How do writers stay in shape?
They usually don’t.
But writers (and all creators) do have to keep their minds in shape over the decades if they hope to maintain that career or hobby.
The mind gym
It’s now been 36 years since I started publishing and I just passed the 8th anniversary of the first edition of my biggest seller, A Lesser Photographer. What helped keep my mind in shape is also what reminded me of that anniversary — a journaling app called Day One.
I’ve been journaling with Day One for 4404 days straight. This past week, the Day One blog posted an interview with me about the details. They chose to highlight this quote about why you should journal:
” Journaling is an offshoot of meditation — a type of introspection where a record of events is welcome. It doesn’t have to mean the record is permanent. In fact, it’s probably better as ephemeral — permanently locked behind a password. But, the fact that it exists is a comfort in itself. It’s a stream of conscious. You have to have a place of your own: physically and mentally.”
But the more important quote to me was about the habit itself:
“Don’t think about it too much. Don’t be hard on yourself. Journaling is not a rule, just a routine. It helps a little with you thinking, so don’t invest more than a little. It stuck with me, but my brain isn’t yours. See what sticks for you.”
I don’t think there’s been a lot of room for nuance in the productivity-hacking space, so it’s always important to remind people that prescriptive systems for such processes are bunk.
If you do journal, it’s a good workout for your brain. I don’t think it’s as good as straight-up meditation, but the more energy you give to your journaling, the greater the results — just like in a physical gym.
The other mind gym
The part of staying creative that’s easily forgotten — but even more important — is play.
And, yes, I have an app for that too.
I’ve really grown to love Sofa. It’s an extremely simple app that provides a well-considered, customizable place for planning what you want to do during your leisure time.
Does that sound frivolous? It shouldn’t. Leisure is why we work. Wars are fought for leisure. The freedom enjoy culture, create art, and spend time with family and friends is what we all strive for, whether it’s at the end of a day, career, or life.
What we consume during leisure is also the foundation of our own contributions to our culture and relationships.
Leisure is also when we allow ourselves some separation from the distractions of everyday life. It’s no coincidence that this tends to be when we have our best ideas.
Leisure has a direct and persistent effect on the quality of our lives. So, why don’t we treat it that way?
We don’t tend to schedule our appreciation of art. We don’t daydream much anymore — Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin wouldn’t get very far today. We don’t tend to consider the media we consume based on much besides convenience or an algorithm.
We’ve built countless app temples to productivity, but precious few to why we’re productive.
Having Sofa around reminds me of the importance of leisure and sometimes that reminder is more important than the actual utility of the app.
But, damn, it’s beautiful too. It’s like appreciating art for the sake of art, while helping you determine which art to appreciate in the future.
This is the time of year for trying new habits, but very few of us experience leisure as a habit. That needs to change.
Have a great week! — CJ
P.S. It looks like Alan Rickman agreed.