I listened to an episode of Hurry Slowly on which Jocelyn K. Glei discussed efficiency and creativity, saying they have nothing in common and might stand in opposition. I get what she was saying even as I apply efficiencies to my creative work. Creativity can't be ridden into submission and turned out like widgets. It is a process of going deeply. Efficiencies are mostly about getting stuff done while creative work is about exploring what's there. It's the difference between doing good work and just getting things done.
I need to listen again (inefficient!) because what seemed clear has become muddled. I'm thinking about the paper on which I drafted this in my Morning Pages, the post-it notes stuck to my desk, the ways in which I keep my phone and planner near at hand but closed. These are refinements to the system I use to do good work each morning. Each of them makes me more efficient at getting to the work and leave more room for me to go deeply and be thoughtful. The ideas on the post-its get me to the starting line, no need to warm up. The phone plays music but I'm not checking weather, news, or email. The planner is there for offloading ideas but closed so as not to distract. And the page on which I drafted this has just the right line height, margins, and convenient space for date and page numbers. All of it is designed to get me efficiently into the act of writing.
I refine things for more efficiency but still get what the podcaster is saying. My streamlining is all about getting myself to the creative act and staying there. These efficiencies allow me to devote focus, energy, and time to writing but there isn't any real efficiency applied to the writing of my three pages which takes however long it takes (though I'm pretty speedy and am drafting without revision). I'm not interested in getting my pages done any faster. I'm not interested really in getting them done. I'm devoted to doing Morning Pages. I want more and more of that writing. Why would I rush through writing when there are few things I would rather do? I box my job down to the contract hours, draft my newsletter throughout the week, and do what I can to minimize anxiety because those things all get in the way of writing and I can't have that.
At my day job I'm asked (told) to do more, more, more. I'm to go faster and stretch myself thinner. Be efficient to do more for the organization! There is far too much for me to do because of the shortcomings in the system. I didn't create that system and I would change it were I in management but I'm not so I don't get too worked up about things going undone. There's only so much I can do and besides, working like that gets in the way of teaching well, writing, reading, being healthy, and finding contentment. Screw that.
There's an email waiting for me at the job saying that a whole bunch of kids haven't yet taken a silly reading test. I'm sure that's true. I'm also sure there are too many kids and too many demands on my limited energy. Something has to give. The test is important to management but I would have to really try in order to care less.
Thinking of these things in bed I wrote a post-it reminding myself to, do less and do it extremely well. I added a note the next morning saying do extremely well at choosing to do less. Be deliberate in choices that frame and clear space for good work. Prepare well and refine the processes supporting that work. Choose carefully. There are only so many hours in each day and who knows how many days left in this wondrous life.
The only efficiencies with which I'm concerned are those that allow me to go deeper into the work of creating and farther into the life I want to be living.
Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.
—Naomi Shihab Nye, The Art Of Disappearing