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8 min read

The Introspective Silence: A Tool for Creativity

by Marta Gouveia Marta Gouveia — September 6, 2018

Ever wondered why you can’t keep up most of the work you’re supposed to do? It can be chaotic when you’re dealing with deadlines so close to each other, when you have a busy week and you hope for more days to get everything done; sometimes it’s hard to organize and put all things in order, even if you have it scheduled, on agenda. It’s just not your fault. It’s a mindset we have to believe, a shift on the way we work and the way we project things to happen, a mindset called Deep Work.

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You’re Creative, Now What?

We belong to a new generation. A demanding and creative one.

To lead your path into the right objectives you should analyse your own desires. It all starts within you. When you’re younger it may seem that your love for drawing or painting is nothing but a casual activity which happens with many other kids. But it’s not, and the recipe for doing what you love is based on a simple rule – trust yourself, believe in the work you do or the one you want to achieve.

To be part of the creative world you should be persistent mostly with yourself; other people will be exigent too, push you to your limits and when the time comes you should know how to deal with it. With creativity. And let me say, it takes a lot of intelligence to be funny or ‘smart’, it’s not something you give for free or belongs to your personality. Of course it could start like that but the creative process takes a lot of thinking and strategy.

Cal Newport on his famous book of rules for focused success in a distracted world, ‘Deep Work’ argues that ‘the best piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to do creative work is to ignore inspiration.’ During the second part of his book there are also strategies for action on this reality  and methodologies for you to improve the ability to work deeply and to add deep work on your busy schedule.

You can be creative just for the pleasure of it but when it comes to work you should use some powerful skills to endure the creativity in every project you’re involved in. Although it can be difficult to have always a brilliant idea or a nice way of dealing with a tough project, there are some habits you can include in your daily life to maximise your productivity. And this leads us to the detailed elaboration of one of the four rules Newport presents to support deep work.

Rule #2

Embrace the Boredom

In this analysis Cal Newport identifies the vitality of boredom as a way to fight against the culture of business and distraction of today’s world.

‘If every moment of potencial boredom in your life – say to wait 5 minutes in line or sit alone in a restaurant until a friend arrives – is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to the point (…) where it’s not ready for deep work.’

 

Essentially to get the most of your deep work rituals you must train and exercise your brain to improve your concentration and fight against the common desire for distraction. Boredom appears to be capable of giving you the needed space to concentrate and for you to be alone with your own thoughts, something not so usual nowadays since we have access to social media called by Newport of ‘networking tools’ and sites like BuzzFeed or Reddit or the classic Netflix making us increasingly distant from boredom, deep thoughts and silence.

 

Do Not Lose Your Momentum

For any project you embrace, the word creativity is in every step of the way – it could be a marketing strategy, a rebranding process, the communication you’re using or the way you find the best solutions – “creativity” it’s frequently used as a general concept meaning people want you to be agile and close to the community in a multitasking way.

Although it may seem insignificant, one of the most valuable skills you could have, not only in a workplace but in your own life is the ability to learn how to use silence to your advantage. The moments you have to deliver an answer, talk in a presentation, share your ideas with your team; silence is a thinking tool – a challenging one.

Today we just can’t focus on one simple task, we’re asked to do multiple things which can make us uncomfortable and eventually not so happy with the general final result. Silence is the key to prioritise your agenda, to make a list of what’s really important and what will take most of your focus. Accept the Momentum, the very fine impulse which defines you.

Cal Newport relates the importance of silence with productive meditation, a shift from the traditional meditation adapted to the regular habits we do every day. It can be a routine of walking in the morning along the park, travelling between home and work on foot, taking the subway, watching people passing by; the main goal of productive meditation is to take time in which you’re physically occupied but not mentally.

As he declares ‘Fortunately, finding time for this strategy is easy, as it takes advantage of periods that would otherwise be wasted (such as walking the dog) and If done right, can actually increase your professional productivity instead of taking time away from your work’. The thing about this strategy is that it reinforces the capacity to rapidly improve your ability to think deeply and to push your focus in physically occupied times to a deeper thinking on a single problem.

Listen To The Silence

In ‘Silence in the Age of Noise’, Erling Kagge, a Norwegian explorer, author and publisher, talks about the power of silence around us and within us. He explores the use of silence to deal with life expectations, work environment, digital age and the very deep roots of our own existence.

The book expands the concepts of silence and noise and the impact on society; we are always connected, online and we cannot fight this cult of business of life beyond life itself. Kagge ask us to be offline, to connect with nature and reality as a way to be more productive, efficient and conscious:

‘Humans are social creatures. Being accessible can be a good thing. We are unable to function alone. Yet it’s important to be able to turn off your phone, sit down, not say anything, shut your eyes, breathe deeply a couple of times and attempt to think about something other that what you are normally thinking about.’

 

In fact silence has a powerful way of giving us space and time to think forward and when you’re working try to do this; when you have to deal with complex and creative projects just turn yourself off, concentrate in those specific tasks and try to disconnect, listen to the silence in order to get the answer you need.

 

Be Creative, Keep it Quiet

So to give an answer for my previous question ‘Ever wondered why you can’t keep up most of the work you’re supposed to do?’ I’ll say that nowadays listening to your own voice can be a challenge; if you’re working on a company which doesn’t give you the confidence to trust yourself or even if it does but you’re drowned in tasks and little side projects or deadlines the focus is lost.

Try to understand deep work and how it can help you to succeed; as Newport elucidates, the Deep Work Hypothesis has to do with this increasingly rare ability to perform a task without any distraction and the few who use this skill will be successful as deep work is becoming valuable in our economy. You should start analysing your work methodologies and the tasks you’re doing, select and reflect. Prioritise the complex and keep fighting against shallow work. Put your mindset on and don’t get lost in track.

And when you’re forced to be creative just don’t think, silence can talk louder than your thoughts.

Embrace your inner silence. Listening is the key to smarter insights.

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Credits:

Main Photo by  Jeswin Thomas
Mid Article Photo by  Chris Tweten
Mid Article Photo by  Raphael Schaller
Last Article Photo by  Sumner Mahaffey

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Marta Gouveia