Focusing My Serial Obsessions
I have what I believe is the opposite of an addictive personality. Whether we’re talking about eating, touring, gaming, drinking, or bowling (or drinking while bowling) it doesn’t take long before I feel it’s time to change things up or move on to something new.
But I do have what I call Serial Obsessive Disorder. During a Serial Obsession, I enjoy things intensely and at great depth, taking deep dives into a concept or task like it’s the most important thing in the world, and then, after a time, just move on. Usually there is a nugget of insight, or key bit of learning from that experience that I can take with me to the next obsession. Sometimes that insight is nothing more than the fact that I’m not very good at fill-in-the-blank (like my failed attempt at guitar building). Others are great discoveries (like how synths are amazingly versatile noisemakers) and become incorporated into my regular way of doing things.
But sometimes an obsession can be a complete waste of time. I won’t be writing about politics in this blog (there are plenty of blogs about that!) but I do admit to becoming obsessed with news and politics from time to time. It’s like sports for me–and I get about as much out of it as one does from watching (and not participating in) sports. There are moments of intensity that fade pretty quickly with the next news cycle or the next rise and fall of this or that politician, and there is not much to show for all the attention I paid.
Now I should state here that I do believe everyone should be reasonably informed because otherwise our democracy cannot function. However, there are practical limits to how much energy you can and should devote to certain types of information. Your time, productivity, creativity, and mental health all depend on knowing where those limits are.
So last week, I took some steps to lead me away from news consumption and towards the obsessions that matter more to me: music, sound, video, and related topics. These are huge (almost infinite) areas of interest and one discovery always leads to many others, so time spent reading and learning about them always feels enriching.
Here is what I did:
- First, I deleted all the links in my bookmarks bar–like those you probably have at the top of your browser right now. Most of them were to news sites. I know where to find those sites, but having the links up there made it so easy and habitual to click and be lost for an hour or more in some story that didn’t matter to me just a minute ago.
- Then, I replaced those links with ones that will feed my music obsession in some way or another. Plus a few links to sites that will give me useful tools that can make my life or creative process better.
- I got a new app on my iPhone named Pulse (basically a news feed reader) and loaded it up with many of the same links. I put that app in a place more prominent than my news apps. I made the other music apps on my phone more easy to access as well.
- I reorganized the desktop on my computer so that the folders on my desktop all quickly lead me to a project that will get me making music, or at least working on some tiny part of a musical piece.
- Another step I took a while ago was moving all the games off of my computer. Did I mention I also like games–another potential time-killer? Getting a game console (both a Wii and a PS3, if you must know) was no great sacrifice, but it did move the games out of my studio and into a separate entertainment space. There are times when your brain needs to consume art rather than create it, and now I have no illusions when I’m in the entertainment room which one my brain is doing.
- I plan to similarly organize my Twitter feed. The news can be it’s own category that otherwise stays invisible.
- I’m rearranging my physical space as well. (This is a whole other blog post.)
I don’t wish to cure my “Serial Obsessive Disorder.” The focus it gives me has helped me do some pretty cool things. But I do need to hone it.
Any other ideas? I’ll post more as they come to me.