Locked In

One of the tips I have heard this week while listening to the podcast about improving one’s creative output, is that if you want just one tip for expanding your creative output, it is to stay away from email for as long as you can everyday. If possible, do not check it until lunchtime.

Like many people, I suspect, I have the terrible habit of waking up and checking my phone for emails as pretty much the first thing I do every day. The practice started because I work with people who are based on the east coast, who are 2-3 hours ahead, but nowadays it really is more habit than anything else – and a bad habit.

The argument made was that going through emails, which I assume also includes responding to them, uses the five key cognitive processes (none of which I can remember, possibly because I spent my day working through emails). Once you engage with this task, it drains your resources so heavily that trying to gear back up towards creative thinking is almost impossible – like trying to start your car engine after you have had the headlights on for ages and the radio and possibly a hair dryer that you have plugged into the cigarette lighter.

So today I turned over a new leaf and resolved to do half an hour’s creative work with my cup of tea after waking up and resisted checking email – or for that matter the other black hole of the internet, Twitter.

I sat with my tea and started working on some rhyming schemes, and while doing so thought I would check back to Shelley’s Ozymandias while I was at it. By heck, it is a cracking poem. Because I had read it as an example of a rogue sonnet, I did not read it properly yesterday, but revisiting it this morning was an absolute joy. Too much joy, as it happened because when I next looked at my watch, I had been sitting with my notebook for an hour. Whoops. Turns out being creative also makes you late for work.

But getting accidentally stuck seems to have been the theme of the day. Late this evening I took the dogs to the park in the car to try and get them as much of a walk as possible before we lost the light. I had parked on some soft sand and the wheels were slightly turned, but I was not worried about getting out, I was on a slope for a start. My car had other ideas.

Look, there are many fine things about Toyota but designing cars that communicate helpfully is not one of them. I have never had a car that beeps at me so much and tells me so little. It is always trying to warn me of something BEEP BEEP BEEP but never manages to display so much as an icon to inform me what it is getting so excited about.

I am not sure what exactly I did tonight, but when I went to move the steering wheel it locked up completely and a warning flashed up STEERING LOCK ON. This was unusual for my car, because it was telling me why it was beeping, but on a par with the normal useless hints it throws at me as (a) I knew the steering wheel was locked as it was immovable and (b) it gave me no clue how to unlock it.

I tried depressing the clutch – nope, shifting in and out of gear – nope. I tried turning the car off and on again (works for computers) – nope, swearing at the car – nope. I was effectively sitting in a beeping tin can that would not let me move off without the steering lock being disengaged but had no intention of telling me how to do it, unless BEEP BEEP BEEP means something in Toyota  that I am not yet aware of.

Fortunately, and for some reason that escapes me, but may have involved cleaning the house by hiding stuff, I had the car instruction booklet in the glove compartment so I could look it up and equally luckily (and in part due to my inability to walk the dogs without looking at my phone to check emails) I had a pair of glasses in the bag I take with me on dog walks. I found the offending item and read the instruction to press the ignition, press on the brake pedal and move the steering wheel. Well, obviously that is what you have to do – what was I thinking?!

So I managed to get to lock disengaged – a lock I have managed never to find before in the four years I have been driving the car and a lock I hope never to find again. But I think that is quite enough creativity for one day. When cars start getting creative then it is probabaly time for an early night in bed with the TV.

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