Harmony In My Head

Over the last few months, I've been trying to get back in touch with my creative side, which has proven to be more difficult to navigate than one might expect. For instance, I'm not sure what I should reasonably expect from myself. These days I'm closer to 40 than 14. I don't have the free time I once had, and now I have far more responsibility (career, family, self care and maintenance) than I could ever have imagined as a kid.

I haven't truly exercised my creativity muscle in years, so I can't hope to suddenly be flooded with fresh ideas and obsessive passions. With time and practice, I know I can build that muscle to something much stronger than it is now.

However, there is work to be done in order to allow for creativity.

Cut out distractions

So many of us are addicted to screens. It's hardly a secret. We use screens at work in the form of computer monitors or laptop screens. We're addicted to our phones, in no small part due to social media. I literally don't know how I would get around without my phone, as I'm directionally challenged and therefore dependent on my phone's GPS feature. (Sure, I could buy a standalone GPS, but as long as I keep reception, I have an always up-to-date system that can suggest alternate routes dependent on traffic. I'm not voluntarily giving up that kind of convenience.) And then at home, we have a TV in every room and our own computer screens waiting for us (or we just keep using our phones). How much time do we spend outside the glass of black mirrors?

I hope I'm not coming across as overly preachy, because I get it. I really do. I'm guilty as well. It's so easy to fall in love with screens because they're getaways, readily available and eager and willing to take us somewhere more interesting or better. At least that's how I see it because I know that's what a computer monitor meant to me when my family got its first computer back in 1998. But we've now reached a point where everyone and everything are online and quite frankly, most of what you see isn't worth your time.

A couple of blog posts by Mark Manson inspired me to disable notifications and to delete certain apps from my phone. I can still access my social media from my mobile browser, but in this age of uber-convenience, you might be surprised how much one extra step can dissuade you.

Carving a path to inspiration

I'm spending more time thinking about whether certain behaviors or actions contribute to my goals. This may mean altering certain habits that aren't necessarily negative or harmful.

For instance, I love podcasts. Depending on the specific program, a podcast can be informative or entertaining. Either way they definitely make my daily commute easier to manage. Unfortunately, I've yet to find too many podcasts that inspire creativity in me.

When I used to write on a regular basis, I always found music to be my primary influence. The tunes in my head did more to open my mind or move my hand to pen and paper than any text ever did. Maybe it's just that I got the right dopamine hit from music because for me music was always the perfect drug.

So basically, I've started sacrificing podcasts for music and even audiobooks. It's not that podcasts are bad. I still plan on listening from time to time, but I don't think they need to be my primary form of audio consumption. Music triggers the right synapses, and audiobooks give me the opportunity to get more “read”. Sorry, podcasts — it's not you, it's me.

Journaling as a rough draft

Technology makes us more productive, but does that mean it makes us more creative? You've probably already figured out that my answer is going to be Not necessarily. Technology can make people more creative because of the ease at which something can be created, or its ability to give better accessibility to people with disabilities. But some of us fall into the trap of thinking we have to write on a laptop because we can type much faster than we can write by hand. But fast isn't always the same thing as being creative.

As Chuck Palahniuk argued during his interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, punching in words on a computer isn't writing; that's typing. Palahniuk revealed that he does all of his actual writing and creating in a notebook. He argued that a notebook gave more flexibility than a computer because he could make notes in the margins and draw arrows and other symbols however he wanted with ease.

Listening to Palaniuk's interview inspired me to start journaling. I bought two journals—one for my everyday tasks and ideas, to carry with me everywhere, and one for diary-type entries at the end of the day.

In my portable journal, I keep a daily schedule/to-do list, drafts for blog posts, random lists like a record of my morning weigh-ins and bands I want to check out, and whatever else I may want to document. My journal is messy and not as organized as I'd like. At one point, this was a big reason why I tried to do everything electronically, as things are definitely more flexible and easier to organize electronically. But I've now chosen to embrace the chaos, for I know it's part of the journey. As I journal more, I'll figure things out and learn how to better organize my sections, but I'll never get there if I don't just start doing.

I've tried a diary-like journal practice before, but it didn't stick. I recently realized it's because I was using the journal as a historical document, simply making note of the day's events. This was a mistake because my life is pretty routine and is actually quite boring. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Boring = no drama, so boring is not a bad thing in this context.)

This time around I decided to try something different and instead of documenting the day's events, I decided to write about the day's theme. This method lends itself to more emotional or philosophical writing and is for me a much more rewarding experience, which is why I think I've been able to maintain the practice for the last few weeks. I now see this journal practice as something reflective and meditative, and my day isn't complete until I've made my entry. It's now part of my routine that I don't want to let go.

Dare to try something different.

Maybe the methods I've just summarized don't work for you. That's fine; I'm merely sharing what's worked for me in the hope that someone may see something he likes and steal it for himself. I hope only that you find a way to be honest with yourself and to implement methods that truly work and not simply methods that work for others.