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making brain space

there are problems when you travel for work in a large group. you can get sick of the people you’re with from being around them too much. you can end up bein the one who’s left out of everything and feel as isolated as you did you did back in junior high school, something no one should have to relive. you can end up feeling like you’ve had no time off work whatsoever, because it’s personalities and issues have taken up every waking moment of the time you were travelling.

the last week has contained elements of these things. there were, in the end, very few people who got on my nerves to any extent, so the annoyance factor was mild at best. in fact, the majority of our group were decent enough and easy enough to have a conversation with. i did not feel isolated, although i did feel, as i usually do in any large group, that i just really don’t have a lot in common with most people. as far as having downtime for my brain, while this definitely could have been worse, it did tend to be the preoccupying factor.

it’s that last one that bothers me the most. this isn’t a slight at the place where i work, since, as many of you know, i’ve been in far worse places, but the time away from the job is really where i am able to let my mind do the things it wants to do. lately, that has not been happening. the results of this are evident even here. how many posts recently have dealt with writing, about creativity? not many. because my brain just isn’t detached enough from that world to allow space for much else.

we all go through this, i know, and we all get irritated with it, some more than others. what is particularly galling to me at the moment is the assumption people around me are making that the past week should have been in some way restful, that i should feel motivated to do more because i’ve had the chance to recharge. for these people, i have news: working with customers while drinking tequila is remarkably like working with customers in any other setting, it just goes on longer and ends up giving you a headache. (this isn’t a slight against the people who i was with, either, it’s just that work is work, not relaxation.)

the skill i’m having to acquire now (having been successful in “learning to sit on your ass on the beach 101”) is how to get my brain unplugged from work and thinking creatively about other issues. anyone will tell you that creativity isn’t just something you can turn on like a faucet. it’s now my mission to prove them wrong because, unfortunately, walking away from the working world would only generate a lot of other problems for me at this point. so far, these are the methods i am trying to employ, just to see what works:

1. try to imagine everyone you speak to as a character in a story. at the very least, it’ll probably make them seem more interesting and make it look like i’m paying attention to what it is that they’re saying. at best, one of the stories will be something i actually want to write.

2. create a buffer zone- i live in toronto, which means 30-45 minutes of commuting hell on either end of my work day. i tend to just listen to music that i love and let my mind wander (which usually results in it wandering away from work pretty quickly). good for creativity, bad for pedestrians.

3. try to spend more time reading- i have to keep reinforcing to myself that reading is not something that takes away from my time writing. seeing what other people can do makes me better.

4. write down every scrap of a thing that comes into my mind and archive it- yes, most of it will be useless crap, but somewhere in there will be an excerpt i really like, that will later be connected up to other parts of an as-yet-unimagined whole.

is this going to work? hey, it can’t hurt.

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