Grand Productivity Experiment Phase Four: Exhaustingly Successful!

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that no part of your life is about to burst into unmanageable flames. But keeping it that way, it turns out, is rather tiring.

Dance with spinning plates2(js)
Last week went something like this.
Day 1: did something in each of seven areas and had energy for more!
Day 2: did something in each of seven areas.
Day 3: did two errands, two loads of laundry and nothing else.
Day 4: did something in each of seven areas, trying not to overdo it.
Day 5: did something in about five areas, but very slowly
Day 6: (people day) full of people, busy pretty much all day.
Day 7: (rest day) rested – and boy was I ready for it!

So on the one hand, I’d call the Seven Areas (Seven Spinning Plates?) Method a roaring success; on the other hand I’m either going to need to scale it back a bit or build up some more stamina. Or maybe only do 15 minutes in any one area.

This week, I’m trying another of my own inventions, which I call Inculcating the Right Frame of Mind. (Really needs a catchier name. Suggestions?) It came about as a reaction to my usual habit of bullying myself into doing whatever needs to be done (or more often, not doing it at all, because I don’t respond well to intimidation).

Chongqing yangjiaping 2007
I won’t and you can’t make me!
In Dorothea Brande’s excellent little book Becoming A Writer, she writes that, “in changing habits, you will find yourself getting your results far more quickly and with less ‘backwash’ if you engage your imagination in the process instead of calling out the biggest gun of your character equipment [the will] first.”

I’ve written about this before, or something like it. But there are more possibilities than, say, looking at a houseful of chaos and asking oneself What Would Jeeves Do? A picture of a garden might inspire one to go out and hoe into the weeds; a book or fantasy movie might inspire one to change how one lives in one’s home; reading about one’s personal heroes – whether individuals, groups or societies – might inspire one to have another stab at emulating them. For some people, music might be the thing that inspires them.

So this week, instead of browbeating and bullying myself into doing what is needful, I’m going to set about cultivating enthusiasm for the task that lies ahead.

What inspires you to joyfully go about the tasks before you?

Visual Inspiration

I used to have a scrapbook when I was little.

It was actually half a scrapbook, some excessively sensible parent having decided that a scrapbook as large as the child could prove problematic. (Visions of their little darling pasted flat between the covers?)

Big book

Or possibly the number of children involved exceeded the number of scrapbooks. Sharing a scrapbook is best done only with someone who has the same tastes as you; and small children are not noted for their predilection for sharing in any case.

Once I got over the trauma of seeing such an Atlas among scrapbooks (hur hur, sorry…) cut in half, I quite enjoyed the thing. I have vague memories of gluing pictures in to the scrapbook with my father (the gluing happened with my father, not to him.) That was more than twenty years ago, so I can be forgiven for vagueness of memory, I think.

The point, however, is that I enjoyed scrapbooking – the proper old fashioned sort with gluepot and scissors, none of this fancy sticker-studded deckle-edged album stuff you get these days. Proper old-school cut and paste.


So I was quite pleased when the Artist’s Way chapter for May (details to follow) suggested – nay, encouraged – the starting of a scrapbook with images that inspire, encourage, and remind you of the life you want to be living.

In my case, this includes straw bale houses, nice writing spaces, clothes I like the look of, and my own kind of LOL: Little Old Ladies.

Little old lady reading in the park - Orton effect

In a magazine I found a marvellous LOL perched on top of a woodstove knitting, but she looked so comfortable I decided to leave her there. For now.

I’m not entirely sure where the LOLs sprang from, but possibly it has to do with the discovery of my first white hairs and the realisation that what I want to be when I grow up is, in fact, a little old lady.

Visual inspiration comes up a lot in writing, especially for those writers who are visually oriented.

Some have photos of their ideal ‘cast’ to hand while they write, others collect images that evoke the tone or mood they’re going for in their WIP.

The Beaten Path

Some have images more related to writing itself than to the thing they’re writing – an aspirational picture of where they’d like their writing life to be going, or an image of someone or something that inspires or encourages them to keep going.


Some have images of their setting – the more artistic being able to create their own, the rest of us cadging off others – or from the real world. This, for example – ideal fairytale castle for the more realistic sort of kingdom (none of that Neuschwanstein insanity here, thankee kindly):

Fairy tale castle

One writer I’ve heard tell of has a mock-up of the cover of his WIP above his desk so he can see what he’s pushing for.

What about you?
Do you use visual inspiration?
Digital, pasted in a book, stuck on a wall or to the fridge? And do you hunt & gather or grow your own?