Creating more opportunities for creativity

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. 

Oh that Wednesday arrived

Posts can now resume with the great server migration completed. My thoughts over the last two weeks have been confused on things, but not on writing or chronicling my efforts along the search for the perfect possible path forward. During the course of the brief online freeze I did use Twitter a bit and that was an interesting journey. It appears that Twitter has been purchased and will become a privately held company. It made me wonder about the total value of stock for a company. Generally speaking at the given market price of a stock everybody could not sell their stock. At the point where everybody that held a stock was trying to sell it the value of that stock would plummet exponentially. Most companies in the marketplace could not support at their current value a total replacement of investors. I actually find it interesting to look at the amount of a stock volume that trades hands every day for a given company. For the most part, you will see a small volume of stock up for trade each day will be far less than 20% of total outstanding shares. 

You can go look at the biggest average daily trading volumes (ADTV) for companies. Yesterday on April 26, 2022 for example the largest daily trading volume was for Twitter at around 115 million shares. The total number of outstanding shares for the company is around 763 million. That amounts to around 15% of the outstanding shares for the company being exchanged yesterday. In general, that is a large amount of activity between buyers and sellers for a single company. My thoughts then drifted into thinking about those metrics for a bit before circling back to the activity that is supposed to be at hand which is writing this morning. I had wanted to write 1,000 words in this very word processing document before sending this post off for publication. That is where my head was at this morning. I figured producing a good block of prose would help start my day off on the right path. 

I had brewed a cup of the Ethiopia Nespresso pod coffee instead of two shots of espresso today. Sometimes you have to mix it up a little bit. I’ll probably order those pods again at some point. I have been enjoying them as an alternative to two shots of espresso. My afternoons of course should be green tea and that is how the plan is supposed to work. Coffee or espresso in the morning and green tea in the afternoon. Sometimes the green team simply gets replaced with more espresso. That happens from time to time depending on what is going on during the day. For the most part being focused on the work at hand becomes the priority and settling into a state of deep focus on the hard challenges is where things should drift to after the start of the day. The first few minutes of the day are generally cloudy and it takes just a little bit to go from that fog of daybreak to a truly productive state. 

Even with that little bit of prose about coffee this post is only about half way to the targeted work count for this stream of consciousness based effort. Part of the desired process is to just let my mind wonder in whatever direction happens to be pulling my attention. At the moment, my attention is nearly wholesale focused on a task list and working toward the resolution of the things on that list. Everything else might as well be far off into the distance like shadows of things you could approach, but it would require a lot of effort to get to that point. Something will have to give on that front and hopefully it will be a burst of productivity aimed at reducing the task list to a manageable amount of things. That should open the door to some pursuits outside the process of revisiting a list for the next item. Sometimes you have to move beyond the get next command and ask yourself about the things occurring in the wild space outside that list. 

Just for content if you were trying to produce a solid million words per day instead of working on a 1,000 word start of the day posting production target. You would have to work a little harder and probably invest a bit more time into the production target of 2,740 words per day. Given the reality of sustaining that level of productivity you probably will want to work toward a production level of posting target of 3,000 words per day. Sitting down and writing 3,000 words in a single sitting or flourish of creativity is possible. Doing it for an entire year is a different matter altogether. That type of sustained writing productivity is geared more toward something that a professional writing would achieve. Producing a million words in one big giant pile of prose for any reason is an awfully large amount of content. Very few people sit down and try to engage in that level of production. You could very well say that it would be a big year. A categorically larger than what you would expect to the point of being you considering it a “big” writing productivity year. That point is probably not worth any more inquiry. It has been examined and can probably stand on its own merits at this point. 

My closing thoughts on this writing session are all over the place at the moment. I’m thinking about trying to take on a big year again. At the same time, I’m remembering that that is a very big investment of writing time and energy. Sitting down and writing 3,000 words without an outline or any guide posts of what should be covered is a really intense commitment into the world of stream of consciousness prose. At that point the final outcome of what is created will be a consequence of the process, not the achievement of something on a task list.

Slowly grinding away on a Monday

This weekend we got a lot more snow than I expected to see for March. Maybe it’s a little cliché to write about the weather, but we need the water so that part is good. This morning I was looking at Nespresso machines again. When my Nespresso Expert machine gave up the ghost I replaced it with a Essenza Mini. It is a very compact espresso maker, but it only makes two different options for output. Some of the newer machines do all sorts of interesting things. I do have a separate Nespresso milk frother, but I do not use it very often. Typically, I drink two shots of espresso or a lungo pull. Going to the larger lungo style is normally an indicator that my supply of pods is getting low. That used to be a much bigger problem before stores like Target started to carry the pods. Well instead of staying on the path to writing glorious prose this happened. It was a divergence from focusing on my research trajectory for sure.

A very slow Sunday

Rain is falling in Denver. My allergies are out of control, but we will keep on moving along.

Like thirty minutes passed since that first sentence sprang into existence. I’m not entirely sure what happened this morning, but the flow or prose seems to be broken. Maybe this is a case of writer’s break vs. writer’s block. It is also possible that maybe it took just a little bit for the two shots of Nespresso to kick in and begin to fuel the day.