ideas is to get really bored.”

So that’s my plan. My plan is put down this phone and look out the window. My plan is to listen to the tick tick tick of the clock above my fireplace. My plan is to twirl a pencil in my fingers like a drumstick and hope for a hundred bad ideas, a hundred silly thoughts, and the will to hone one of them into a idea worth writing and eventually worth sharing. I’m getting minimal. “Social Media” is more words than I need. From now on, my emphasis is on “media.”

Start Worrying: How to Harness Anxious Thoughts to Better Your Life

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I know, it’s an audacious title; something that probaby promises more than it can deliver. But I’ve discovered something that really works. It’s doesn’t come out of wisdom or research or knowledge. I honestly stumbled upon the idea out of pure luck. It’s simple. It works. And I’ll keep the writing here simple as well.

The basic premise is that we aren’t all mad; that we aren’t all completely out of our minds. I think most of you agree with that. So then the question is why do we worry so damn much? We’re fraying our nerves; our spines, our guts and our stomachs are all eating themselves alive. Why?

Sure, I don’t doubt that the pace of our lives and our media consumption has a lot to do with it. I’ve noticed improvement in my own stress levels from reducing my input. But at the heart of every anxiety; every ball of stress, is a worry. We abuse ourselves with repetitive worries cycling through our brains.

Some doctors give us pills to chill out. Other’s say we need to learn to let go. But I think there’s something more there. I’m not a doctor and I wouldn’t claim to know better than them, but what I do know is that every worry is rooted in something specific.

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There’s always something down at the core of everything over which we starve ourselves or pull out of hair for. And we often take so little time for self contemplation that we are unable to identify what the true situation at hand actually is. Instead we juggle chainsaws, somehow convincing ourselves that by stressing out over something, we are making it better. But worry is not solution. We all know that. In the words of Van Wilder:

“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Ok, so let’s get to the meat already. Right? What am I really talking about? Why should we start worrying? And what good can come from that?

Our first problem is that we allow worry to invades our lives. It pops up where and whenever it wants, shitting on whatever it come into contact with. And the only remedy we are offered is to let it go; to ignore it; to push it out. But that doesn’t work very well does it? And if doesn’t work well then we have to wonder if maybe we’re thinking of it all wrong.

What if I told you to go ahead and worry, to go ahead and freak out all that you want? You’d proababy say that I’m nuts or and idiot, but that’s exactly what I’m suggesting you to do. Worry, worry, worry — but only for 30 minutes every day.

I want you to schedule a thirty minute window every day for worrying. I’m not being metaphorical. Put aside thirty minutes of every day and label that as your worry time.

First of all, as crazy as it sounds, there’s something freeing about the idea isn’t there. By allowing it a place in our lives we no longer have to carry the shame, guilt and yes, the worry that we have over the habit of worrying itself.

Second of all, what’s important to know about this thirty minutes is that it is the only time during the day that you are allowed to worry. What this means is that when a worry pops into your head during the rest of the day, rather than fighting it, you reschedule it. If you have to, talk out loud. “Sorry worry, it’s not you’re time. We will talk tonight.” And then write down that worry for reference later and move on.

And that’s it.

Just kidding. That isn’t even the important part. We still have to deal with the real clickbaity part of my title: “Harness Anxious Thoughts to Better Your Life.” So, how do we do that?

Well, that’s where your thirty minutes come in. This is what you actually do during these thirty minutes.

List out every single worry that you can think of that is on your mind — big, small, logical, crazy — all of them. The first day will probably be the longest (but who knows.) You’ll proabably run out of steam pretty fast, but I encourage you to push past this and to really dig. Go until you literally can’t think of any more worries. Find the true limit.

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Why are we writing them down? You guessed it, because we are gonna look at each of them and do some thinking. The first question you are gonna ask as you look at each worry is: “What’s the worst possible thing that can happen?”

I’ll share with you one of my own personal stresses. On day one, I wrote down “I worry about my heart health.” I smoked cigarettes for 18 years, I ate a poor diet, I never exercised and I’m twenty pounds overweight. Though I have no signs of heart disease yet, it’s a real worry. And when my anxiety takes over and throws me into a panic attack, the first thing I think is that I’m having a heart attack. So I guess, as blunt as it is, my worse case scenario is that I actually will die. Damn. That’s not very uplifting or healthy is it? Luckily, this question is only the first of two.

The next question I want you to ask is: “What can I actually do about it?” And this is the hardest step out of everything that I’ve written here. It requires you to really understand what you’re worry is actually telling you. After all that’s the whole point of this article, that we aren’t insane; that the reason we worry is because we are trying to tell ourselves something. A worry is like an alarm. We don’t want to just turn them off. We want to find out what set them off.

In my case, I found four actionable steps. Actionable steps are spefic actions that you can take. Tangible things. For example, I’m worried about my heart, so I need to:

  • Change my diet

  • Exercise

  • Lose weight

  • Go see a cardiologist for a heart check up

Every one of these is something that I can put into action immediately. And that’s our goal here. As best as you can, try to find true actionable steps, things that you can put into a todo app, schedule and complete. This is where you begin to improve your life.

As we allot time to listen to and understand our worries, we begin to make progress. From one worry I was able to see the need to make three changes to improve my health. And the apointment with the cardiologist will give me some understanding of where I actually stand with my heart health. If my heart is healthy then I have information to battle my next panic attack (though hopefully there isn’t a next one), and if it isn’t in tip-top condition then I have more motivation for my diet and exercise changes.

Now to be clear, there may not always be a cut-and-dry action steps from every worry. Sometimes the action step in just acknowledging something and accepting it. “I worry that I will die one day.” Yup. You will. You can’t prevent it, so maybe your action steps are “accept the inevitability of death” & “find joy and happiness in every day.”

But…personally, I wouldn’t even be happy with those steps. I’d want to dig deeper. What scares me about death specifically? How can I come to terms with that? What steps can I take to find joy? and happiness?

Basically what I’m saying here is that the deeper you dig to find specific actions that you can take, the more benefit your worries will bring into your life. It’s all up to you. If you give yourself fully to this practice you will continually surprise yourself. You will discover worries that you weren’t consciously aware of. You will find needs that you weren’t meeting. You will find things you’ve been wanting to do, suddenly getting done. And after time you’ll discover that your worry list gets shorter every day, because worries don’t return unless they still have something to say. If you take your steps then they eventually go away.

The Time to Paint

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I love to paint, but I always thought that I wasn’t any good at it because I couldn’t turn pieces around as fast as other people seem to do. It can take me weeks, or months (sometimes years) to finish a piece. I can’t do anything about it. That’s just my method. I can’t rush it. I have to contemplate. I have to understand and forget and find my way back. I have to live in the spaces of inaction. I think a lot about the old painter in the movie Amelie and how he labored over tiny almost invisible brush strokes. There’s a beauty to how he takes his time, how he thinks about the relationships of the subjects. There’s something admirable in how he can’t finish the painting until everything about it resolves in his mind. I think that always struck as how I want making art to be. I want art to be mediation.

Read Less. Learn More.

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What would you say if I told you that reading one book can be more valuable than reading fifty? That re-reading something familiar is more valuable than reading something new? What would you say if I told you that you could learn more by reading less?

Information Overload

With 1,500–2,000 TV shows aired, 600,000–1 million books published, 1 billion active websites & approximately 200 billion tweets posted every year, we live in a world packed with information. In our pockets, a thumb-press away, we carry libraries so vast that even imagining them would be an impossibility.

On his website What If?, scientist and cartoonist Randall Munroe attempts to estimate the amount of data stored on Google’s servers. According to his (guesstimated) calculations, if all the company’s data were stored on punch cards which hold 80 characters, 2,000 of which fit into one box, these boxes would cover all of New England 4.5 kilometers deep! And that’s just Google.

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Even more impossible than imagining its size is the notion that we should somehow be able to keep current with reading these oceans of information. It’s a crazy idea, yet we still we live in continual attempt. We scan. We skim. We sneak Facebook posts, news feeds and book tidbits into every brief moment. iPhones out while we wait in line or sit at red lights, we gulp all that we can in the fear that we’ll miss something important.

It’s a habit that technology companies are certainly aware of:

  • Audible offers listening speeds up to 3X for their audiobooks.

  • In addition to the ability to increase listening speed, the podcast app Overcast offers a feature called “Smart Speed” which finds silences in the audio and cuts them out, shaving minutes from every hour.

  • Twitter and Snapchat limit you to 140 characters or 10 seconds, respectively.

  • Apps like Rooster & Serial Reader deliver small digestible daily chunks of classic books.

  • Blinkist sends users the key insights from books (saving them the time of actually reading them).

  • Currently, as I write this, the top app in the iPhone app store is Summize in which you “Take a picture of a textbook page or news article and get a summary, concept analysis, keyword analysis or bias analysis in seconds.”

  • Spritz is a speed reading app that flashes words or groups of short words in a quick succession across a stationary window which is said to prevent head turning, slowing down and re-reading.

Information is coming at us from all directions at all times. According to Wikipedia’s entry on Information Overload: “A study from 1997 found that 50% of management in Fortune 1000 companies were disrupted by emails more than six times an hour.” This constant pounding of information has only increased dramatically in the 19 years following that survey. In 1997 there were no smartphones. There was no Gmail, social media or text messages. Today, office workers are interrupted, or self-interrupted, every 3 minutes.

Without even picking up a book, we are continually overloaded with information on a daily basis. And the constant exposure to information has real consequences for the way we think and act. 
 
 As discussed in a 2008 Scientific American article, willpower and decision making are limited resources. Both require the use of our executive function which is our choice maker. When the executive function becomes exhausted we become less and less capable of making good decisions. At a certain point we’re rendered incapable of making any choice at all.

This is what people mean when they say “I’m so tired. I don’t even want to think about eating.” Information overload leads to a continual feeling of being run ragged. The simple act of swatting away notifications and keeping up with our feeds makes us less motivated to exercise, weaker against the temptations of an unhealthy diet, and overwhelmed when facing decisions. 
 
 As much as I advocate for literacy and reading, I don’t think consuming information faster is the solution to the problem. It definitely won’t disperse this continual data smog we live in. In fact, increasing our consumption rate doesn’t mean that we’re learning any more at all.

A Personal Experiment

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2015 was my year of brain gluttony. On top of the previously mentioned stream of unending social media posts, emails and text messages, I set myself two fairly insane challenges. The first of which was to watch 300 movies. My second goal was to read 80 books. The whole idea was absurd. And though I would love to say that I failed to achieve both of these goals, something much worse happened: I exceeded them. In 2015, I read 89 books and I watched 355 movies.
 
 I quickly learned that at a normal pace there was simply not enough time in a year to accomplish these goals, if I planned on eating, sleeping and working at all. I needed to cheat the system. While I’m not aware of any tricks for watching a movie faster, there are some nasty tricks you can employ to increase the amount of books that you read. In my bag of tricks were:

  1. the use of audio books

  2. audio books at double speed

  3. audiobooks at triple speed

  4. listening to audiobooks while checking email and surfing the web

  5. Spritz (the above mention speed reading app)

Now, I have to be very honest. Over the span of the entire year, I feel like I learned very little. I read more and somehow knew less. It seems that the faster the consumption, the lower my comprehension became. I know now that an audiobook at double speed is the exact speed limit of my understanding. At that speed I can sustain comprehension for short periods of time (approximately 10–15 minutes), after which my brain inevitably tires and shuts down by shifting its attention away from the book. Whereas even when paying full attention at triple speed, I still missed at least half of what I was listening to. I just couldn’t grab it all.

I faced the exact same problems when multi-tasking. The brain just simply isn’t capable of reading something on a screen while listening to something else being read. I could only comprehend by narrowing my focus onto one thing and blocking out the other. It seems that, when overloaded, my brain’s response was to shut down or shut out.

But, of all the things I tried (including reading blogs while listening to an audiobook at double speed) the worst comprehension came with the use of Spritz. Spritz is essentially a text window that flashes one word or several short words in front of your eyes, rather than displaying pages of text for you to scan through. With speeds as high as 700 words per minutes and as low as 100 words per minute, I found that even at it’s slowest, Spritz was not something that I could sustain for an entire book. It just hurt my brain and hurt it almost instantly. I attempted to read portions of Kingsley Amis’s novel “Old Devils” using the app and the portions that I read using Spritz are completely absent from my memory. It’s like I never even read them. All I really remember is a flurry of words flashing in front of me and of those words I was only able to register and comprehend one out of every 30 or 40.
 
 I’ll need to re-read this book again in the future. There’s no way around it, because my comprehension of it has more holes than actual substance. It’s like reading one word from every two lines of text. This level of consumption simply is not learning. You can’t piece anything worthwhile together from such sparse data. I found that using Spritz was less a reading tool and more a form of torture worthy of A Clockwork Orange.

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Over the span of 2015, there were many books of which I have the vaguest memories. The experience of listening to each of them remains in only a contextual way. Often I can tell where I was sitting or what the weather was like that day, but of the text itself I can only recall the most general details. I can tell you what the book was about, I may even be able to relate the details of a few scenes, but I couldn’t begin to tell you what the book meant or what the best parts were. It would be like describing a city that I’ve only driven through.

Remembering vs. Knowing

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Our ability to store information occurs in two main forms. First there is “remembering.” Remembering is basic recall, it relies heavily upon context, takes longer to recall and fades faster. For many of us, remembering is what we used to pass algebra and chemistry. We were able to absorb the periodic table and quadratic equations long enough to pass quizzes and tests but we draw complete blanks hearing those terms now. 
 
 The other form of learning is what we call “knowing.” Knowing is what occurs when we digest information as truth. It actually becomes a part of us and we can explain it to others. This is the whole purpose of essays, science projects and study groups in school: to stimulate knowing rather than rote memory.
 
 The difference between remembering and knowing is best exemplified in parenting. We can tell a child not to touch a stove and they will remember exactly that, but in most cases it will not prevent them from touching it. They remember you telling them that the stove is hot — they may even be able to tell you where you were standing and what you were wearing — but it will not stop them from touching the stove. They remember but they do not know; they won’t know it until they burn themselves.
 
 In a 2003 study at the University of Leicester, researcher Kate Garland studies the difference between remembering and knowing by comparing reading on a screen with reading on paper. Her research group was given study material from an introductory economics course. Half were asked to read the material on a computer monitor while the other half was given the material in a spiral-bound notebook.

While Garland found that both groups scored equally on comprehension tests, the methods of recall differed drastically. Those who read the information on the computer relied solely upon remembering while “students who read on paper learned the study material more thoroughly more quickly; they did not have to spend a lot of time searching their minds for information from the text, trying to trigger the right memory — they often just knew the answers.”
 
 Though this seems to say a lot about the innate superiority of paper, it is also possible that the differences are dependent upon perception. In other words, paper may not be naturally better for learning, but instead the way that we view paper makes us learn from it more deeply. It’s possibly that we believe paper to be a more permanent medium and that we view online articles as disposable. It is also possible that this valuing may be responsible for how our brain deals with the information obtained from each medium.

When we “remember” something, we call it data, information or facts. When we “know” something we call it knowledge. Knowledge becomes part of who we are as people. We preserve articles into archives which serve as containers for future retrieval, while the purpose of a book is drastically different. The purpose of a book is to inspire growth. A book is meant to become an addition to our sense of self. And it is here that we find our problem with fast reading: When we begin to view books as something to consume and we challenge ourselves to ingest them faster, we begin to see them as data; as simply something to remember. When we stop looking to them for knowledge everything in them becomes temporary.

Deep Reading For Deep Thinking

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Beyond the simple shortcomings of basic “remembering”, there are other advantages offered by measured, more careful reading. The need for deeper reading is something we are hearing about more and more in recent decades, going as far as to spark a movement. In 2009, The Slow Book Movement was founded by novelist I. Alexander Olchowski. A movement dedicated to promoting the benefits of deep reading, their core ideas are best expressed by author John Miedema: “If you want the deep experience of a book, if you want to internalize it, to mix an author’s ideas with your own and make it a more personal experience, you have to read it slowly.”
 
 The reasoning here is quite straightforward and requires little scientific evidence to prove itself to the average person. Learning (whether it be remembering or knowing) requires focus. Without paying attention we have difficulty retaining anything, as shown in my foolish attempts to listen to audiobooks while battling back my Gmail inbox. But shallow reading is not something that we do on purpose. It’s something we do because of the fear of missing out on something important, the ugly result of rampant consumerism. The more we consume the more we can be sold.
 
 The website of the speed reading app Spritz claims that beyond flashing words at an accelerated pace, Spritz works by “allowing you to read without the need to move your eyes,” and this is said to save you hours of time. And I have to admit, this all sounds plausible; and it is plausible…to everyone except the experts.

When interviewed by The New Yorker, psychologist Michael Masson stated that, “one of the reasons regressive eye movements occur is to repair comprehension failures.” In studies he has done on speed-reading, Masson learned that the movement of the eyes on the page was essential to comprehension. Without the ability to scan back, the brain barrels forward leaving giant holes in comprehension, while working desperately to piece together an understanding from what little it has gathered. This cripples not only the perception of the passage being read but also the understanding of all future passages which are dependent upon the one being read. A mystery cannot be solved if the detective has missed all of the clues, nor can a novel be understood by reading nothing but the last page. This was exactly my experience with Spritz and Martin Amis’s Old Devils, all I have are unconnected pieces.

We read slowly to ensure that we understand the words in front of us, but we also read slowly with the hope that other thoughts will bleed in. While distracting, inane thoughts will be the first to arrive, with practice these thoughts become more relevant; we will begin to see similarities and differences in other things we’ve read. It is these connections that are the foundation of learning itself. We often confuse learning with the collection of data, but learning is the process of digestion. Learning is what moves something from remembering to knowing. And this is the deepest form of thinking.

The absorption of one idea is not enough to spark thought. One idea must have another idea to bounce off of. In philosophy, this is referred to as the Hegelian Dialectical Formula. An idea (or thesis) must collide with another idea (antithesis) in order to create a new thought (synthesis). So, by reading in a relaxed manner we not only increase focus, decrease anxiety and stimulate learning; we also create the opportunity for original thought.

Where to Start

How do we begin to develop the practice of reading less and learning more? Well, the first steps are simple but crucial. We must first begin to unlearn the unhealthy habits of the information age. Does this mean throwing away your computer? Smashing your iPhone? Deleting your social media? Giving up on reading online articles (like this one)? No. Of course not. All that we need to begin is the will to hone our habits into practices.

What does that mean? It means setting limitations for yourself. It means turning off notifications and focusing on absorbing what is in front you. It means allowing yourself time to reflect instead of continually dipping into your phone for a fix. It means not rushing yourself to the ends of books; notchallenging yourself to finish more books than your neighbor. It means keeping a notebook next to you while you read and writing down your thoughts. It means re-reading sentences again and again, reasoning them into understanding. It means remembering how to see reading as a way to grow and not as a stat to collect.

It doesn’t matter what device you read from or what content it is that you choose to read, but when you do so, dedicate your time to it. Worry less about what you are missing out on and allow yourself to get lost in thought. Concern yourself less with how much you are reading, and instead invest in how much you are learning. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”

This post was originally published on the Todoist Blog and re-published by Observer.

Want to be more productive? Don’t go paperless.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing their doors. Libraries lend out e-books. Receipts are emailed or texted. Bank statements are sent electronically. We file our taxes online, and our digital calendars will remind us of the looming deadline.

The world is going paperless…or is it?

When we stop to take a look at the tools we use to get things done, most of us will find that the line between digital and paper is increasingly blurred.

Graphical user interfaces in computers have always referenced physical counterparts with “desktops”, “documents”, “notebooks”, “folders” and “trash cans”. Steve Jobs himself was a strong proponent of this so-called skeuomorphic design in Apple’s initial software: brushed metal, green felt, wood panels and yellow lined paper (even going so far as to have the Mac calendar app designed after the leather stitching in his own Gulfstream jet).

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In recent years, Apple, Google and Microsoft have openly accepted flat design in an attempt to move past the need for these real-world metaphors. Yet, Apple still calls their new stylus a “Pencil” while Microsoft offers theirs as a “Pen”. Facebook, Dropbox, and FiftyThree each have an app that they call “Paper”.

And the crossover between digital and analog doesn’t end with metaphors. Evernote and OneNote both incorporate “Optical Character Recognition” into their apps, allowing users to handwrite notes or to scan in paper notes without sacrificing the ability to search their text.

On the other end of the spectrum, pen and paper companies are innovating just as quickly to find their place in the digital world:

  • Notebook company Moleskine partnered with Evernote to create notebooks, which automatically file handwritten notes through the use of stickers.

  • Whitelines offers products with light grey paper and white lines which are designed to disappear when scanned, preserving only the text or image on the page.

  • Livescribe makes pens which function like normal ballpoints while simultaneously capturing the pen strokes in a digital format.

  • And Mod Notebooks allow you to mail them your completed notebook, which they will then scan and digitize for you.

In the past, there was resistance to television, refrigeration, sound in film, the automobile and even the cotton gin, but in the end these new technologies eradicated their predecessors. So why does paper continue to hold on to its place in the world of productivity tools?

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Digital clearly offers advantages that paper does not. But experience, and science, show us that paper can help us be more productive in ways that digital just can’t.

In the words of writer and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf, “I would like to preserve the absolute best of older forms, but know when to use the new.”

The question is: how do we get paper and digital tools to work together in a way that plays to the strengths of each medium? This is a question I’ve been trying to answer for a long time.

In this post, I’ll describe the exact system I use to integrate paper and digital seamlessly into my personal workflow. But first we need to know what exactly we can achieve with pen and paper that we can’t achieve with digital tools and vice versa…

The Advantages of Paper

It’s easy to take paper for granted and even easier to forget how refined of a medium it truly is. After thousands of years, the use of paper feels natural and innate. In the words of Getting Things Done guru David Allen, “…the easiest and most ubiquitous way to get stuff out of your head is pen and paper.”

It’s fast and dead simple

Paper doesn’t require booting time, passwords, or fingerprint scanning. Pens and pencils don’t require charging. Field Notes don’t crash. Bic pens are ready to write at a moment’s notice, whether you have 4G connectivity or not. Cheap spiral notebooks don’t need a lightning cable or a power brick.

With paper, there’s no system to learn; no hot keys to memorize. Formatting is decided by the user and can be changed in an instant.

No quick entry system developed today can begin to compete with the access that a pocket notebook offers (not the “screen-off memo” option on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 nor the Surface Pro 4’s eraser clicking quick note). No virtual assistant can offer us the same versatility. Siri, Cortana and Google Now can’t doodle. Alexa can’t even leave the house.

As author Patrick McLean says, “A pen and paper has but one functionality. It captures the marks I make so that they can be referred to at a later time.” In his wonderful article In Defense of Writing Longhand, McLean goes on to explain how paper is actually more enduring than files:

Sure paper is perishable. But it is predictably perishable. Data turns to noise in all kinds of unpredictable ways. Like hard drive crashes. And if an IT person tells you that there is a way to archive a digital file, not touch it for 500 years, and guarantee that it will remain usable — that person is lying to you. If you think I’m wrong, I’ll email you some WordStar and AppleWorks documents just as soon as I can figure out how to get them off my five and a quarter inch floppies.

But I can go the National Archives right now and read a copy of the Magna Carta that was handwritten 793 years ago. No format or version issues here.

It cuts out distractions.

Our Leuchtturm1917 notebooks don’t ring when someone calls. Our Rhodiadot pads don’t vibrate when someone types us on Snapchat. Midori Traveller’sdon’t pop up new tweets or Facebook invites to events we will never attend. We can’t fall down a Wikipedia rabbit hole when using a yellow legal pad. Fisher Space Pens can write upside down and underwater but they won’t let you add things to your Amazon wishlist.

Instead, paper restricts us to single-tasking, which has numerous advantagesof its own. Single-tasking allows us to more easily achieve the flow state. In the flow state, also know as “being in the zone,” we burn less brain fuel (oxygenated glucose.) It turns out, the vast majority of us are actually incapable of multitasking. What we refer to as “multitasking” is actually our brain jumping rapidly back and forth between tasks, which burns this same oxygenated glucose at monstrous rates, leading us into energy nosedives mid-afternoon. Multitasking has also been shown to induce the production of cortisol (a stress hormone) and adrenaline (which triggers our fight or flight response). It’s even been shown to lower our IQ!

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It helps us learn.

We also know that writing is more effective for learning and remembering. Something about the mechanics of handwriting stimulates our memory in a way that typing does not. In her book Write It Down, Make it Happen, Henriette Anne Klauser explains:

Writing triggers the RAS [Reticular Activating System], which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’ Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that […] were there all along.

Similarly, three studies published in the journal Psychological Science found that students who took notes by hand performed significantly better on conceptual questions than students who took notes on their laptops.Researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer concluded that:

…[L]aptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

It’s healthier

The screens we stare at all day are also ruining our eyes. We all know this; we can feel it in the burning redness of long days. And, while text and images seem to be solid and unmoving, they are, in fact, continually flickering; flashing thousands of times a minute like strobe lights on amphetamines.

The brightness and color temperatures of our screen can disrupt our circadian rhythms and in turn, disrupt our sleep. Abnormal circadian rhythms lead to insomnia and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.

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Advantages of Digital

Despite all of these facts, digital technology provides undeniable advantages which paper simply isn’t capable of and never will be.

It backs itself up.

Though files may corrupt and formats will become outdated, paper isn’t entirely safe either. One rogue match in a wastebasket can quickly consume a room with flames, wiping out orderly stacked shelves of composition books, incinerating years of diligence. Binders can easily be left on car roofs (as a filmmaker friend of mine did several years ago, absentmindedly scattering months of movie-prep across mid-day traffic.) Such accidents can’t be avoided.

Ink is bound to the paper upon which it is written. If we lose or damage that singular object, then we lose all of the information along with it. Digital technology offers us security in the redundant backups of the cloud. We know that dunking a Nexus in the toilet or cracking an iPhone means only the loss of the phone and not of the information.

It’s everywhere

Stealing David Allen’s word from earlier: the cloud offers us a different kind of “ubiquity.” The cloud assures that should we forget our iPad or SurfaceBook at home, we can still access our files, notes and emails on a borrowed device. Any browser with an Internet connection affords access to the libraries of information that we’ve stored in our Box, Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, SkyDrive, iCloud and OneNote accounts, regardless of our location.

It can be organized and reorganized

With the help of digital technologies, we can more easily collect all pertinent details and associated information in one place for easy access (which includes not only our own work but the work of other teammates as well). And with the help of services like Todoist, we can organize this information even further by attaching all reference material to associated tasks.

Once ordered, the flexibility of the digital format allows for easy re-organization of files and data as circumstances evolve. And while space, whether digital or pressed pulp, is limited, a digital file allows us to more easily make additions than a white college-ruled page can. Files evolve in ways that would require paper to be re-written, cut-up, stapled or paper-clipped.

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It automates reminders.

Most people, even the most technology-resistant Luddites, would agree that digital calendars out-maneuver Day-Planners in almost every category. We can drop any event into Google calendar, iCal or Outlook and expect, with a relative level of security, that it will be stored and that we can clear it out from our own working memory. One need only spend a few hours sifting through videos on Youtube to see that even the most adamant Hobonichi and Bullet Journal lovers admit to paper’s limitation regarding effective future planning (particularly when dealing with tasks rather than events).

We simply can’t ignore the seamless beauty of a lockscreen alert reminding us of a friend’s birthday or of a concert we need to buy tickets for seven months in advance. And until the day that our spiral Rite in the Rain notebooks alert us with our grocery list when we near the grocery store, we’ll have to rely upon task management and calendar applications for this convenience.

It’s searchable.

As author Tim Ferriss states: “Information is useful only to the extent that you can find it when you need it.” While he is referring to his love of paper notebooks, I find that his point more effectively describes the power of digital search. No matter how well we organize the insides of our notebooks with tables of content and indexes they will never be as effective as a simple keyword search.

Digital app search is robust enough to dig across entire accounts, through all notes, all screen-clippings, photos and even inside of all attached documents. The speed and accuracy of these search functions are truly astounding and they leave paper lovers staring intently at their bookshelves trying to recall which notebook or notebooks hold the information needed.

It’s shareable.

Many, if not all, online services offer us the glorious benefit of real-time collaboration, allowing us to simultaneously work on a document with a co-worker in Peru, one in Taiwan and one in Portugal. We can make notes, track comments and see all progress instantly, saving not only time but also reducing confusion. Similar collaboration can only be achieved using paper by having all parties not only in the same city, but in the same room.

Integrating paper and digital: The Medium Method

After much trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a paper-digital workflow that does just that. For the sake of this article, I’ll refer to my paper-and-digital workflow as “The Medium Method.” I know, it doesn’t have the same pizazz as Kanban, Eating Live Frogs, or Pomodoro, but it will do for the next several hundred words. This simple method is meant as a starting point for merging paper and digital into your workflow to capture all of the benefits of both.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 main notebook

  • 1 travel notebook

  • Post-it notes

  • A pen or pencil

  • A task management app (I use Todoist)

  • A note app (I use OneNote)

  • An online calendar

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Your Main Notebook

The core of the system revolves around a paper notebook. Pick your favorite. Any one will do. I prefer hard-bound notebooks for preservation purposes. Currently I’m using a ruled Midori MD notebook, but don’t get caught up in the minute differences between all of the brands available. I continually jump brands to avoid the time wasting trap of picking “the best.” What you put inside a notebook is sacred; not the notebook itself.

This notebook is what I work out of during the day. It sits open on my desk collecting everything. It’s a task collector, a scrapbook (daily comic strips often find their way in), an event grabber, a notepad, a sketchbook, a journaland a commonplace book (for gathering quotes and notes from what I read, like and learn.) This is the notebook’s dedicated purpose.

I don’t use a strict format, or stick to a legend of symbols. Though I find pre-formatted notebooks like The Action Method and Emergent Task appealing, ultimately I find the freedom to adapt far more valuable. Every day is a different day and each may require a different format. I simply stamp the date at the top of a new page and spill into the book until it’s time for bed.

(For those of you who like a more structured approach to organizing your notebook, you might want to try the Bullet journal or Strikethrough method. Productivity writer and fellow Todoist blog contributor Beth Belle Cooper recently wrote about her own modified notebook system).

Your Travel Notebook

As you can imagine, the main notebook is of utmost importance. It’s not something that I want to lose, and it’s too bulky to carry with me every time that I leave the house. For this purpose, I prefer a pocket notebook, something small and thin that doesn’t make my jeans awkwardly bulge. Right now, I prefer the Midori Travelers Notebook in passport size with one insert (but as I said before, don’t get caught up on the tools. Any pocket notebook will do).

The only purpose of this notebook is to grab stuff on the go. I chose the Midori because the leather cover keeps the paper from being demolished in my pocket, the elastic strap is convenient for holding my pen, and all of the pages are perforated for easy removal. And as much as I hate ballpoint pens, I use a Fisher Space Pen Bullet because it’s small and I know it will write in almost any circumstance.

When I get back to my desk from a meeting, coffee, lunch or whatever has driven me into the world of the living, I copy my pocket notes into my main notebook. This isn’t a necessary step for the system, but I find that it refocuses me before diving back into whatever I’m working on. I also prefer to have all of my notes in the full-sized notebook, because as a habit, I read these notebooks years later in order to remember forgotten ideas, thoughts, concepts, books and films. I also find that re-reading my old notebooks gives me a greater sense of accomplishment and gratitude.

Nightly review

At the end of each day, I do a nightly transcription and review. This is when I open my notebook and look at everything that I’ve collected from the day, and begin to process it. I look for any future events and add them to my online calendar. I look for all completed tasks on my daily post-it (more on this in a bit) and mark them complete in Todoist. I also add any new tasks from my notebook into Todoist, assigning all appropriate dates, notes and tags. I then look into my online calendar to see what I have scheduled for the next day, and I add those appointments to my post-it, followed by my top three tasks from Todoist.

A daily Post-It note

Why a post-it? Simply put, I find post-its are the hardest to ignore. I stick the day’s post-it to the next new page in my notebook and this forces me to stare at it all day as I am writing. If something is incredibly urgent I can stick the post-it to the screen of my computer or my phone or the front door. When I leave my desk, it’s just as easy to grab that little neon square and stick it inside of my pocket notebook. I also find that the limited space of the post-it forces focus. The post-it requires me to be aware of priority when making the list, and it allows me to see nothing but those three tasks throughout the day.

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Often, while working, we allow incoming tasks to deter us from our most important daily goals. The Medium Method makes getting derailed more difficult. It’s hard to squeeze another task onto my post-it. If I’m going to squeeze a new task into my day, I have to really want to. Otherwise, if the task doesn’t qualify, it goes into my main notebook for Todoist entry later that evening.

The post-it also affords me the psychological satisfaction of crossing out a completed task. If at the end of the day, I’ve completed all three tasks I can crinkle the post-it up into a ball and shoot for the bin. If I’ve failed to complete all three, I carry the post-it over to the next day. And trust me, from experience, two post-it days suck and should be avoided at all costs.

Long-term digital storage

The last thing I do every day is copy all of my notes into OneNote (you can just as easily use Evernote or Google Keep.) All notes on movies, books, albums, etc. go into a notebook called “Commonplace.” This affords me the ability to utilize quick search in the future when needing information. I can also link notes to each other as I begin to see how new notes relate with older notes.

In OneNote, I have another notebook called “Journal.” In this notebook, I have sections for each month and in these sections are pages for each day. Here, I copy every important event that occurs during the day. While separated by day and month, I do not separate my journal pages by year. This means, for example, that my Dec 4th page has notes from 2015, 2014, and any other years for which I have notes.

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When I copy the current notes into the journal each day, I can then be reminded of what happened on this same day in the past. The most important part of this process is that it allows me to search for past events. Past events aren’t something that we think of often when creating productivity systems, but wouldn’t it be useful to have access to this type of information when we need it? Wouldn’t it be nice to know: What day was that meeting? What was the name of that person that I met at the last networking event? What did we talk about? What was that restaurant we went to in Switzerland called? When did I buy my laptop? When does that warranty expire?

I even find that this nightly review is useful for social media. Did I think of anything short and funny today? Save that for Twitter tomorrow. Did I make any doodles or sketches that I like? Save that for Instagram. What concept from the book I’m reading stuck out as the most impactful? Save that to discuss in my Snapchat story for the next day.

Using desirable difficulty for learning and creativity

This hybrid workflow may seem unnecessarily complicated (after all, you’re basically capturing everything twice–sometimes more.) But in practice it’s completely intuitive. You’re using things in a way that plays to their strengths and minimizes their shortcomings.

It’s faster and more natural to jot something down on paper rather than switching to the right app or firing up your computer, and you won’t get distracted by notifications along the way. It’s easier and much more visible to stick a post-it somewhere than it is to remember to look at an app or device that requires opening.

On the other hand, it’s easier to search for information on a computer than it is to thumb through notebooks and pages. It’s easier to be automatically notified of events and due dates with reminders from Google Calendar or Todoist than it is to go back and find those notes in your paper notebook. And it will always be easier to share information and collaborate with colleagues by adding attachments and comments than it is to photocopy your notes and expect someone to decipher your hand-writing.

A nightly review may seem time-consuming and redundant, but in reality it only takes about 15–30 minutes and it refreshes all of that information in my mind at the end of the day, prepping it for my brain to move into long-term storage.

This is what Doctor Robert Bjork refers to as “desirable difficulty”; he’s found that the difficulties of certain activities, such as copying notes, actually enhances not only memory but enables us to more easily make connections between different bits of information. As Dr. Bjork says:

We encode and store new information by relating it to what we already know–that is, by mapping it onto, and linking it up with, information that already exists in our memories.

The Medium method relies on desirable difficulty and re-enforces not only the benefits of paper and digital but also takes advantage of how our brains actually work to spur deeper learning and creativity.

For me, The Medium Method is much more than a productivity system; it’s a system of organization, an education amplifier, and a lifestyle enhancer. In the short time that I’ve used it, I find that I’m more focused, productive, organized, and informed. I’m less stressed, and I sleep better. Most importantly, with The Medium Method, I’m happier and more satisfied in my life and work overall.

Are you using a hybrid paper-digital productivity system to get things done? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!


This post was originally published for the Todoist Blog.

From Anxiety To Advice: 8 Ideas

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What makes me expert enough to dole out advice? Nothing. Not a damn thing. I’ve spent a fat chunk of my life fucking up, fucking around and fucking off. Then one day, I got too damn tired of it; my body got too damn tired. It wasn’t a heroic choice to change, I just started having panic attacks. For most people panic attacks are enough to shock them into re-evaluating their life, but me. To wake me up it took having a panic attack on top of extremely high blood pressure while I was suffering from an excruciating infected tooth.

My blood pressure is now regulated by pills and my tooth pain was taken away with a drill, but I was left with the anxiety. Anyone who has had anxiety knows that it is different then stress. Stress is a reaction to being over-stimulated and over-burdened. Anxiety is an all out war in your body for no discernible reason. Anxiety is shortness of breath, electric shocks in your body, chest pain and utterly uncontrollable terror. Anxiety is a hyper-alert state where you can actually hear your blood pumping and it’s pumping fast—too fast. You begin to feel that the only thing holding that imaginary blood clot or heart attack at bay is moving the right way, sitting, standing, pacing, breathing; that the only thing keeping you alive is the sheer power of your will.

Now, everybody’s experience with anxiety is unique, but I’ve yet to meet a person who said it was fun. It’s monstrous and it doesn’t just go away on its own. You have to deal with it. You have to make changes in your lifestyle. You have to evolve. But, this isn’t an article on how to murder anxiety. There are plenty of great instructions on meditation that will help dramatically, but finding relief is an individual journey, just like the anxiety itself. This is an article about dealing with life after experiencing a very tangible, looming fear of death. This is an article about getting things done before they’re throwing dirt on your face. This is even an article about knowing goals and dedicating yourself to them. This is an article about 8 ideas that I have, that I’ve stolen, that are clichéd; 8 things I’m trying.

1. EXERCISE

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This is one that I fought for a long time. I hate doing it. I dread it. It’s just so damn boring, but I do it. I do 30 minutes every morning before I shower or even eat. I avoided exercise for years, and I can tell you that going back to base-line healthy after reaching a certain age is a lot more difficult. You don’t put on muscle nearly as fast, the soreness lasts longer and the fat—well the fat seems to have claws in your bones and just won’t let go.

So here’s the thing, once you start exercising, you don’t need to flaunt it. You don’t need a spandex wardrobe. You need to tweet how far you ran today. Nobody gives a shit. You don’t even need a six pack, just get your heart pumping and sweat.

Someone once told me ‘the more you use your body, the better it works.’ I’ve found that to be true. I have more energy, I’m in a better mood and I’m more productive. For a cantankerous procrastinator like me, that’s a huge improvement. It also turns out that the more you use your body, the better your brain works.

If those aren’t reason enough, then do it for vanity. Do it so that you don’t get fat or flabby or have weird flaps of skin whose origin you can’t place. Do it so you can still have sex later in life. Do so that you can see your genitals. Do it so that you don’t drop dead on the toilet. Do so that you don’t end up looking like some demented cartoon character, dragging a metal cart into McDonald’s for dinner every night.

2. READ

Read every day. Read for at least an hour. Don’t do anything else for that hour. Put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ Keep a pen and a piece of paper near you while reading. Every time something occurs to (an idea that the book inspires, the fact that you need milk, a question you have) write it down on that paper and forget it until the hour is up. This allows you to pay attention to the book without forgetting anything.

The most successful people in the world read everyday. It’s not just about knowledge, but the more you stimulate your brain the easier is it get things done. Your focus improves and you’re more equipped to solve problems. It doesn’t matter what you read, but don’t limit yourself to one genre. The more you challenge yourself, the better it is for your brain and the better it is for your self-esteem.

Reading also makes you a better human being, particularly fiction. Fiction puts you in the skin and circumstances of someone other that yourself. It teaches you about different lives and different worlds and different points of view. It kills the self-centered parts of us. Reading teaches empathy. Reading makes you less of a prick.

3. SMASH YOUR SCREEN

Ok, stop crying. You don’t have to really break your phone, TV or computer. You don’t have to give up your Instagram, or Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn or Google+. Just stop looking at them all day. Stop hunching your shoulders and looking down. That’s the posture of defeat. You’re physically sending depressive signals to your mind and your body. If you have to, look at your social media once a day. Don’t check your email more that twice a day. Limit your TV time to an hour or two. Cutting all this out will give you more time; time for things like reading, laughing, screwing and thinking; time for goals.

The more inane shit that you shovel into your head, the more anxiety that you’ll have. That’s a physiological fact. We become junkies for our phones, sucking up endorphins every time we grab them. Is it any wonder that we are all depressed and dissatisfied? Try being present in your life instead of being absent. Keep your phone in your pocket during dinner and talk to the person across the table from you. Skip the news and let other people tell you about it. Don’t just take photos, learn to be in them.

4. SHUN THE WORLD

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My goal is to write and be successful at it. It’s been my goal since I first read Vonnegut & Kerouac in high school. It’s the kind of image that I spent a lot of time cultivating. I found rough, beligerant blueprints in writers like Bukowksi and I made them part of my persona. I drank heavily, smoked even more heavily and I got into arguments about books when I got drunk. I made sure everybody knew I was a writer…but there was just one thing: I wasn’t a writing. I was a barfly who scribbled a few shitty sentences a few times a year. I’d made the image into the goal, but never the writing. I sat around hoping for inspiration to goose me under the table. I spent most of my time drinking, smoking, socializing and eating the worst food possible. It’s no wonder that exercising is such a bitch now.

Of the four, the hardest to stop was the socializing, because well…socializing isn’t bad for you. Not when you know great people. But writing is hard work and getting good at writing requires a lot of goddamn time and effort. It requires reading, writing, editing and quiet contemplation, all of which are mostly solitary exercises and are in direct conflict with a very active social life. I had to learn to say no, which sounds like a simple thing. It’s not. It’s a bitch. I’m still learning it. People get upset. They take it personally and as flattering as that is, you need to be willing to sacrifice if you want to achieve. Maybe what you want doesn’t require solitude, but something in your life will come up against your goals. You’ve got to be willing to kill it. You got to be willing to slay the dragon. You got to be will to leave the world and freeze in an ice cave. You’ve got to be willing to shun the world.

5. SHUT-UP

Learn to talk less. Learn to listen. Learn to accept that you aren’t the center of the universe. I suck at this one. I love talking. I have an opinion on everything. I’ve actually been described that way. I interrupt. I just sit waiting to talk; waiting to topple down the little tower of words you just built. That all just makes me an asshole. Talking and conversing are two different things. Conversation requires more that just you. Conversation requires exchange. So, zip it and try to understand what the other person is saying. You don’t need to believe it but try at least to get what their words mean.

We spend too much time deluding ourselves into thinking of conversation as things that you win. We spend too much time fearing that other people’s opinions will infect us. Don’t get stuck in the cycle of always trying to prove people wrong or top their stories. Listen, particularly to people you disagree with, because it’s important to humble yourself.

The people who speak less are heard more when they do speak. The people who speak less aways seem to know more about their thoughts than the rest of us know about our own. The people who speak less have calmer minds, smile more and they probably get more dinner invitations and hand jobs than the rest of us.

6. DON’T LIE. DON’T APOLOGIZE

Try being honest. Just try it. I dare you. Skip the big lies. Skip the small lies. Skip the itty-bitty white lies. Accept who you are and how you feel and don’t waste time hiding it. Just say it. I’m not advocating radical, brutal honesty because that just makes people into a douchebags who swing the truth through the air like big, fake cocks. Truth can be eloquent. Truth can be sensitive. And if there’s no way to say something true without being cruel then don’t say anything. Go back to idea number five and just shut-up.

We spend too much of our lives lying to ‘spare people’s feelings’, but in reality we’re just being cowards. When we tell people the truth, we open up communication. We open up the possibility for a conversation. Rather that being vulnerable, we chose to lie, because it’s quicker and easier.

On the other side, don’t apologize unless you’re truly sorry. We apologize for little shit everyday. We apologize for things that don’t have anything to do with us. We throw out sorry’s for no damn reason everywhere we go. Our lawns are littered with dried, up apologies. We rarely even feel true regret because we don’t analyze our actions. We simple throw out an “I’m sorry” and move on. What could be a real conversation becomes a practiced ritual that means nothing. We know that ‘I’m sorry’ will induce an ‘It’s ok,’ and then we wash our hands. Only say you’re sorry when you truly feel it, and express it with emotive words. The rest of the time, leave out the apology…or better yet don’t do shit that you need to apologize for.

7. START A SHIT LIST

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Everybody should have two lists: a list of people who support you and a list of people who don’t. This isn’t to be mean or vengeful. This is simply to conserve energy. We only have so much brain juice and we can only maintain so many relationships before the other ones break down from neglect. It’s even been suggested by studies that empathy is not an inexhaustible resource and that it runs dry. So don’t waste time on ingrates and users.

Is someone always asking you favors but never extending any to you? Is there somebody that you text or call, that never replies? Well, fuck em. Chuck em. It’s important to know upon whom to expend your precious energy. Take the energy that you’re wasting on self-centered dickheads and focus into supporting those who have supported you. Foster stronger, more rewarding relationships with people who reciprocate. They’re your real friends and they deserve it.

8. TAKE A RISK

Take a risk on love. Take a risk on business. Take a risk by writing a blog on life advice. Expose yourself to failure and criticism. There’s nothing specific to learn here, except that you will survive. You can’t live your life in fear because fear chains you. There’s no such thing as security, so take chances. Don’t be afraid of anything and learn to laugh when you fall on your ass.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
— Samuel Beckett

Reading Lolita In My Living Room

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“For the record a ‘Lolita’ is not a young girl who wants to fuck older men. Lolita is a 12 y/o girl who is repeated raped by 36 y/o pedophile.”

This was my first tweet after finishing Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita. It was both a moment of realization & an attempt at clarification.

Like many of you, I had always assumed the term ‘lolita’ referred to a younger girl who seduces older men. Some of you may remember Amy Fisher. At 17, Fisher entered into a sexual relationship with a married auto body shop owner, Joey Buttafuoco (who seduced who is immaterial). Fisher shot Buttafuoco’s wife, Mary Jo, in the face. Mary Jo survived but Amy Fisher was dubbed “The Long-Island Lolita.” While Buttafuoco was 36, the same age as Humbert Humbert (Nabokov’s protagonist), Amy Fisher was 17 rather than the 12 of Dolores “Lolita” Haze. There is a world of difference there.

In the Urban Dictionary definition of ‘lolita’ it describes the book as “the tale of the love affair between middle-aged Humbert and his 12 year old stepdaughter Lolita.” The idea that what happens between Lolita & Humbert is a “love affair” is simply a perpetuated ignorance based off of a poor reading of the novel. I would assume that part of it comes from a particular line in chapter 29 where Humbert, our narrator, tell us about the first time he & Lolita had sex. “I am going to tell you something very strange; it was she who seduced me.”

Humbert Humbert is what we refer to as an unreliable narrator. He has been in and out of mental institutions & talks about little other than pre-pubescent girls, “nymphets” as he calls them. In other words, Humbert is a liar.

Throughout the novel he uses beautiful flowery language to cover up his crimes. Fooled by lines like, “Lolita, light of my life, fire in my loins”, the careless reader begins to believe that Humbert truly loves Lolita & begins to see this as a beautiful love story. It is not. It is the story of 36 year old pedophile, manipulating the tragedy of circumstance to kidnap a young girl & travel the country raping her in motels & travel lodges.

The genius of Nabokov is that while Humbert is hiding his crimes, Nabokov, himself, is revealing them. It’s easy to miss the meaning when a woman in the lodge asks Humbert “What cat has scratched poor you?” You almost think nothing of it, but when you stop you have to ask yourself ‘Why does he have scratches on his arm? Did I miss something?’. And you need only backtrack one sentence to find the ugly truth.

…thrusting my fatherly fingers deep into Lo’s hair from behind, and then gently but firmly clasping them around the nape of her neck, I would lead my reluctant pet to our small home for a quick connection before dinner.

“Thrusting” — “deep” — “from behind”. Nabokov did not choose these words haphazardly. He is telling us something which Humbert is not. Sodomy? Possibly, but even if it is vaginal, Humbert having scratches up & down his arms right afterwards is a big red rape flag. When you include the words “reluctant”, “pet” & “fatherly” the pictures becomes much clearer. Humbert is the one in control & Dolores is not even a human to him.

I simply did not know a thing about my darling’s mind…

How can we ignore all them times he tells Lolita that she cannot run away from him? How can we ignore him telling her that he is the only person she has & filling her with images of all the horrible things that will happen to her without him? Do people in “great love stories” emotionally blackmail one another? Do men who have been seduced pay their seducer for kinky sex? Do they then steal the money back from the girl’s room, afraid that she may buy a bus ticket to runaway? Do they prevent them from talking to boys & rent a house because, out the window with binoculars, they can watch them on the schoolyard?

Love story? No. This is rape story. The narrator (a rapist & murder) is a literary professor. He is very talented with words, but he is excusing his crimes. I could dig further into the book for more examples, but you should read the book yourself & stop using the word “lolita” wrong.

(Oh and other interesting facts: in American Beauty, Lester Burnham has a crush on teenage Angela Hayes. Angela Hayes — Delores “Lolita” Haze. Still not convinced? Rearrange the letters in Lester Burnham and you get — Humbert Learns.)

More Space

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The Need for Movement When Writing

I’m working on a novel, which at some point had to evolve past writing scraps in my 3.5 x 5.5 pocket notebook and copying them into my Evernote. As much as I find both of these tools invaluable, I knew that some point I would have to do some plot outlining.

I’ve been reading Daily Rituals, which is essential short accounts of the daily creative habits of artists, from painters to composers to authors.The author sections are inspirational brutality. Reading how these great authors would all write diligently for large chunks of every day quickly made me feel completely useless and lazy. I don’t have that much time. There are emails to mark as spam, articles piling up in my “Read Later” app and Facebook invites to respond to with “maybe”. Finding 3-10 hours a day to write seems impossible.

I’d been stirring this novel idea around in my head for amost five months. By know I assumed it should have evolved into something larger than just concepts. It shoud have come alive. I looked at the TV and I realized that I was thinking but I was also partially occupied with tons of other little things. I was thinking but I wasn’t contemplating. Contemplation requires quiet. It requires space. I turned off Family Guy, put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode and sprawled out on the carpet.

The plot for this novel is incredibly complex, with bounces through time and altering realities. I tried moving the little idea bubbles around in my head but it was just too much to juggle. I kept forgetting what I put where. I needed to be able see what I was doing. I needed things to stay put. So, I started to think about what kind of program I could get on my Mac or app that I could get for my iPad to make it easier for me; some kind of mind-mapping software. But just putting my hand to keyboard and looking up at the screen made me feel tense and almost claustrophobic. I didn’t want to have to worry about having the screen space to move ideas around. I didn’t want to deal with zooming in and zooming out. I just wanted room to move things around. So, I grabbed a cork board that I hadn’t found a use for yet and a stack of Post-Its. I worked hard, I pushed past frustrating impasses and I refused to get up until I was done. I told myself there was nothing else I need to do and in 3 hours I had the whole plot of the novel layed out in 54 sticky yellow squares.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m ditching my technology. I still love Evernote and the security I get from knowing that whatever I write is saved in something other that a easily lost notebook. What I’m saying is: I’m just now finding the space that it takes to create. I’m saying I can scribble in a pocket notebook faster that I can type something into my Notes app. I’m saying if I leave the TV off during the day and spend time contemplating my creative impulses then they will develop into tangible pieces. I’m saying that sometimes things need to be big enough to see from across the room and physically moveable. I saying that old school is the new school.