Today is the last day of my “forced solitude” — staying home on doctor’s orders so I don’t collect any more germs and come down with something worse than pneumonia. It has been an interesting five days. By interesting, I mean frustrating and boring as hell. I was told to stay home and do nothing, and that’s exactly what I did. Nothing.
Part of the reason is that I truly have been quite sick and haven’t felt like doing anything, other than sleep and read a bit. I’m convinced I got sick because I’d worn myself out to the point of exhaustion and my body decided enough was enough. Figured a little helping of pneumonia with a side of pleurisy [har] would get my attention and slow me down. Wow, did it ever. I haven’t even had the energy to write. Does that sound silly? Really, how demanding could it be to just sit there and write? Believe me, it takes a huge amount of mental energy to write. And I had none left.
But I did have long stretches of quiet time to just think. One of the things I pondered, obviously, is what it would be like if I didn’t have to go to a day job five days a week. What would I do if I didn’t “have to” do anything? I’m not sure I like the answer. Because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do anything. I think my so-called productivity — whether with regard to writing or housekeeping or anything else — would plummet to near zero. Yes, I am proof of the theory that a body at rest never leaves the house at all.
And then I read a fascinating article about the two brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who several years ago came up with the idea for Google Maps and who have now created something called Google Wave. I’m undecided in what I think about Wave, not because I’m skeptical so much as I don’t really understand it. Sounds like the kind of thing you’d have to see and use before you “got it.” Not sure I like the idea of a recipient being able to watch live as I type each letter in a message, but I’d love a chance to play around with it.
What fascinated me is the conviction the brothers held about why they were successful and innovative. It had to do with the fact that they were unemployed and almost penniless and their very survival depended on coming up with something big (Maps). The risk they faced at the time was huge. They so strongly believed this was critical to their creative process, they tried to create a similar situation of high risk while they were developing Wave. Really, read the article.
It made me wonder about creativity and pressure and whether the image of the struggling suffering artist is more a necessary condition than just a romantic icon. If a person is comfortable and satisfied, has all the time in the world and is free from stress, will they still be as creative? As productive? I suspect, in my case at least (if the past five days are any indication), the answer might be “no.”
Now I’m not saying it’s necessary to drive oneself to the point of exhaustion and illness, and I’ll try not to do that again anytime soon. Pneumonia is just not as much fun as people are always making it out to be. But I’m going to stop complaining about the financial necessity of the day job, and having to get up early on the weekend to let The Wonder Dog out, and having to write in short chunks of time or having to write rather than sleep in the wee hours when it’s finally quiet. I’m going to learn to appreciate the demands on my time and welcome them as a driving force of creative productivity. Well, I’m going to try.
I know it’s a contrary idea. Then again, I’m a rather contrary person and it might not hold true for others. But if I had more time in which to do it, I’m not sure I’d get anything done.