Judging creative productivity

There are several traps that cause creatives to feel anxiety.

One is writer’s block or more specifically a fear of bad writing. The other is getting the most out of a day and feeling that you have done a substantial amount of work.

There are four stages of creativity:

  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Illumination
  4. Verification

All four of these happen interchangeably and I know that I can spend ages on the fourth one where I am listening back to work I have done and trying to find ways to either develop it or affirm that it is finished. My first solo album took 6 months of post-production before I could say it was ready to release.

I remember hearing acclaimed singer songwriter Diane Warren talk about how she spent an entire day working on a couple of lyric lines because they were important.

That statement itself reveals the importance of revision, rewriting and giving time and effort to a small amount of quality material.

There is also some reassurance in that statement. Especially if you feel you aren’t producing enough. Giving time to intricate details can allow them to blossom with profoundly rewarding results.

Clearing out the attic

As a result of the pandemic, we have been staying home more than usual. During the winter, when temperatures have hit 0 degrees centigrade, we have had to have the heating on more regularly throughout the day. As a result, our attic became more damp than usual, because of the more frequent rising heat and the condensation.

We decided to clear out our attic before putting the Christmas decorations back. Small puddles had formed on top of plastic boxes and cardboard boxes had been essentially ruined. Within them all was a myriad of possessions we forgot that we owned. Some of the most interesting things were trinkets, or entertainment items I had as a kid, including Lego and Scalextric sets and my mother’s vinyl collection (the vinyl seems to be okay but some of the covers were a little damaged).

My brother cleared out my Grandfather’s house when he passed away, and he has gotten really good at getting rid of stuff rather objectively. When I moved back to Dubai I minimised what I brought back with me. Moving houses definitely forces you to make decisions as to what you keep and what you get rid of. There has been a therapeutic quality in exploring the nostalgia of the things we own and deciding what needs to go as we fix up the attic. Some things are worth keeping, some worth throwing, and other things that may be suitable for a charity boot sale.

It is always good to do this kind of clear out now and again. I sometimes need to remind myself that in the digital age we are living in, it is worth doing a similar process with our hard drives.

The Pomodoro Technique

Each day, we are deciding what we do with the time that we have. There are pitfalls that are difficult to avoid. If we have too few tasks that are urgent, we can fritter the time away. If we have too many tasks on the go, we can find ourselves overwhelmed.

When I learnt about the Pomodoro technique, I gave it a shot. I really liked how it provides a structure that allows you to keep track of your progress whilst inserting in short breaks. A typical approach with the Pomodor technique looks like this:

1.) Set the timer to 25 minutes – solely focusing on the task you have set out to achieve – no distractions.

2.) Timer – 5 minute break – To stretch your legs, get a cup of tea etc.

3.) Repeat the above process three times.

4.) After the third time, take a longer break – For e.g. 30 minutes.

This has worked wonders. During my Masters and when I have had tight deadlines to meet when working on composition briefs, I have used this method and it is quite remarkable how much more focused and decisive I am.

I recommend adopting this approach for students and working people alike. It does not have to be the exact framework as above and you can adapt it to your schedule.

The fundamental idea is that we are working with time as opposed to working against time.