On breaks, endings, process, divisions and great grand narratives…

I can’t be the only person who is suffering from an enormous collapse in motivation as we enter the last week before Christmas. I only wish I could say for certain that the timing was the only cause. Anyway, the consequence remains the same – I’m not feeling that an enormous amount of value is coming out of my head at the moment. And the stuff that does come out of my head isn’t necessarily often being translated to the written word.

I think there’s a danger that we conflate these things – that a site that you’ve used to express your thoughts for a very long time starts to become a burden/pressure and an impediment to thinking. So you don’t write your thoughts down in the same way. Are you still thinking? And if not, are you not thinking because you’re hung up on the immediate expression of those thoughts. Is the act of writing something down a process of ‘capturing’ your ideas, or is it just packaging and selling them off as quickly as possible. What if the social nature of your platform isn’t something you have time to engage with? How long does it take for a one-sided discussion to lose all meaning?

The big push in my life over the last few weeks has been a very different one. I’ve been organising stuff. Mostly I’ve been trying to impose order on my flat – working my way through many many years of paper and bought things and odds and sods of crap that I thought I couldn’t live without. I’ve learned two things – I can live without a hell of a lot of crap and that all imposed order is fleeting. In cleaning my flat I’ve recognised that writing for my site has come to have the same atmosphere to it as sorting through paper and doing the washing up. It feels like an action that is pure maintenance. Day on day, work must be done. But where’s the end result? Where’s the epic project with the huge pay-off or the addictive sense of satisfaction that makes everything else seem worthwhile?

I’ve been pushing for that feeling at work a lot too. Being at the heart of a big project that I really believed in has spoiled me for much of this other stuff. Those sensations of getting somewhere, of contributing and of helping to build something great are quite intoxicating and rewarding. But what to do when your have to move on? How do you get yourself re-engaged in a new project? When your back is to one source of heat, maybe it’s harder than ever to discern other warmth around you. Unless, perhaps, the heat is moving with you?

My feeling is that the process isn’t enough, the thinking isn’t enough, the milking and shifting of thoughts from my head onto screens and across the world isn’t enough. Organising stuff, maintaining stuff, keeping the wheels turning – not good enough. I want more. I need more. But maybe there isn’t more. Because there aren’t ends, there aren’t conclusions. Histories are structured in the act of telling. Breaks and shifts – beginnings and endings – these appear after the fact through interpretation. Am I struggling for a narrative closure and a ‘brand new chapter’ that the world simply cannot afford me? Am I struggling to fit the flows of experience into the same structuring world-views and aspirations to totality that I use professionally every day?

Or maybe I need a few days off and a bit of a change of context. Maybe all I need in the run up to Christmas is a few easy drinks, some food and family in Norfolk and a complete forcible dislocation from the most challenging, frustrating, rewarding and hard-to-get-over year of my life so far. I’m hoping it’s true. Is a phase shift on the horizon? I think that it might be, but it could be a mirage. Roll on 2005? Well I guess we’ll see.

6 replies on “On breaks, endings, process, divisions and great grand narratives…”

No, you’re not the only one. I’ve been feeling it for a while — and various other people I know are feeling similar. I’m not entirely sure it’s down to any one thing; more a culmination of a whole series of minor negative factors that are building up.
A change of scenery and context can do the world of good, though it can also make everything seem horribly mundane upon your return.

I hear you. I had one of those fantastic projects three years ago that had lasted two years (okay, only 18 months and the last 6 were trying to figure out how to move on). I moved on and got a nice increase, but the fantastic fun and spark is gone. The pace is slower, but it allowed my life to move on. I bought a house and had a kid with my wife.
I too am looking for that next wonderful project. I see a lot that needs to be improved and a lot of potential for great projects and products. Maybe 2005 will be the year that sees things happen, including my feeling like I am back involved moving forward. I spend so much time trying to explain the way forward to people who spend their time looking at the vision of the future in their rear view mirror. The mirror is firmly tuned into two to five years ago.
Tom, no you are not alone. I keep seeing the lull and am hoping there is something wonderful around the corner that will require this energy and force.

[new guy speaking up… please be nice.]
while i also feel to have reached the lower end of my motivational spectrum (which, in my case, probably has to do with the heterogeneous distribution of workload in my line of work – sudden and drastic increase shortly before christmas time and then a deep hole a couple of days right before christmas, lasting until mid january) and while i also agree that it might be a good thing to leave things be that have turned from vent/inspiration/self-therapy to an automatic drag… i’d also like to point out that there are times, when mechanical activities (whether physical or mental) can do a world of good.
if i may, i’d like to give an example: for the last 7 years now i’ve been trying to write a book, a novel. everything’s there: the story, the characters, the structure – in my head. but in the past 7 years i have not finished more than the first page of this novel. mind you, i’ve rewritten this first page a good zillion times, but never managed to get further than that. so, these days i find myself – mechanically, automaticcaly – sitting down once each week in front of this darned page and edit it. i just pick out sentences that i don’t like any more, rephrase them and/or add/subtract a paragraph that i either don’t understand any more or don’t like. but this has kept me from blocking up the other things that i am writing. this makes all other things that i write seem like a breeze. do i make sense? i hope so.

Yes that makes sense. In the past few years, I have started three novels, two screenplays, a solo album, two graphic novels and I’m sure somewhere in my filing system I’ve made a start on some new form of life as well. What’s even more bizarre, I consider these projects to be ongoing, even though realistically I know the chances of me finishing any of them are minuscule.
See, in my day to day work, I have project managers and timeboxes. In my band, I have the other four band members to motivate and inspire me. In my personal work, I have only myself. I once had an appraisal at the web agency where I was employed, where I was told that I was a great starter-originator and a terrible finisher-completer. It comes particularly home at this time of year as we expect some form of closure.
In 2005, I will do something abut my unfinished work. But I said that last year too. Oh well. there’s always Gin.

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