By Caitlin Kelly
If you live and work in the United States, as I do, you will daily — hourly! — be exhorted from every direction to be (more!) productive.
It’s a Taylorist industrial model and has nothing to do with creativity.
An early blog post of mine (2011) — chosen for Freshly Pressed — challenged this:
Shutting down the production line for a while — silence! solitude! no immediate income! I’m wasting time! — can feel terrifying.
It’s absolutely necessary.
But we don’t talk about the downtime, the quiet moments of connection and insight that can, when allowed to blossom quietly unforced by another’s schedule, birth wonders.
Whenever I’ve taught or lectured on journalism, I crush a few young dreams when I make clear that traditional news journalism more resembles an industrial assembly line than an artist’s studio.
360 people liked it.
Nine years later, with so many of us working from home (or living at work!), it’s even harder to carve out the time, privacy, silence, solitude and lack of income-producing pressure to just think.
Not worn out.
Without free and unstructured time to ponder, noodle, make connections you’ve never seen or noticed before, how is it even possible to create?
Only in conversation last week with a friend we visited upstate for a few days did I realize how much we have in common and how that shared passion fits perfectly (!) into my potential book proposal — because hanging over the toilet in the cramped bathroom of his rented 235-year-old country house is a gorgeous lithograph of the topic I want to explore and which he knows very well.
These serendipitous moments can only happen when we step out of the grooves of everyday life.
I also love reading books that inspire or offer new and helpful ways to think and behave. Not a fan of woo-woo, but practicality!
An older business book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, includes my favorite chapter — Sharpening the Saw — finding ways to stay sharp and refreshed and use your strengths.
The title is goofy, but there’s a lot of smart stuff in it, even if you work at home in leggings and not in some corporate environment.
I sometimes read business books as well and have found smart ideas in the Harvard Business Review.
Here are some of them:
The Tharp book– by the American choreographer — isn’t new but is excellent. She is not one to sit around waiting for inspiration since no working artist can afford it. Much discipline!
Time to get cracking! I’ve written many book proposals, but it never hurts to read up again.
Have heard a lot of good things about Big Magic.
Uncommon Genius is a brilliant idea — go out and interview winners of the MacArthur “genius” prize about how they think and work.
Daily Rituals is good fun — dozens and dozens of creative folk, including those from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, in all kinds of fields, and how they work (or don’t!)