Things seemed to start awfully slow this morning. Two shots of espresso from the Nespresso machine happened and a bit of St. Vincent’s music played on Pandora. It could have been a joyous May the 5th. Instead things just seemed a little bit dull. One of the things that I have been working on to help improve my focus has been removing the social media applications from my smartphone. At the moment, I cannot even check Twitter on my phone. That effort may be helping me avoid small bursts of what feel like focused attention, but are not examples of having spent quantifiable amounts of energy on solving actual problems. Really it is just an example of really digging into and enjoying a distraction. That is probably the worst potential outcome of expending time and focus without getting anything in return for it outside of the satisfaction of being distracted. Instead of allowing my focus to drift into those types of things I have removed the temptations. You can imagine this caused a shift to the only things left on my smartphone which happen to be email and the Google News feeds. Fortunately, my email filters keep that pretty well under control and the top 5 news articles Google thinks I should be reading don’t shift around all that often during the day. Effectively I’m increasing the amount of time where I need to be present with my surroundings and creating more opportunities for creativity.
We will see if in practice this move to focus has a quantifiably good outcome. I can generally trend my written output over time and it is pretty easy to see spikes in productivity compared to breakdowns in the creative process. All of my focus on this effort is really about trying to create more opportunities for creativity. I’m looking to find those moments of focus and nurture them into more prolonged sessions that ignite that spark of creativity. Sometimes you are just going to know it’s time to make things happen. Those points in time where the door is open and all you have to do is walk through it and take advantage of endless possibilities. You have to protect those moments of pure creativity and really try to lean into making the most of them you possibly can given how fleeting the best moments are over time. Most of this rambling series of thoughts are about trying to recognize two things in practice. First and foremost, build a pattern of purpose driven efforts that result in a defined writing routine. Second, you need to have a realistic mechanism to capture the energy from those times outside of the normal routine when the spark of creativity shows up.
My writing routine involves waking up between 0500 and 0530 hours and spending time in front of the keyboard without interruption or other obligation. On the weekends my ability to really dig in and spend a few hours practicing the habit of writing first thing in the morning is a known commodity at this point. In practice on that one I’m 70 weeks into The Lindahl Letter publication on Substack without disruption. That is a pretty example of a writing practice becoming a definable and repeatable writing routine. I’m still working on translating more of that output into academic articles. Sometimes it feels like I’m in a perpetual literature review within the machine learning and artificial intelligence space. At some point in that cycle I need to veer off the literature review path and begin a journey into some type of new frontline research on a topic worth examining. That is what I’ll take a look at exploring this weekend.