Over-productivity – Hot or Not?

Rather ironic, given my sporadic blogging, but it’s a thought I came across when I impulsively bought a ticket for WTF13. It was a thoroughly thought provoking conference and although I could only spend the morning there, I spent my time scribbling odd notes in my moleskin (work leaving present, it’s beautiful) instead of live tweeting (funny that, given the ttile – WTF = Writing The Future). There were some great talks – but the one I’m focusing on today is about over-productivity.

For those who have been dubbed the “lazy generation”, there is an overwhelming abundance of material created – text, video, image, app, programs that, in their many forms, have clogged every electric pore. It’s not melodrama when you consider 90% of data created in the world today has been created in the last 2 years ago, creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day, according to IBM analytics. 

A quintillion, for those who ask, is in academic speak – a frigging big number. As it’s one of those numbers where we can’t quite imagine the exact magnitude, Maria Conner on her blog Data on Big Data can help us to put things in perspective:

This vast amount of digital data would fill DVD stack reaching from the Earth to moon and back. To put things in perspective, the entire works of William Shakespeare (in text form) represent about 5 MB of data. So, you could store about 1,000 copies of Shakespeare on a single DVD. The text in all the books in the Library of Congress would fit comfortably on a stack of DVDs the height of a single-story house.

I don’t know about you, but there are so many things to read. So many things to watch. So many ways to occupy our time that “boredom” or “inactivity” is now a virtue. Time is the most precious thing we have, therefore the most marketable. We read reviews, wikipedia etc. before committing to something long-term. We want to know we’re getting our time’s worth. This is why series (amongst other things) do so well – we’ve got our emotional attachment so the hooks are already well and truly in. This is the same for our favourite authors and so on, of course. You don’t want to know how many books are on my list (some old, some new) that I’ve been meaning to catch up on, as well as film and TV series. I’m sure we all have lists somewhere, even if purely mental. And so the cycle continues, consuming and creating (hmm… sounds pretty dodgy).

I write probably more than I read at the moment, which is probably not the best solution. Molly Flatt in the WTF13 likened us to the part of the brain that feels it is under pressure – the amygdala (sp!) that makes us produce vast amounts of material/gush – that we feel that we must constantly create, express etc. It can be easier to sand down to build up, that’s for sure, but there must be a time for letting off steam. It can’t be constantly dialled up to 100.

So be sure to take stock sometimes and let yourself be open to ideas. You’d be surprised what things click when doing errands, or just taking a walk, or chatting with friends/family. I’ve had so many ideas from doing these things.

I’ve just done a big hand in for this year, so I’m proto-chilling (not quite), but with so many open-ended plays, I’ve decided to take a break from them and focus on little projects here and there. It’s not like me, I like to see projects through. However, I think it’s good to air out things – if only for a little while.

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