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:
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.
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.