Slow Down … Or Burnout

By Jack Forde at CopywritersRoundtable.com

(reprinted here with permission)

“In the realm of ideas,” the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “everything depends on enthusiasm.”

In fact, said Arthur Balfour — the former British Prime Minister, agreement-maker, and ex-philosopher who was, ironically, known for his dispassionate demeanor — “Enthusiasm is what moves the world.”

And had you thought to ask Churchill, during your time travels, he would have told you the same and more, in the phrase, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Without losing any of the irony that opening today’s post with other people’s quotes is, in itself, not all that creative, I can only add… “Easy for them to say.”

Sometimes, you just can’t help it.

There you are, half way up the mountain. Or worse, at the foot, bundled up in your metaphorical sleeping bag. And you figure… meh.

What to do?

TEN CURES FOR CREATIVE BURNOUT

First, let’s acknowledge a few things.

We are, I’ll be you’ve noticed, flooded with more opportunities than ever to be distracted…

Did you know, for instance, that according to the McKinsey Global Institute, the average working person spends a whopping 2.6 hours per day sorting through email? That’s 27 days per year!

Throw in nearly two hours of researching and reading “essential” information… plus a few more hours of combined chatting, work-free web surfing, smartphone checking, and pointless meeting having, and it’s a wonder anything in the world ever gets done.

I mention the distractions because I think they do more than just help us procrastinate — they can also become a crutch for a more serious condition, creative burnout.

Dry patches do happen.

But what to do when you find yourself unable to focus… apathetic toward results… hankering for “Miller Time” on a Monday morning… subsumed by the creep of cynicism… short tempered or moody or sleepless, all over work… or any of those other things Business Insider calls a symptom of burnout?

The French would say, take a vacation. And a long one. We “no-vacation-nation” Americans don’t do that nearly enough, frankly. And when we do, we rarely do it well.

Case in point: We took a week at the beach this summer. And of course, I took my laptop. Every day, I got up 5 am and worked until 1 pm. Even saying it now makes me feel oh-so-virtuous. I also had two one-hour meetings via Skype, plus various undisclosed, work-related email exchanges.

Yep, we hit the beach in the afternoons. And yep, I got in some kid time too. But I can’t help but think I’m not doing it right. To boot, the project I worked didn’t pan out nearly as well as hoped. So there’s that.

Next week, I’ve also got deadlines. I owe better stuff than I think I’m turning out to a few people, have more than one speech to write for two different copywriting “bootcamps” to come, and there are those standing weekly meetings… but we’re going away on a laptop-free trip to the south of France anyway. I’ll let you know if it pays off.

Meanwhile, what about the non-vacation solution to creative burnout? Turns out there are quite a few.

Like these, for instance…

1) Keep a journal: Write three pages every morning. Doesn’t matter what. And carry it with you during the day, just in case.

2) Add ‘change’ to your everyday routine: Move your desk across the room. Walk a different street. Read someone else’s magazines (but ask first).

3) Chill: This might seem a little counter-intuitive, given what we’ve said so far, but once in awhile the best way to get an idea really is to STOP trying. Think about it. Have you ever gotten a great idea while driving? Or taking a walk? While in the shower?  The subconscious mind is a powerful thing.

4) Paint, Draw, Play Music: Skills that force you to think creatively, but do things alien to your routine can jump-start a slumbering mind.

5) Think in squares and circles: Put one idea in the middle of a page. Write related ideas around it. Use lines and shapes to map out the connections.

6) Practice more problem solving: Just as musical people often learn languages faster, and people who do crossword puzzles live longer and stay sharper, just spending more time trying to be a problem-solver in any capacity — outside of work — can help you get back into the habit work-wise, too. The mind, it turns out, is a muscle.

7) Pick a hero: Start by imitating the creative greats who went before you. What did they do? Pretend you’re them and do it yourself. You might get mocked, but it’s an excellent way to pick up good habits.

8) Read: This is an easy one. Anything that’s in motion needs fuel and your brain is no exception. To get more out, you’ve got to pour more in. Does it matter what you read? Of course it does. But that resource might be different for different people, depending on what you’re trying to do. Not just blocks and niche-specific websites, but history and science, good fiction, good non-fiction — you never know what’s going to surprise you by being relevant.

9) And of course, there’s going back to what you’re working on like a beginner. Imagine what you would do if you’d never seen what you were about to sell before… and if you new nothing about how to sell it. Where would you begin? Revisit the original pile of product samples, articles and news clips, testimonials, studies, and more. And revisit a basic how-to book on copywriting too. You might be surprised how squinted shut your eyes have become, and how they might re-open.

10) Talk to somebody, anybody: Get in a conversation with the people you don’t usually talk to — or haven’t talked to awhile — inside your work circles… and outside them. They’ve often thought through the things that puzzle you or have the energy you can’t seem to summon on your own. And just by getting into a good conversation, some of that can easily transfer back to you.

As for me… well… I’m actually going to take off next week from the CR too, and I’ll talk to you when I get back… hopefully, renewed, recharged, and ready to go.

Poem: What Happened?

In Ferguson, Police have become Military…

Leaving even the journalist’s eyes “teary”…

The United States is in an endless War…

I don’t even know my own country anymore…

What happened?

The NSA watches everyone…

They probably even know if I’m watching re-runs…

They stand up and say “it’s okay, trust us”…

The problem is they lied before Congress…

What happened?

This isn’t the America I learned about in school…

Where the politicians think that we’re all fools…

Where Big Business uses money to vote…

Then leaves the public on a sour note…

What happened?

Now, I do try to keep my chin up…

And I do hope we will join together and rise up…

To take back the country that I love…

All so I can quit asking myself…

What happened?

 

NOTE:  I am not a poet, but it's an attempt. :)

Something From Nothing?

Nothing, it drives physicists and philosophers nuts.

Did something come from nothing?

How are we here?

My layperson’s hypothesis begins below…

 

In other words, what if the Universe is simply an infinite loop of creation and a return to the “point” scientists keep exploring?

Infinity … infinite universes, infinite chances for life, and on … and on.

Nothing can be defined as Professor Krauss defines it, but maybe there is no such thing as absolute nothing (with no properties, laws, substance etc…).

So in the end, maybe our Universe just keeps “forming” and “collapsing” in an infinite loop?

What Life Is And What Life Isn’t

Life is…

  • That funny sign or moment that you and your family talk about for hours in one day.
  • Looking up in the sky and wondering “How small am I?”
  • Getting lost while driving somewhere, and finding something even more exciting.
  • The look on your kid’s face when they realize your wisdom helped them “connect the dots.”
  • The first cup of coffee in the morning, on the back deck, on a crisp Fall morning … in silence.
  • Noticing that someone placed three turtles in the pond you walk by every morning.
  • Noticing three more baby turtles a few months later.
  • Opening your Twitter account and coming to the realization that it’s just a tool, nothing more, so “meh.”
  • Just slowing down for the first time in your life to realize that you’ve already been given all the gifts you need.
  • Your son or daughter’s first sports championship … and the look on their face when they’ve won.
  • Thinking.
  • Reflecting.
  • Thanking.
  • Writing.
  • Drawing.
  • Sharing.
  • Reading.
  • Pursuing a thought-experiment in the attempt to solve a bigger world problem.
  • Writing a book in the attempt to help people improve their lives.
  • Realizing you have too much useless stuff.
  • Realizing why you have so much useless stuff, and the impact it’s had on your life.
  • Getting rid of that useless stuff.
  • Realizing you’re not alone, that other people have the same fears, faults, and pretty much the same life as you do.
  • Realizing that since you’re not alone, you can do whatever you want to improve the situation after reading this post.
  • Realizing that life isn’t handed to you on some silver platter, and you are the only one who can impact your life in any meaningful way.
  • Realizing you’re in fact distracted by the links included in this post.
  • Realizing that some (not all) of our technology is completely useless and only there to pull money out of your wallet.
  • Realizing this list is not complete, but that anyone reading this post can complete their own list of what life is.

What life isn’t…

  • The stuff you own.
  • The competition behind the stuff you own.
  • Beating the “Jones’es”.
  • How successful you are.
  • What you look like.
  • About trying to look like “that model in the magazine” (male OR female).
  • Buying the latest purse.
  • Buying the latest wallet.
  • About having the biggest house.
  • Creating an economic system that benefits only you and a select group of others in your wealth or political class.
  • Your opinion “winning.”
  • Greed.
  • Selfishness.
  • Envy.
  • 80 hour workweeks.
  • 60 hour workweeks.
  • Having your kids being raised at daycare all their lives.
  • “Sacrificing” any part of your limited life in the name of some mega-corporation that really won’t give a shit that you did sacrifice.
  • “Trolling” in the sense of the online world.
  • Spamming.
  • Being insecure about yourself.
  • Policing each other with the intent of catching people doing something wrong (which biases your judgment of their doing).
  • Damage to the environment.
  • The latest “fashion trend” which is designed to get you to spend your money on a schedule (nothing more).
  • Upgrading to the latest gadget for no reason other than to be the “first” with it.
  • Scamming other people out of their hard-earned money.
  • Endless, mindless consumption.
  • Remaining a mindless drone.
  • About continuing to think about the superficial.
  • The endless pursuit of perfection.
  • Money.
  • Only choosing A or B.
  • About being a dick.
  • About failing to make personal changes as a result of reading the 2nd part of this big list.

Well, that covers the stuff I’ve thought about for the last couple years.  Will add more as it comes up.

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Slow Down: Let’s Not Let Technology Replace Humanity

We have a gift.

It’s called our humanity.  It consists of our consciousness, ability to adapt, and our ability to think beyond primitive needs.

We live in an age where technology has developed to a point where it can replace certain parts of our humanity.  For example, email replaces face to face meetings, a fact that Stephen Petranek reminded me of before a call we had last week.

Think about this one small way technology is actually damaging our human relationships.  When you email someone, that email takes all of the emotion, tone, inflection, and understanding of the communication away.

You no longer have the necessary elements for a human, face to face conversation.  And while we could replace that with say, a Skype conversation (video or audio), or as Stephen pointed out… a hologram conversation… we don’t do that, do we?

Nope.

We send an email because it’s convenient.

And in our overly progressed, overly efficient society… convenience causes obsolescence.  What we create in technology that can bring us what we want more conveniently, typically makes the solution before it obsolete.

Email is making conversations more convenient.

Plus, we can “hide” behind our monitor, so we sometimes say hurtful things that we would NOT say face to face, or video to video.

This is a simple example.

Eventually, some of society is looking forward to a “singularity” where technology makes some of our biology obsolete.

I don’t look forward to that.  Because when biology, seen as an outdated model by singularists, gets replaced by technology… humanity ceases to exist.

Sure, technology can “perfect” a human form and processes… but it cannot replace humanity.  Technology needs to be left to evolve itself, not transcend to attempt to evolve humanity.