Getting Violent, Flaubert Style

Things have died down on the “GTD is not for creative work” meme that I wrote about a few weeks ago. I’ve been thinking about that whole exchange and my own reaction. In particular, my response – that GTD enables instead of inhibiting creativity – was probably too narrow. I think any systematic plan for dealing with taking out the trash and paying bills enables creativity.

MPU listener Jason Ayala sent me a great quote from French novelist Gustave Flaubert, “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Gustave got it right. Perhaps my greatest asset is the fact that I’m not very sharp. My mother told me some great stories about the herculean efforts it took to teach me to read. While I may not have been sharpest pencil in the box, I was wise enough to recognize it. I knew very early that I’d need focus and discipline to have any chance. It worked. I did well in school not because anything came easy, but because I worked my ass off. I sometimes think I invented life-hacking in 1974 at the age of six.

Since then, my life has been one long string of self-imposed constraints and one gargantuan exercise in mindfulness. When I pull it off, great things happen and I get to be violent all over my creative work.