Beware! The Termites of Productivity!

Beware! The termites of productivity!

Sometimes they pop up when you least expect them, other times you can see them coming from a mile off – yet, no matter how hard you try to fight them, they can end up getting the better of you.

Usually it happens when you’re working remotely or freelancing, but it can happen when you’re in the office too.

By termites, I mean those little problems that pop up and plague you to the point that they break into your productivity or, even worse, your creativity.

Earlier today I’d just set sails into a sea of creativity when I fell victim to a termite of productivity.

In the shape of this USB mouse:

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The track pad on my laptop has seen better days (along with the laptop itself) and, to try and delay buying a new one as much as possible, I decided to invest in a USB mouse.

I connected it and all was running smoothly for about thirty seconds.

Then it, quite randomly, decided to disconnect itself.

Was it the batteries? No.
Was it a potential hacker? No.
Was the mouse faulty? Unknown.
Was it conspiracy? *puts tinfoil hat on*
Did plugging it in and out again work? Yes.

But…the problem persisted.

Every few minutes it would decide to disconnected itself, so I’d have to stop my flow and reconnect it.

Doesn’t sound too bad…yet, when you’re working to deadlines, those minutes add up and, because you’re so intent on fixing the problem, you can lose track of just how much time you’ve lost.

Thus, the termites of productivity – little problems that slowly creep up and take away your time.

I’m sure you all know what I mean.

Don’t let them ole termites break you.

Keep your focus and keep the end goal in mind.

…now, let me email the company I bought it from…(oh wait, that’ll eat up even more of my time)

Making it past the first round…

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story”

– Terry Pratchett.

I’m currently writing the first draft of a novel, right now I’m 25k words in. Some days it’s a struggle, but other days my words flow like the rocky rapids.

On the slower days it’s easy to get disheartened and to lose interest.

So, this is a quote that I keep coming back to whenever I find my foot slipping off of the metaphorical gas pedal.

Because, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, we all have our own graveyards full of our abandoned projects.

I don’t want this one to be buried there too.

Striving for progress is important.

You just need to make sure that you reach the destination, sometimes that can be the hardest part.

Nobody knows what they’re doing.

So Ashley didn’t write today because he’s off on a wine tasting tour. As I type this he’s pouring wine, and if he’s anything like me while on tour he’ll be befriending the people at the cheese stand and swapping Syrah for Cornish stilton.

But I’m not like Ashley, and it doesn’t take quite as much wine or whimsy for me not to write.

She wants to write, really write someday. But she is not fully formed. So she does not write. Not really. Unless attempting to live is a form of attempting to write.”

That’s a quote by author Kate Zambreno, from her novel Green Girl.

It’s also a pretty accurate description of my own approach to writing. I didn’t write today because I didn’t feel confident enough to do proper job.

Impostor syndrome was coined by clinical psychologists Dr Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. It almost exclusively affects women (although non-binary people and men who are marginalised experience it too, thanks patriarchy) and can be defined as one’s inability to internalise their accomplishments, paired with a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. It’s the crippling belief that our successes are the product of luck rather than talent.

I didn’t write today because the voice in my head told me I’m too amateur to even try (a voice echoed by decades of internalised inferiority courtesy of our mainstream media and, you guessed it, the bloody patriarchy). But I realise this is a blog about empowering creatives, recognising the hypocrisies that undermine us, and overcoming the things that squelch us.

The reasons we feel like impostors doomed to mediocrity are deeply embedded in society and probably won’t change overnight (but if they did I’m sure it wouldn’t be me who did it and would be somebody much cleverer and more successful…). Sod it! Write anyway. Write because you need to.

Even the undeniably talented Maya Angelou once said “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

You’re clearly not alone, so get on with it. Just imagine if Maya Angelou had waited until she felt adequate – we’d all be worse off because she’s fab and a gift to the world.

Which brings me to my final point really – support one another in our endeavours to live creative lives. If you read something wonderful, don’t let your first thoughts be “I could never be as talented/insightful/witty/successful”. Appreciate the art, let it move you, be inspired, and that inner voice will quieten. Do your very best not to let self doubt be the reason you don’t write today.

Nobody really knows what they’re doing anyway.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Have you seen the film ‘The Pursuit of Happyness‘?

If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. Will Smith stars as struggling salesman, who’s trying to make ends meet for his wife and young son.

Luck doesn’t go his way, and he falls into a downward spiral – which hits a climax when he winds up homeless.

Things get so bad that he ends up sleeping in a public toilet cubicle one night. His young son lying beside him.

But, rather than feel sorry for himself (I wouldn’t blame him if he was), he looks for opportunity and clinches an internship as a broker in the city. It’s not a paid gig sadly, and it’s so competitive that only one person will end up with a full-time role.

What I like about Will Smith’s character in the film is that he continually visualises success. He knows that, given the right moment and chance, he can do it. It’s his belief that wins the audience over, and ultimately wins his employers over.

And I ask you, as an aspiring creative…how often do you visualise the success you want?

Whether you want to be the next Stephen King, the next Picasso or just a cool designer who has an office that overlooks a city skyline.

Whatever you’re doing right now, take a moment to visualise the success you want. I know it sounds cheesy, but if you don’t know what your destination looks like…how can you get there? How can you know that you’re making progress if your path is murky and blurred?

I once heard about a guy who visualises success so much that when he’s driving he pretends that he’s being interviewed about his novels and speaks about them as if he’s talking to an interviewer.

Ahem…I promise you that guy isn’t me…

by Ashley Brown 2017