Good Question: How can I stay creative when I have to sit and type all day long?
Do you have any advice on how to stay creative and energized when your work requires you to sit in front of a computer all day? This is something that I have been struggling with. Any techniques you can share?
This is a terrific question — one that I grapple with myself, as a full-time writer and computer-strapped person — and I have several techniques I can share.
Here we go.
If you are struggling to stay creative and energized when you have to sit and type all day long, my advice is…
– Don’t do it.
Just don’t. Don’t sit and type all day long. This is terrible for your mind, body and spirit.
Physicians now say that “sitting is the new smoking.” Sitting too much raises your likelihood of developing virtually every disease under the sun, from depression to hypertension to indigestion. It’s not good.
– Cry, mourn, and accept that you may need to overhaul your life in a significant way.
Oops! You chose a career that requires you to sit and stare into a screen for 70% of your waking life. You’re doomed! Well, not really. You’re still in charge of your life.
You can change your career (a lot or a little). You can change your daily routine. You can switch to a standing desk. You can say “Fuck everything!” and join a Bollywood dance troupe or become a forest ranger. You can say to yourself, “You know what? I’m not OK with being tethered to a computer all day long. I am going to work half-time and make half as much money and be twice as happy. That’s my new plan.” It’s all up to you.
No matter how “trapped” you think you are, you are always in charge of your life.
Realizing all of this might stir up a lot of emotions which is why… it’s OK to cry.
– Write standing up.
I like to write standing up beside my kitchen table. Sometimes I flop onto my stomach on my bed. Other people like standing desks or even treadmill desks. Experiment with different options. I repeat: just don’t sit all day.
– Schedule workouts, walks and playtime.
Your body was made to move. If you do not move, you will feel uncreative and sad. Even just a little bit of activity — like a brisk walk five times a week — can help tremendously. SCIENCE.
– Have sex with yourself or someone else.
You will have a flood of delightful neurotransmitters. You will feel relaxed. All of your problems will seem smaller. You might even feel inspired to write dopey, smitten love poetry. All great things!
– Look at interesting things and talk to interesting people.
I get my best ideas when I am milling about, wandering into random shops, staring at people, or having conversations with friends or strangers. Get out of the house.
– Read books.
Remember books? Read them. Read whatever interests you. Read things outside of your “industry” to get inspiration from new and diverse sources.
– Watch TV. (But not too much.)
I love TV and I don’t think it’s “bad.” I love shows with fascinating characters and gripping surprises and excellent writing. A little bit of TV energizes me. Too much makes me sleepy. I like to use TV as a “brain treat” to reward myself for finishing a project.
Your brain operates differently when you are somewhere “different,” which is why many people tend to have big creative epiphanies and bursts of creativity on airplanes, in hotels, at strange bars, in the car, or while traveling to new places. Another great reason to get out of the house!
– Take a shower.
When you’re blissed out in a warm, soapy shower, your brain produces dopamine, which is a happiness-boosting neurotransmitter that helps you to make creative connections and solve problems in new ways. Also you will smell better.
– Cry more.
Oh no! You just remembered that despite all of the great sex you just had and that awesome vacation and shower, you still feel shackled to your computer most of the day and it totally sucks. Cry more! You are allowed!
Then channel your grief into a poem, or sign up for an interesting class, or encourage your employer to switch to a 4-day workweek, or watch this tiny hamster eat a tiny burrito. It’s all going to be OK.
– Be grateful.
Computers are a miracle. Technology is a miracle. Being able to sit peacefully and wiggle your fingers over a keyboard so that ideas pour out of your brain and turn into sentences on a screen is a miracle.
Yes, technology can be stressful, overwhelming, or tiring at times. But try to avoid complaining because it will only irritate you and others. Instead, try to stay focused on the awesome wonderfulness of everything, as often as you can. Be grateful.
As my friend Susan says, “Stay in the miracle.”
I hope that helps, Itai (and others with similar queries).
Now please close your laptop, crumple your tablet, flick off your phone, dismantle your harddrive and go outside for awhile. I promise: you’ll feel more creative right away and you’ll have a much lovelier day.
Good Question is an advice column about writing, communication, creativity, and how to be a decent human being in a complicated world. Looking for past columns? Go here.