“Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” ~my Jr. High woodshop teacher (and Kermit the Frog, apparently…not sure who said it first).
Today’s tip is extremely concrete, and therefore it is extremely helpful. You will not need to read between my lines, nor trip into a transcendental moment to understand its connotations or apply its prescriptions. In fact, the most mystically-minded among you are the most likely to miss the point altogether – you would be missing a lot by missing the point, though, so stay with me.
Time, the neglected dimension
We have little problem grasping length, height, and width. We deal with them all day long quite effectively. We walk length as we take paces to reach the opposite side of a bridge. We ascend a new height as we climb steps to behold a grand view. We feel width as we wrap our arms around someone we love in a warm embrace.
But that confounded time!
Yes, we get it, but only intuitively. A spinning earth causes the illusion of the sun coming and going, marking time’s transition; we’re aware of aging; we’re aware that even the worst moments pass, as do the best; yet, time is still much more elusive than the three spatial dimensions.
On a gut level, we resist the scientific finding that time had a beginning, and it will have an end. (Even scientists themselves were uncomfortable with this notion that confirmed what the monotheists had been proclaiming for millennia, at first.)
But, emotions aside, time is critical to the creative process and its product – without it, length, width, and height have no context; music has no rhythm, words no urgency!
Bottom line: time needs to be more accessible to the creative.
So, today I offer you a tip that will help you to grasp time as handily as you’re grasping the mouse hooked up to your computer right now. It will be as real as it really is, and it will be a benefactor to your creative process.
Now, let’s establish a few givens:
- You have a worthy creative project – an idea that arose outside of the three spatial dimensions, and outside of time, in the world of your imagination – an idea that you know is worthy of bringing into the corporeal plane. Its purpose is to expand understanding and feeling, inspire individuals, and strengthen the greater community.
- You consider this idea important enough to set aside daily time to work on it.
Your mind is very aware of priorities. Your mind is harder to fool, on the deepest, subconscious levels, than the most skeptical of your friends or foes. Therefore, there is no way to convince your mind that your creative enterprise is of utmost importance to you, and to enlist its full-bodied support (which you need), by any means other than putting it at the top of your agenda.
Consequently, the time to put daily effort into your “work” should be the earliest possible time in your day. The go-getter will get up extra early, before work, to put in this time. I’ll consider letting it slide if you at least choose your creative time to be the first thing you do after work (for those of you who have a regular work schedule).
I can already hear a contentious voice arising from you: “but, I’m most creative and productive late at night.”
Great – me, too! So put in your time early in the day, or early in the evening, then take care of the mundane, but essential chores of your life, and then pick up on your creative workagain late at night…contention resolved.
Get a timer…(this is the whole point of this piece by the way, so if you zoned out along my winding, voluminous path, perk that attention back up right about now…)
Set your timer for one hour.
Disconnect from the internet (except for research required specifically for your work).
Hit start & get busy!
This practice of using a timer was first introduced to me by one of the Mystic Masters of Sound years ago to be used in my daily musical regimen. (My teacher saw that I wasn’t getting enough done sans external marker of time and offered the remedy I now offer to you to me.)
The mind at work, it turns out, is much like a body in exercise – it will gladly stop, or take a sidetrack if allowed. (This can be good, though it usually leads to an ending of the creative process and the embarking of aimless wandering.) The timer helps prevent premature tangent chasing, or ending of the creative enterprise for the day, altogether.
In my own personal experience, following the use of the timer in my practice of music, I went from playing in local bars to performing across the United States and abroad; I went from recording songs on a four-track in my room to recording in major recording studios with world-renown producers. There were some other factors involved, of course, but the timer was one of the key ingredients in taking my work higher.
Flash forward to January of this year. I found myself in the midst of writing a novel. After a burst of initial activity, my output slowed down, at times to a sad trickle of unusable syllables; my timetable elongated. Out came the timer, and eight months later, the full-length manuscript was completed.
To address the one last question that may be lingering in your mind – “You said to set the timer for one hour…but what if I’m on a roll when the timer goes off?” Did you have to ask? If you’re in the midst of a creative burst when the timer goes off, the timer is doing its job! Set it for another hour, pick up the already feverish pace you’re likely creating at, bask in the rapture of expression you’re blessed to find yourself in the midst of, and plow on into the great indeterminate future whose silver-lit edge opens up before you!
Some parting words from Mr. Lewis…
“The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” ~ C.S. Lewis