When the desire to get productive comes to mind, the brain can fixate on that desire, whether you want it to or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re suffering from a creative block or if you just don’t feel focused for the day, the human mind doesn’t always know how to switch off.
Now that’s great when you’re actually being productive but in those tough moments in between where you just don’t feel up to it, it can become a frustrating and almost painful distraction that hinders you rather than encourages.
During that time, you may find yourself mentally listing off the important things that you want to achieve for the day: Whether it’s utilizing and improving some of your creative talents or just getting the simple weekly chores that we all deal with out of the way so they won’t be hanging over you for the whole week.
Unfortunately, the reality rarely matches up to our expectations. In my case, the result is that I usually end up lying on my bed binge watching Netflix with a bottle of wine close at hand. Even as I relax to whatever TV show has caught my eye for the week, I continue to dwell on the fact that I should be doing something much more worthwhile with my free time…and yet I just keep on watching.
I argue to myself that I’m under the influence of alcohol by that point so I may as well wait until the morning to be productive… except that productive morning doesn’t arrive because either I sleep in thanks to the wine or I have other priorities to take care of. By the time I’m in a position to begin what I told myself I would do, I’m already in the mindset to begin the Netflix binge all over again.
It’s a vicious cycle and the longer it goes on, the more infuriating it can become. The worst part is how easy it is to fall into that routine. For the majority of aspiring writers, bloggers and other creators, the bulk of our early work is done from home. Whether it’s in our bedrooms, our lounges or wherever else we see fit, there’s always a spot somewhere in the household that becomes your regular creative space. For the sake of this post, I’ll presume that most of you do so in the privacy of your own bedroom; A typical safe space at home for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The downside to that space is that it’s usually your regular space for most other things as well. In many of today’s societies, a person’s bedroom can contain a television, a computer, at least a shelf’s worth of reading material, perhaps even a gaming console, a musical instrument or two and the limitless content of the internet to peruse, all at your disposal from a single location. Essentially, that one space has the potential for all work AND all play and as is human nature, we regularly choose play when we shouldn’t.
The timing for me to suffer from my own personal writer’s block has been pretty auspicious, as I’d already been long overdue to repaint the walls of my rather mangy bedroom. Therefore, I decided to implement that inevitable chore into my first attempt to find the off switch for my brain.
Typically, I would ask for help from some friends in something like this, especially when I’d never actually painted a room alone before now. However, if I’m not distracting myself at home then I’m usually distracting myself at a bar with friends. No doubt they’d suggest the entire paint job be done with a crate of beer at our disposal (and that would defeat the whole point of this experiment) so in the end, I decided to go it alone. After emptying the room of all furnishings and gadgets, I put on my old radio and got to work.
There’s something rather therapeutic about painting when you have the right tools but after a few hours, the discount roller I was using began to bend, making the job much more time consuming and tedious to the point that I thought I would abandon the job altogether. I grew more and more frustrated until the only thing keeping me painting was the realization of how stupid a half-painted room would look. Suffice to say, I was rather pessimistic for a time at the thought of recounting this experience with you all as I expected it to yield little to no results.
When the job was finally finished however, the relief was instantaneous. It wasn’t with a sense of achievement, but rather that of a burden being removed. I sat on the floor in the middle of the room, observing my handiwork cautiously for any mistake that would force me off the ground once more to resume the job.
But there were none. I’d completed my task and if I do say so myself, I’d done a rather fine job of it! I switched off the radio and took a moment to relax on the carpet. I began mentally preparing myself to stand up so I could wash the paint from my hands but I felt too exhausted to move. Instead I just sat there and closed my eyes, basking in the silence for a moment.
I didn’t sleep. I didn’t even lie down on the carpet beneath me. I simply sat and listened to the occasional noises that sounded from the open window. I found it strange how sounds change when a room changes. The echoes carry in such a way that I began to understand a little about how bats can navigate so well at night by sound alone. I could almost feel the walls around me and there was a sense of safety in knowing how far I was from any other obstacle.
After a time, I stopped thinking about the sounds. I stopped thinking about anything although I was still aware that I was awake. I was simply content in the quiet escape I had from my usual distractions.
When I finally stood up, I felt more relaxed that I have done in weeks. I plugged in my laptop and began writing, heedless of the dried paint I was shedding onto the keyboard. It wasn’t the quality of the writing that had particularly changed, or the quantities that I produced. It just flowed more freely for me, as if the pressure of trying to be productive was gone from my mind…at least for a time.
I’ve only just scratched the surface on how some hard work and a moment of meditation can help to settle the mind and give it fresh focus. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered: Did I benefit more from the fatigue of painting with a broken roller or was it all in the tranquility that came after? Or must the two always coincide?
I plan to explore both separately to further distinguish the effects they have on the mindset of the creator. I plan to test them in new environments to see just how accessible the best experience can be.
It’s still early days in the Productivity Experiment and I only have this one experience to go on so far…but right now, I honestly can’t imagine a more peaceful place to be than an empty room.