An Empty Room: The Productivity Experiment

 

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.

Haiku Horrors: Fiends

Stay in the light, child!
Only from deeper shadows
Can the Fiends arise!

Night is falling child,
All we can do is flee now!
Do not leave my sight!

Keep back from them child!
For if they take your shadow,
Your soul soon follows.

Be silent now, child!
Still your voice and close your eyes,
Fiends are approaching!

Heed not their calls, child!
Their voices mimic loved ones
Their words like honey.

Do not trust them, child!
The Fiends are great deceivers
Who toy with their prey!

Why do you run child?
Please do not abandon me,
You will draw them in!

Where did you go, child?
All I can see is darkness,
I am so frightened!

Are those your eyes, child?
I feel a chill in my blood.
Why am I so cold?

Ahh, there you are child.
Thank goodness you have returned!
I feared for the worst.

Don’t be frightened, child.
For dawn is now upon us
The Fiends soon depart.

Now join me, my child,
Come closer. Here in the shade.
The sun hurts my eyes…

Image created by Skaramanger from deviantart.

Writing Exercise: The Character Profile

Objective: Describe a character in the form of a story from the perspective of another character.

Ralph and The Riverfish

It takes a special something to be known by everyone while having them know nothing about you. Whatever that something is, bartender Ralph has it in spades.

Nobody really knows where he came from but from the day he walked into town he seemed to know the place like the back of his hand. Everyone knows everyone in Solhaven so new arrivals who don’t announce themselves are usually met with distrust and suspicion.

The day he walked into my shop, I sized him up with that same suspicion and all the while he spoke to me like we were old friends. A couple years older than me and half a foot taller, he had the build of a guy who’d done some heavy lifting in his life. His hair’s got grey specks these days but back then, it was a thick brown mane tied back in a ponytail with some thick stubble coating the edges of his face. No matter what we spoke about he always kept this big smile on him like he’d found his place in life. That sureness of self quickly chipped away at those walls I’d put up and despite myself, I began to like him before I’d even realized it.

He asked me about my business and I asked him about his. Mine was simple enough but when he told me he was going to be the new owner of the Riverfish tavern, my caution shot back quick sharp.

You see, Patch Grayson was the owner of the Riverfish and a real bad bastard. He’d owned the Riverfish since before I’d even bought my little shop. Everyone had learned from the get-go that Patch would never sell and he didn’t appreciate the offers he got one bit.

A few folk had tried to buy it from him over the years, seeing what a shithole it had become under his leadership. One of those people tried to get pushy with Patch about it and ended up with a knife between their ribs. Not many folk drank there anymore unless they had shady dealings to make over a few dirty beers. Folk could only speculate on how much involvement Patch had in them but those shady dealings were the one thing keeping the Riverfish running these days.

I told Ralph the exact same thing, with eyes open wide and sweat on my brow but it didn’t mean a thing to Ralph. He just gave me a wink as he paid for his cigarettes, thanked me for my service and went off about his business. The most curious thing…

So curious, in fact that I spoke to a few of the neighbours about it later that day as they stopped by for their own goods. It turned out Ralph had told a bunch of them the exact same thing. We didn’t know what to make of it but most of us thought Ralph would be lucky if he got to leave the Riverfish alive. It’d be a damn miracle if he was planning to force Patch to sell up like the last bunch. He was a big guy, sure, but big doesn’t stop a knife and it certainly doesn’t stop the knives of every lowlife skulking around the Riverfish.

Not that that mattered though, I don’t know why but I didn’t see Ralph as that kind of guy. Then again, who can judge someone they just met? Either way, I decided not to pay any more mind to it. People come and go pretty often in Solhaven and those who stay get used to expecting the worst.

Closing time came and I started heading home. I don’t know why but I took a longer route home, passing the Riverfish. It still looked banged up to shit. A couple of drunks sat outside bickering away, both slurring threats and insults but neither with the sobriety to stand or strike. By the sounds of it, a fight was breaking out inside too: The usual crowd, no doubt. No change after all.
I stepped up my pace a little just in case gunfire started up, you could never tell with Patch’s place. Once I was round the corner, I let out a deep breath that I didn’t remember holding in the first place.

I spent the rest of the walk wondering to myself what I’d been thinking passing that place; nothing changes in this town. I got in my front door, changed for bed and poured myself a drink before lying down with a book, putting the Riverfish clean out of my mind. Sleep took me sometime shortly after my third whiskey.

Morning arrived to the sound of a banging on my door. My shop was shut for the weekend so I wasn’t best pleased at a wakeup call. I threw on some clothes and opened the door to find Annie Mires from next door waiting for me.

“Annie,” I hollered, squinting as I see the sun on the horizon, barely dawning. “What damn time do you-”
“Hal, you gotta come see this!” She had the strangest expression on her as she grabbed my hand and started to drag me down the street, not caring for my foul mood or the fact I had no shoes on.

Outside the Riverfish people were frozen all over the street, mesmerized with what they were seeing. The old sign for the Riverfish was smashed on the ground and Ralph was stood up on a ladder banging a new sign up with a hammer. A few of the smashed windows were already fixed up and a big pile of broken tables and chairs were dumped round the side of the building.

“The banging started a few hours ago.” Annie said, letting go of my hand as I stepped ahead for a closer look. “Gerry on night watch said Old Patch left Solhaven late last night through the gate, not a scratch on him.”

Annie had a good heart but she had a damn scary way of hijacking the gossip around town.

A few days later the Riverfish reopened with Ralph’s big smile waiting for us all behind the fanciest looking bar I’d ever seen. A few of the older folk who’d been around when the Riverfish was first built swore they’d never seen the place look better. We drank the place dry – or tried to at least – as we danced the night away, our own little welcoming party for Ralph who was now an official member of our dainty little town.

It’s been a few years since then and Ralph still hasn’t told us how he got Old Patch to sell. I don’t think he ever will but I like to try my luck now and then. No matter how much I ask, it’s the same every time. He just gives me a wink as I pay for my beer, thanks me for my service and goes about his business.

We rarely learn more about who Ralph is or where he’s from. Some folk wouldn’t trust someone that mysterious but there’s not a soul in our town who gives a damn. Ralph’s one of us now and these days, the Riverfish is the busiest tavern in Solhaven.

Igniting Creation: The Productivity Experiment (An Introduction)

Feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong… but I think it’s safe to say that we all have those phases in our lives where we just don’t feel like being productive at all.

It can be for long periods or short periods and it can happen for any number of reasons. Maybe you’re occupied with other hobbies or events. Maybe you’re having some personal upheaval in your life that puts your creative work further down on the priority list…Or maybe you just can’t be bothered at this moment in time.

It’s totally natural to have days or even weeks like that but there’s a certain point where it starts to feel like you’ve been unproductive for WAY too long and that can be worrying. Worse yet, that worry in itself can make it even more difficult to get back into the swing of things since you begin to force yourself to work out of a sense of urgency rather than genuine passion for your craft.

Everybody suffers from moments like this and that’s perfectly normal but there really is no definitive answer on how to break the cycle. Must we force ourselves to perform our craft despite a temporary lack of enthusiasm for it or must we wait for the thrill of our work to return before we can continue the craft?

While I’ve previously written about “The Creative Mind: Battling The Block,” the article was written as an untested theory based on previous experience and the opinions of like-minded individuals. However, after acquiring an artist for my primary illustrated project, I have been finding extreme difficulty in preparing the next installment of a story I have been working on for quite some time and this recent writer’s block is feeling particularly burdensome. Therefore, I’ve decided to take direct action in order to bring back the excitement for writing that led me on the path I’m walking today.

Over the next month, I’m going to experiment with several methods that can potentially reignite the enthusiasm and creativity of those who are struggling on their personal path as a creator. I will be making changes to my personal life in order to test what affects the mindset of a creator, both positively and negatively.

 

I will then be documenting my findings for you all in the hope that some of it will be relevant to your own personal dilemmas as creators. I will update as frequently as possible to report my findings… whether it yields helpful advice, disappointed ramblings about zero results or just hilarious experiences, I will make sure that you know it all.

The general aim of these experiments is to partake in activities that are:

  • Low budget.
  • Accessible to anyone.
  • Easy to organize.
  • As far from my own personal comfort zone as I can manage.

Rather than posting my to-do list, I’m just going to pledge to begin these experiments beginning Monday 1st August and present my findings as I go, as quickly and coherently as possible. Generally, I’ll be testing new experiences, both alone and in a social group which will preferably not be a group I am familiar with.

 

So for my final words I’d like to give a quick thank you to the 40 followers I currently have reading my ramblings and for anyone new tuning in, I hope you stick around long enough to read my findings! While the first experiment will begin Monday, it may take a few extra days to put up a post stating whether or not I’ve become more or less productive after my experiences. Hopefully it’ll be the latter!

Wish me luck and I hope you enjoy the results!

 

 

Haiku Horrors: The Gardeners

Atop a great hill
A magic garden is blessed
To grow all year long.

Folk gather and laugh
Delighting in it’s beauty
Through winds, rain and snow.

At the great hill’s peak
A shack, the gardener’s home
Yet no one lives there.

On every wall
Grapevines climb up to the roof
Reaching for the sun.

The fruit that they bear
Grant long life and good fortune
Or so it is said.

But when the night falls
The sun fades and the grapes sour
Their scent travels far.

It draws those children
Who do not heed the warnings
To sleep when they’re told.

Hoping for a taste
They gather around the shack
And the vines reach down.

Grabbing hungrily
Small hands gather blood red fruit
Their feast is short lived.

In the children’s mouths
The grapes become dust and ash
As the garden strikes!

A new morning dawns
Grapevines reach up for the sun
Fresh grapes on their buds.

The fruits of the hill
May bear their magic blessings
But there is a price.

The garden’s bloodied
But the gardeners are thankful
For they have been fed.

Haiku Horrors: Jenny’s Wood

In the ancient wood,
Jenny and her wolves reside.
Never search her out.

Tom of the village,
Went searching for young Jenny.
He never came back.

Villagers looking,
For Tom in the ancient wood.
All they find is death.

Those who now remain,
Set fire to Jenny’s woods.
Jenny screamed in rage.

Atop a great wolf,
She descended from the woods,
Enraged and vengeful.

Jenny’s vengeance came.
Wolves lay waste to the village,
Feasted on their flesh.

In the ancient wood,
Jenny and her wolves reside.
Never search her out.

Keeping Productive Despite The Radio Silence

So my blog’s been pretty quiet lately and I figured I ought to just post a few updates until I can get round to putting something a little more substantial together for your reading pleasure.

As for a reason why I haven’t posted anything, well I have a few. I posted up the first ten pages of a script I’ve completed which I intend to have illustrated eventually. The only thing really stopping me is finances, any money I have spare is going towards a trip to Germany sometime this October. Before that I’ll hopefully be acquiring a job so that I can make some bigger bucks in order to begin turning “Wild Thorne” into something that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The main reason for my silence on here however, is that I’m just a pretty disorganized guy and haven’t made the time. When I began blogging I wanted to make a post every day. That forced me to write something daily which has certainly helped stimulate the completion of my first chapter/issue script but it can also be unnecessary pressure when you dive into a project and lose yourself to it. I guess what I’m saying is that even when there’s radio silence on here, there’s still writing being done and those projects will always take priority no matter how much I enjoy my own rants. I’m terrible at multi-tasking.

Rather than pledging to post frequently on here, I’m just going to post when I can or when I feel like it. I have plenty of things I  want to write about and I’ll get round to them when I can so keep an eye out, I’m not disappearing for good.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone following me for sticking around! Hope you’re all having a great day and I’ll speak to you real soon!