Thursday, March 18, 2010

Moods

I tell my writing students that they should not wait for "inspiration" to write -- after all, if you wanted to be a professional pianist, you wouldn't practice only when inspired, would you? You'd have your butt on that piano bench every single day. Writing is similar.

Nonetheless, I've noticed that there are moods in which I get more done than in other states of mind. The primary factor determining daily word count is how the work is going, but moods contribute, too. Specifically, I get the most done -- and this applies to other kinds of tasks as well as writing -- in one of three moods.

The first is a high-energy, but not truly jubilant, mood that I attain all too rarely, being naturally a low-energy person. In this state everything seems easy. This happens maybe once a month.

The second is the adrenaline rush of a sudden deadline. I don't like to leave things till the last minute, but if a deadline comes from nowhere ("Can you get these galleys back to us by Thursday?" and I'm attending an out-of-town wedding, taking my dog to the vet, and teaching), it galvanizes me.

The third productive state, however, is unexpected. It's when I'm expecting a bad-but-not-disastrous day. My expectations are low: of pleasure, of accomplishment. I just want to get through everything. Surprisingly often, this ends up resulting in a lot getting done, and done well.

What does not get things done is the most pleasant of personal moods: laid-back enjoyment, at-ease well being. Then I tend to dawdle and postpone ("Let's have another cup of coffee and talk some more.") Somehow, the best life has to offer is not the most productive state for me. Seems unfair! But so it is.

7 comments:

qiihoskeh said...

May I point out that, unlike writing, piano practice doesn't require much creativity* -- quite the opposite: if you get too creative your piano teacher will smack you down, if only to preserve his/her sanity.

* except when performing a jazz solo :)

Sabine said...

In "Outliers: The Story of Success", Malcolm Gladwell argues quite convincingly that, to become a true "outlier" (at just about anything) one has to put in about 10,000 hours of practice. Not likely to happen if one only practices when inspired! Got to go practice now...

bluesman miike Lindner said...

giihoskeh, I suspect it depends on where you are as a pianist. Horowitz once said, "If I don't practice for a day, I notice. If I don't practice for two days, fellow musicians notice. If I don't practice for three days, the audience notices. And if I don't practice for four days, the critics notice."

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Sabine, I wasn't wholly convinced by Gladwell's arguments. He took The Beatles as an example, noting the thousands of hours they played in sleazy dives in Hamburg, in Liverpool, and just about any European club that would have them.

But there are =many= bands that have done just as much, without becoming the greatest rock band of all time.

Those bands lacked the magic (and that's the right word) of John, Paul, George, and Ringo together.

Clearly, something else is involved.

外太空 said...

如果擬任為輸贏是最重要的事,那你輸了........................................

bluesman miike Lindner said...

If life were fair, it wouldn't be worth living.

Rebecca Flys said...

I find I get more done during the day on a creative basis, when I get up and the sink is clean and clear of dirty dishes. The rest of the house can be in tatters and tumbles, but give me a lack of dirty dishes and ta da!