Fun: The Backdoor to Better Work

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Jessica has read 15 books toward her goal of 30 books.
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I can't believe I'm already halfway through my reading goal for the year! 30 felt like a very ambitious number based on the average amount of books I've read over the past several years. Once college started, I limited myself to books that I felt were directly functional/helpful in my life in some way...books that I "should" read. But the more I limited myself to what I "should" read, the more I struggled to read as much as I felt I should. But there was a big shift over the past couple of years for me, and now I'm reading more than ever.

This issue with "should" wasn't just present in my reading. It was everywhere. My housework. My practicing. My writing. My studio management. My eating. My exercise. I felt that every spare moment should be spent doing what "should" be done. However I was doing it had to be the "right" or "good" or "efficient" way. I was exhausted all of the time, and I was becoming more and more resentful of everything that needed to get done, while also resenting anyone who was getting in the way of getting things done (including myself). Meanwhile, I watched my partner Andy letting himself have fun while also being extremely prolific. It became more and more obvious that my approach was neither effective nor necessary.

Julia Cameron says you have to satisfy the inner child so you can get work done. Similarly, Jung said, "What you resist, persists." Brené Brown's research found that Wholehearted people prioritized playtime in their lives. Thanks to writers like these and the help of my wonderful therapist and coach, I've been working through the fears that had me dragging along under the whip of responsibility while resisting my playful, childish side.

When I'm resisting fun (which means I'm not really working, either), it often takes the form of mindlessly alternating between social media apps. My well of joy is running dry, and my inner child is refusing to let me work until I go play and refill it with something that's legitimately satisfying playtime...not just another game of Candy Crush. Once I stop resisting that need, I not only have a great time, but I can get work done afterwards with much better energy. I still have to deal with things that should get done, but I'm no longer too exhausted to deal with them. 

One of the best parts of more playtime? There's a new sparkle in my creations. When my notes, words, and rhythms emerge from a place of "Why not? It's fun and I like it!" instead of "I should do it this way because...," the work feels more like me and I enjoy it more. 

I've been using this approach more in lessons, too. When students find their own sense of fun and joy in self-guided projects that seem like a diversion from the path or approach I'm envisioning, the student almost always comes back to things they "should" be doing on their own later because the "shoulds" help them achieve the things that brings them joy. They still have "shoulds" to do in their assignments that they don't really consider fun, but when they have some joy and self-directed goals mixed in, they actually do more of the "shoulds." 

I would previously have labeled this "fun-first" approach "procrastinating," but I realize now that it's completely necessary. It's not just a backdoor approach to productivity. It makes me a more complete, less anxious, healthier, more joyful human being.

What are your experiences with playtime and productivity?

#inthepracticeroom

This week, I started sharing snippets of my work in the practice room on Instagram. Follow me to get sneak peeks at what I'm working on.

Patterns and Shapes

I just spent the last 30 minutes having my mind sufficiently blown by Vi Hart on the topic of 12-tone music, thanks to Boing Boing and my friend Alan. I think it's safe to say that 12-tone music isn't everyone's favorite stuff, although I was one of the oddballs in school who loved studying and performing it. Thankfully, Ms. Hart has made it accessible using laser bats, nursery rhymes, wit, and humor, and for good measure, she throws in some ideas about copyright and the meaning of life. (It's super-fun, but probably not for kids.) It's the best 30 minutes I've spent on YouTube in a long time. Maybe ever. Don't skip a minute. The last segment won't make sense without the rest, and the last part was pure joy for me. 

Related to Stravinsky and the human brain's obsession with finding patterns, you should check out this Radiolab segment. You could skip to 7:33, but the beginning will help it make more sense: http://www.radiolab.org/2007/sep/24/sound-as-touch/