I am extremely envious of my wife, who is able to achieve a moderately high level of productiveness, constantly, all day long. She gets up at seven and works steadily all day, and then crashes precipitously exactly twelve hours later, leaving me at my own recognizances for putting children quietly to bed. The next day, same results. My own productivity runs more like those Halloween costume stores you see in October. No one knows where they came from, but they do a bang up job for an extremely short period of time before disappearing into the night.
I have to wait for the click.
Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a surprisingly useful piece of literature for reflection. In it, Brick Pollitt spends the majority of the play drinking, in pursuit of “the click,” a certain peaceful state of mind. Fortunately, alcohol has nothing like that effect on me, but I find I am only really productive after a similar click, where I enter in to a flow where I become insanely productive for several hours.
What gets me there is quiet meditation, so it’s something like a Zen state. Only thinking about nothing is not a valid kind of meditation. Prayer works, and singing. But mostly for me it’s reading. Especially when I’m stressed, I wake up and it hurts. Nothing physical, but my mind is out of joint. Mentally, I’m thirsty. I need to read.
Reading scripture is best; it leads to praise and prayer, but I usually start with popcorn text: Facebook, Twitter. Thoughtful articles on various blogs. Long-form investigative reporting. Then scripture. Then Bible commentary. Slowly inching up, widening my aperture for thought. Then: click. I can think. Widely, broadly, productively. Occasionally, practically.
Under stress, from a hard start, it’s a process that can take 3-4 hours. I don’t usually get 3-4 hours. But I get what I can with the time that I have, hiding in a makeshift study somewhere, building up reserves until I’m interrupted by some event, called upon to react.
I don’t like being reactive; much better to wait for the click; ten times the productivity. But so hard to get together the necessary blocks of time.
Caffeine helps, of course. It kind of jump starts the entire process. With a sufficiently large dose of caffeine, I can skip straight past meditation into 2-3 hours of reactive productivity. Very useful in my line of work. But there are diminishing returns. Too much caffeine and the mind is dizzy the next morning. Always better to wait for the click.
Sometimes I think that I might get similar results from a few hours of intimate conversation, but it’s been a very long while since I could test it. So many conversations are… reactive instead of meditative.
So there it is. Is this introversion? I’m not really hiding from people. The need to be kind draws me out. But I’m thirsty for the flow state, always waiting for the click.