The creation or designing of something worthwhile takes copious amounts of focus, concentration and discipline. It doesn’t matter whether you are on a big writing assignment, an artist, have some difficult problems to ponder or are trying to decide the next direction to take in your life. You need to be distraction free in order to be able to create. Or I certainly do. So where do you go to create? When or where do your best ideas and inspiration come to you.
Writers of course, have novels to complete and at certain periods of time are locked away in a distraction-free environment designing and creating characters and plots. There would be little doubt that a writer would have put Mr Distraction and Mr Disruption in their places a long time ago. It seems that assumption might well have been correct in the old day’s, but with today’s technology and new distractions, the goal posts have totally moved.
Author Christopher G. Moore talks about the continuous battle with today’s distractions in his essay called ” Escape to India: Part 1.” The essay is from the book ” The Cultural Detective .”
” I turned on the air conditioner with the remote and immediately checked email. This is my habit. Like a gunslinger drawing two pistols and firing. Wrote this sentence as the email downloaded. Eleven messages. A quick glance: one from DOROTHYL that says there are 603 lines of text waiting to be read. The FCCT has sent me a notice of upcoming events. Google Alert has four entries telling me where second -hand copies of my books are being sold on Amazon and eBay. Some fan mail. An inquiry about getting published. An invitation from a fan.” Christopher G. Moore ” The Cultural Detective ” (p.211)
But as we all know, keeping all balls in the air is an incredibly difficult project especially if you are writing a book, as author Christopher G. Moore explains further:
Multi-tasking and writing a novel just don’t mix
” Writing a book requires long hours of focused attention. You can’t multi-task and write a novel. Because you have to keep the whole story, plots and subplots, characters, their connections and motivations inside your head as a unified whole. This is fragile territory and one that is easily disrupted.” Christopher G. Moore ” The Cultural Detective ” (p.212)
Once again I remind myself to get the important stuff done. This should be easy, but it never is. I wonder why this is? Then I remember a quote from author Timothy Ferriss in the book ” The 4 – Hour Work-week ”
Getting the important stuff done
” Doing the important and ignoring the trivial is hard because so much of the world seems to conspire to force crap upon you. Fortunately, a few simple routine changes make bothering you much more painful than leaving you in peace. It’s time to stop taking information abuse.” Timothy Ferriss ” The 4-Hour Work-week ” (p.95)
The Design Of Your Secret World
So, when at home, can you create? Well, of course you can, but I find you need to pull out all of the stops in order to do it. I built an office / study off of my house and to the back of the house, just so I never hear the front door bell ring. Not only that, but nobody can ever see my study or know where I am. The front door to my study lies on the road at the back of the house which is like a rabbit warren that very few know about.When I park my car at the entrance to my study, anyone that comes to the house itself see’s no car and naturally thinks I am out. Unsociable, yes. Productive, very.
Further to that, the answer machine goes on. I answer no calls until a designated time. That is a time that I have allocated to do that. The cell phone gets switched off and calls go straight to the machine there as well. To be honest I hate the telephone and I always urge people to e-mail me as I return mail each evening. These are the easier distractions to see off, but one by one they keep coming. Like a batsman on a cricketing field bedding into his innings, I fend off the first few balls from the medium pace bowler with relative ease. The spin and fast bowler are up soon though.
The next 4 photos are how your secret world could look.
Once again and to make sure I am on course I read the following warning about Time Wasters from Timothy Ferris:
” Time Wasters: those things that can be ignored with little or no consequence. Common time wasters include meetings, discussions, phone calls, web surfing and email that are unimportant.” Timothy Ferriss ” The 4-Hour Workweek ” (p.96)
I check the list and find that I am well on the way as I have seen off most of these. I attend meetings on no account and discussions, phone calls and email have been dealt with. I am in my secret world and creativity can begin.
My web surfing weakness
Web surfing of course is a different matter and this I have to do for my research purposes. But it’s here that my weakness shows up. For example, my search starts well and I am on track with key words. Specific key words in order that I may hit the target in quick time and be away with the information. Like a trained assassin I will get in, get the job done and be out again.
But out of the corner of my eye Yahoo are informing me of an article. It’s about my favourite football team and whether an important player will be fit to play in this forthcoming weekend’s important game. I want to ignore it, but can’t. It will only take a couple of minutes to read and I will be straight back at it, I tell myself. Twenty minutes later and after reading a couple of recommended related articles at that article stop and I am right back at it.
I try to pick up my search again, but now I have lost my thread and am wasting time. Becoming frustrated at the ticking clock I know I have to make a decision. If I turn off the computer now there is a chance I can rescue this designated creativity session. Leave the computer on and the game is over. I make the decision to shut the computer down, lock, stock and barrel. I now turn matters over to silence and my mind.
Silence for creativity
After a while and upon calming the mind, ideas are starting to form. I am making some headway. I am too scared to switch the computer back on for typing purposes in case I addictively connect to the internet. I take the old-fashioned route of paper and pencil and begin to record some thoughts. A few sentences are down on paper, it’s not great, but I don’t care as they are at least thoughts and in the right direction. The thoughts breed more thoughts and now they are coming faster than my pencil can record them. In fact my new fear is that I will forget them before I have had the chance to write them down. It’s times like this that I wish I did short-hand. The brain is getting in to gear and I am on a roll, but then the nightmare starts…..
The D.I.Y nightmare
The nightmare is in the form of a neighbour at the back of my study. He is unfortunately crazy about D.I.Y building and constantly spends most of his free time refurbishing his house. He just loves to build. Normally, I am massively in favour of people doing what they love to do. However, the only time I am not is when it’s stopping me. Not only does he like to build, but also likes to talk about building and keep me informed of any new tool he might recently have bought…. as if I care.
He has the knack of being in his garage just as I pull up to my office. I do my absolute best each time to sneak in undetected. Just when I think I’ve made it, I hear hello mate how are you. With new ratchet screw driver in hand he begins to explain its skills. I must admit that I must seem fairly rude as I have our conversation times down to under 2 minutes. I have become the master of escape and refuse to have my time wasted with the joys of what a ratchet screw driver does.
My pencil is in full flow, ideas are coming left, right and centre and then it begins…. drilling, as if he is stood beside my bloody computer. Along with the drilling comes the hammering and the dreadful sounds in between of a hip hop radio station. It’s bloody relentless. God, I wish this study was sound proof. I try to ignore it and pick up the flow again, but it’s no good. I just can’t focus through this confounded racket. I’m going to kill him soon I think to myself.
By the time he’s finished hammering, drilling etc, it’s late. I try to pick up the thread again, but now I have a new enemy. Tiredness. I just can’t break through when I’m tired. Even 50 percent tiredness is enough to leave me and the sheet of paper blank. I know I need to be fresh to create and I know that time for me is early mornings after a good night’s sleep.
So where do we go to be at our creative best – away from distraction and disruption
Well, author Christopher G. Moore found his solution
” I am escaping for two weeks to India. I am staying in a remote place in Rajasthan, where I was warned there is only basic internet (dial-up) and no internet in the hotel where I am staying for two weeks. It has electricity, though, so I can use my laptop for writing rather than surfing. I am not going to tell you where in Rajasthan. You would blog about it. Then someone else would find out about it, blog and put up photographs, and before you know it, the place would be, well overrun and that would be the end of things. We need secret places. Places which are only accessible to us. Sharing is a good thing, but too much sharing is a bad thing.” Christopher G. Moore ” The Cultural Detective ” (p.215)
You don’t have to be a writer to escape. It’s in those quiet moments that we gain the best insights into who we are and what we want and can be the pathway to much creativity. This was certainly the case for travel writer, Pico Iyer. On getting away to a secret sanctuary for some silent time and stillness, he ended up producing some of his most important work. The new, quiet, but energising surroundings became the catalyst for non-stop creativity and writing.
Watch the video here as Pico Iyer talks about ” Where is home” which I will be looking at more in the next post ……. It really is an excellent speech.
Here, the brilliant John Cleese gives a lecture on Creativity. In this video he talks about the 5 ways to be more creative of space, time, time (again), confidence and humour. It’s really well worth watching. I have always been a fan of John Cleese both in the humorous and the serious sense.
So where do I go to create
Escaping from as many of the English winter day’s as I can, I pack a bag and head for Thailand. After having caught up with old friends around the country I head for the north of Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular. My home is a friendly, convenient, back road (soi ) – guest house with no mod-cons. My room has a fridge, a fan (as I hate air-con) and a shower. The owners are good enough to remove the television as they know I despise it.I have one cupboard for my clothes, one writing desk and one chair and this is home. My carry bag contains 3 or 4 hand-picked books, a few empty note-pads and some pencils. There is no lap-top.
Outside the room of my guest house
My internet access is the internet cafe down the road and I have a strict deadline on time there. I must complete all I have to do on- line in one hour or it waits until the evening half an hour session. I check and reply to all business email first, scan the social network scene and posting only if deemed relevant. There is no time for web surfing unless there is something of priority I need to find. I work on projects in 15 minute segments and am amazed at how quickly the time goes and how focused I have to stay to meet my self-imposed deadlines. This hammers home how much time can be wasted with the on-line monster. In Thailand it’s rare that I am beaten by my deadlines. I pay for my time and leave.
Breakfast and lunch is the small restaurant on the corner and the Thai owners (husband and wife) are lovely. Coffee and poached eggs on toast of a morning and they do a superb Phat Grapow Gai – Chicken and Thai Basil for lunch. Exercise is at the gym at the end of the road. A basic gym used by the Thai boxers, although I certainly do no fighting with them as I value my teeth. Daily running and the weights machines are all I need.
Small restaurant in Chiang Mai
Recreation is in the form of great second-hand book shops in Chiang Mai. There are a good few of these book shops in Chiang Mai and I have been known to work my way around them all. I must admit the passing of an hour seems more like 5 minutes in these places.I am like a kid in a toy shop pulling out books from different genres, not knowing what to look at first.
Chiang Mai book shops
Creating, writing and capturing ideas are strongest in the morning just after rising. This is my freshest period of the day. I am not yet out of the shower, but already I need my pad and pencil as the mind is at work. An idea is in mind. I could do this? But what if I did that?Then arrives a more orderly self-asking of questions to go deeper with the idea. I begin to write and the ideas are flowing, I think I’ve nailed it – I say to myself, but I always say that.
There’s a distant banging. It’s the sound of a hammer hitting a large underground pipe. It’s distant and not enough to break my flow. They must be doing some work on their air-conditioning system. Suddenly, I have a brief panic moment. I visualize the face of my D.I.Y neighbour who lives next to my study in England. I see him stood over the underground pipe with a hammer and he’s grinning. I laugh out loud knowing how ludicrous the notion is. To be quite honest the laughter is from relief more than anything and the creativity continues.
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