Ralph Waldo Emerson On Productivity
Leo at Zen Habits has posted another great article on productivity. The following is an excerpt from the article on Emerson’s thoughts on creativity and productivity.
Write Everything Down
“Men are born to write… Whatever he beholds or experiences, comes to him as a model and sits for its picture. He counts it all nonsense that they say, that some things are undescribable. He believes that all that can be thought can be written, first or last; and he would report the Holy Ghost, or attempt it. Nothing so broad, so subtle, or so dear, but comes therefore commended to his pen, and he will write. In his eyes, a man is the faculty of reporting, and the universe is the possibility of being reported.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
A problem that Emerson faced his entire life was the possession of an unmanageable mind. His thoughts leaped quickly from one idea to another. He had moments in life where insights sprang from his mind like water from a broken dam. During these times, Emerson had trouble organizing his thoughts effectively. Yet these deluges were gone in a flash and he was then beset with an intellectual dry spell. He compared the challenge of managing his mind to that of harnessing thunderbolts.
In order to manage these fluctuations, Emerson kept a journal. Every day he collected even the smallest thought, idea, or dream that crossed his mind. This enabled Emerson to better organize his thoughts when they flowed freely and to spur new ideas when he hit a dry spell. Writing helped Emerson make sense of the world. He would revisit the ideas he had recorded and add to them as he gained new insights. Thanks to Emerson’s journaling habit, we are blessed today with his great essays on simplicity and self-reliance.
I can relate to this post on a few different levels, and can certainly relate to the feeling of the ebb and flow of creative maelstroms. The value of journaling is clear, and the ability to collect and organize your thoughts and ideas in a single place is a fantastic way to channel your creative output (think Memex).