Every year I get older I think I'm more fucked because I can't "work" the way successful people work. They're extroverts. They tweet five times an hour. They write serial novels in their sleep. They keep notepads, they use ToDo lists, they read "Getting Things Done" and slip into its prescription program like a silk-socked foot in a slipper. Somebody else has a deck of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies they reach for. Someone else snarfs down LD-50 doses of Piracetam and Modafinil (in lieu of cocaine) and go off to sell their Startup to Google for eight figures. AND NONE OF THEM WORK FOR ME!
Mind Mapping software, Evernote, meditation, Ginko Biloba, polyphasic sleep, long walks in the woods, Exegesis therapy, eating proteins before carbohydrates, Pomodoro, I've tried it all: creativity techniques and productivity techniques and idea tracking techniques and confidence builders and motivation builders and they're all quackery.
Once or twice a year I discover something that, at first, I think is going to change everything. The "Hipster PDA" I transformed into my own version of Eno's Oblique Strategies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_Strategies), or my current flirtation with outlining software. I can't keep up with them, though. Using a fixed strategy to either come up with new ideas or keep track of them never works. Something about the method, or the software, or the user interface turns my brain into vanilla pudding.
In the long run, there have only been two things that worked. The first is from Ernest Hemmingway: Write Drunk, Edit Sober. The second is being a squirrel-brained idiot who bumps around Hubski and Reddit and Hacker News and Twitter until something clips the jumper cables from the car battery to my brain and I've written 4,000 words without having intended to.
I've easily spent several hundred dollars on Moleskine notepads and G3 pens, but whenever an idea occurs to me I've either forgotten I have them, or they aren't nearby. Instead, I have to rely on my memory.
I get an idea and realize that I don't know enough about the subject, so I begin to research. Spastically. I once paid $210 for a book, Origin of Life: Chemical Approach that reprints a slew of peer-reviewed papers about abiogenesis. Here's all I've read of it so far:
"The question 'what is the origin of life?' cannot be approached without considering the prerequisite question 'what is life?'. While the latter question has always been fundamentally related to philosophical reflections and, accordingly, to historical circumstances, the first question can be probed experimentally."
Now, you're going to love this, but the $210 book, bought Brand New from Amazon, was printed upside-down. The cover of the book is upside-down in relation to its inner pages, so you have to flip it over to start reading. And there are many other books on my shelf that I bought in fugues of research frenzy but that I've yet to read. I didn't return it because I couldn't be bothered (it's still readable) and, I dunno, maybe a collector's item someday.
When I get into a Good State I pace up and down and imagine a conversation with a Straight Man, or an interview with a TV journalist, or someone like Benjamin Franklin transported forward in time, where I have to explain how something works. You want to know what that's like? Read this:
Now imagine that happening in your head with an imaginary daughter, or imaginary Ben Franklin wanting to know how antibiotics work, a dozen times a day.
Ben Franklin: "What was that pill you just swallowed?"
Me: "That was Amoxycillin, which is what we call an antibiotic and probably the biggest contributor to human health and longevity since Jenner's vaccine for Smallpox."
Ben Franklin: "How does it work?"
Me: "Well we figured out that most sickness was caused by germs, which are organisms so small you can't see them with the naked eye, much like if you imagined a kind of flea that was capable of infesting a regular flea. They're so small that their 'skin' is a very fragile membrane that we call peptidoglycan, and the penicillin family of drugs--which Amoxycillin is a member of--interferes with the production of it. When the bacteria try to divide--a process called b... b..."
(I grope around for my phone, or do a Cmd-T to open a new browser tab, and search for 'bacteria cell dividi...' AH! Binary Fission!)
This happens inside my head all the time, and the same imaginary conversations play-out many times over the course of months or years, prompted by some outside stimulus or another. Sometimes, as I play the scene back, I can answer my own self-asked questions with Google, while in others I am sufficiently excited enough that I rush to Amazon and buy a $200 book, only to have forgotten the imaginary dialog by the time it's delivered.
Inbetween those unproductive and semi-forgotten crackles, I occasionally churn something out worth publishing. Perhaps, with discipline and a Method (tm), I can be more productive, but I either haven't the willpower or all those methods sabotage the art.
And that's why, every year I get older, I think I'm more fucked than the year before.