All good things must come to an end.
In my case, it’s a two week vacation during which I did not travel, but instead watched Portlandia, played Skyrim, finished the Song of Fire and Ice series, visited friends, ate and drank too much, got along well with my family, and let my brain totally uncoil.
Intrinsic motivation fascinates me. I was curious to see what work (if any) would pull me back, engage my mind, and get me up early and ready to go. It’s not that I don’t have certain tasks I have to do (everyone does — even the 1%), but at least 60% of my working hours are consumed with tasks that I pull out of thin air (writing, making music, etc.).
Why spend all this time and energy trying to create stuff?
It’s an itch, really. If you’ve got the itch, you’ve got to scratch it.
That’s what should drive the creative process, IMO — the desire to create something that matters, something that helps, inspires, and/or entertains other people. The opposite approach is to flog yourself with productivity tips in order to increase your output. As Seth Godin points out, ultimately this doesn’t work. Productivity tips only help if you believe in what you’re doing, and if you’ve emotionally committed to completing and delivering something that is as great as you can possibly make it.
Imagining 2012 Projects and Focus
A real vacation allows you to decompress, relax, let your mind wander, drastically reduce your level of responsibility, and step off the treadmill (some people can combine this with travel, but for me travel is stimulating and stressful and serves another function entirely).
If we have the luxury, or forcibly create this kind of mental space for ourselves, the benefit is an enormous zooming outwards/upwards. From a mile up, we see our lives in tilt-shift miniature, and gain some clarity as to our next big moves.
After letting myself go for a couple weeks, a few projects have crawled out of my subconscious and are scratching on the door, insisting I give them time and attention. Time to get back to work.
I’m ready to take some creative risks. I’m halfway through creating a new album of synth-pop on which I perform vocals — yes actually sing. Feedback from friends has been surprisingly good, so I’ll be working on building up the courage to actually release that project. Worst that can happen is a scathing review, and I’ve lived through that before. In 2004 Garrett Kamps hated the Jondi & Spesh album “The Answer” and panned it on the cover of the SF Weekly. The album was an early attempt to break away from a pure dance floor sound. Did we overreach? Was it a failed experiment? Maybe, but I’d rather break new ground and fail publicly than write the same dance track over and over for twenty years. My musical idol is Thomas Dolby, who on the VH1 show “One-Hit Wonders” was asked how he felt about being a one-hit wonder. He answered with the question “Well, how many pop hits do you have?” (and for the record, Dolby had multiple hits in the UK charts).
As for writing, I’ll be continuing this blog. “Systems for Living Well” may be an awkward and grandiose subtitle, but it still describes my intended purpose for writing this blog.
Back in the 90’s we released a record called “Sex In The Universe.” I was on the phone with a distributor and the buyer asked me the title of the new EP. When I told her, her sarcastic response was “So, I guess you’ve tried everything.” I sometimes worry that might be a new reader’s reaction to my blog subtitle. But until I think of a better one, it will have to do. How to live well, and help others live well, is a question I enjoy thinking about it and grappling with.
It’s a question worth thinking about, isn’t it? Right now we’re witnessing the collective global collapse of corporatism. Corporations will still be around, but the idea that corporate profits can somehow serve as some kind of measure of national or global wellness is over. Profits are not a value system. Quality of life and quality of consciousness are what’s important. That’s what I want to talk about in this space.
So what’s your 2012 going to be about? If you’ve given yourself a break over the holidays, what ideas are rising from your subconscious and demanding attention? Maybe you’re not ready to share them with the world yet. I haven’t shared all of mine and here’s the reason why. But I encourage you to think big, believe in yourself, and let the haters hate.
We’re living in a time of tremendous opportunity. Interest rates are low, skilled labor is inexpensive, and manufacturing facilities are a click away. You can acquire the highest quality production tools (computers, cameras, sound equipment, whatever) for less than the cost of a European vacation. If you live in the United States, you can start your own business with very little red-tape and upfront cost. If you live in Europe or Canada, there’s a very real possibility the government will give you money for an artistic or educational project. If you lack skills or knowledge, there are dozens of ways to acquire an education at zero cost. The biggest hurdle isn’t logistical — it’s mental. It’s motivation. So how do you get it?
True motivation isn’t about forcing yourself. It’s about relaxing, watching the waves, picking a good one, and riding that wave with determination and calm focus for as long as you can.