I have a confession.
I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
I also have another confession.
My OCD is self-diagnosed. Health-care is expensive and googling is easy.
Though I’ll admit, my OCD isn’t like normal OCD.
(Side note: Is there a “normal” kind of OCD?)
My OCD mostly covers things people probably wouldn’t ever notice or care to notice.
(So, “normal” OCD…)
I don’t mind the mountain of clean clothes that lay in a pile in the corner of my room. I know exactly where to find my favorite pair of sweatpants. And I know exactly where my favorite flannel is too. The sweatpants are right beneath the gray socks that I bought seven years ago. And the flannel is next to the gray t-shirt with the holes in the armpits.
Everything is in its rightful place. So, as long as no one moves the mountain of clean clothes one way or another (Liz…), then we’re good.
It’s order within the appearance of chaos.
Like my bookshelf, which is not only in order chronologically, but is in topics as well. There’s a philosophy section, a political section, there’s biographies and autobiographies, there’s literary fiction, there’s satire, of course there’s a running section, and there’s a music section too.
If you borrow and book just let me put it back in its rightful place.
And I haven’t even touched on the On-Deck section. Books I plan to read after I finished whatever I’m currently reading (Andrew McMahon’s “Three Pianos,” which is insightful and poetically written.) Their place is scattered on my desk between my plants in order of which I’ll read them.
Then there’s the 17 tabs open on my computer, six of which are always open — the admin side of this site, the admin side of MileSplit Colorado, google analytics, budget sheets, content planning, and Slack. And then there’s the others… Oh, the others… They come and go, depending on the day, or the time of day. Guitar tabs for Nirvana’s “Marigold.” Guitar tabs for the Foo Fighters’ “I’ll Stick Around.” A wikipedia page for Sator Square. The MileSplit national page. The list goes on…
And then there’s my phone. I do own a phone (it’s 2021…) I just never answer it. If you text me, I’ll get back to you.
This makes me immune to all the scammers with foreign voices out there claiming there’s a warrant for my arrest for a vague crime they can’t describe over the phone, and if I hurry and send them $3,000 from Walgreens they’ll get the Five-O (who are “a few blocks away”) off my back.
Side Note: The above video is supposed to start exactly at 2:36 in, where Tyler Durden says: “I never pick up my phone.”
We all have our quirks.
And onwards to the focus on this blog — to embrace our quirks, our way of doing things. Because I’m a prime example that there is no one way to get something done.
Just ask my parents.
I definitely gave them quite a few gray hairs over the years…
Several months ago I was doing a Q&A for Bolder Dreams at a store, and I was asked about my creative process.
Do I take copious amounts of notes? (No.) Do I have a marker board on my wall with an outline? (No.) Yellow sticky notes? (Again, No.) Do I free-write before I get going? (Usually.)
I write in my head first.
I wrote the first 300 or so words of this blog while laying in my bed this morning. Once the dam breaks I’ll get up and run to my computer before forgetting a line. But usually I can probably memorize the first few paragraphs before needing to jot them down.
When I worked at a newspaper I used to write 500-word stories in my head sometime between four and six in the morning while laying in bed trying to fall back asleep.
Spoiler: I rarely did fall back asleep.
When I got to the office hours later the story would spill from my fingers to the page within 15 minutes or so. This left the appearance of barely working. A coworker didn’t really seem to like that I was barely in the office, and that when I was, I’d write my stories within a few minutes.
Claiming that you write stories in your head before jotting them down never really went over well with this particular coworker, but it was my process, and it got the job done — well before deadline. I tried to explain that I actually was spending a ton of time on a story — in my head first.
Fortunately my publisher (and my editor) at the time was cool with it — when he first hired me he said: “Creativity comes when it comes, whether that be at midnight, at four in the morning, or at two in the afternoon. As long as you hit your deadline, I don’t mind when you come and go.”
Both were cool guys.
We all have our process, and this is mine. I work within a flurry of creativity. But don’t be fooled, it’s not all a bag of Haribo gummy bears — once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Liz calls me a lotus flower.
I’ll sit in the mud for weeks, producing nothing of creative value. My fingers will sit still on the keys. It’s useless. This is more of an absorbing phase — I’ll read massively. About a book every other day.
But try to create something beautiful, and… Crickets.
Side note: I have dozens of journals and notebooks filled with horrible writing.
The creative-less fog eventually passes. The sun will come out, and boom. I’ll bloom with a book. Or two. Or a short-story. Or a blog.
It’s all about finding your own creative rhythm.
Some people can schedule their output for eight-consecutive hours a day, five days a week.
That’s not me.
Mine comes in pockets.
My mind turns on around five or six most mornings, even if my body isn’t. I’ll crash everyday just after lunch for a few hours before creatively waking up again in the evening and night.
For the longest time I used to fight this rhythm and try to force myself into the “normal” routine that American society says we’re supposed to fit into.
There’s a reason school hours are what they are.
But when I tried to conform to that routine, it rarely ever worked for me. It took years for me to realize when my hot-spots were, and how to plan my day around them.
Ask me to write 1,000 words at 1 p.m. and it’ll take me a few hours to squeeze them out. Ask me that same question around 8 a.m. and I’ll be sipping coffee and watching last night’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on my computer by 8:30 a.m.
To clarify: I’d be done in 30 minutes or so.
We all have a way of doing things that best suit our strengths. If you want to get the best out of yourself, find out what rhythm or stride suits you the most.
You’ve got to see the tsunami coming, that way you can get your surf board out in time and ride that wave of creativity wherever it goes.
Someone might walk into my bedroom and see chaos, but I know exactly where to find my favorite jeans under the mountain of clean clothes in the corner of the room. They’re underneath Liz’s red and blue flannel.
Side note: I really hope no random person ever walks into my bedroom. That’s creepy…
Someone might look at my bookshelf and wonder why Kurt Vonnegut is next to Chuck Palahniuk. I’d say one word: Satire. Oh, and: they go on the fifth-shelf down, right side. Next to Andrew Greer and Christopher Buckley.
Side note: How did you get into my office?
Someone might look at the 17 tabs open on my computer and get a headache. I’d say 11 are likely to close out sometime between now and next Friday. But six are staying open.
Side note: Why are you looking at my computer?
And the whole never answering my phone thing… You know, I guess I don’t really have an answer for that one…
We all have our thing…