A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
Where to Do Your Best Work
Yesterday, I disturbed the spider ecosystem thriving on Tiny Porch (TP), the official name of the screened porch of my backyard Tiny House Office (THO).
My THO is a small office I built in my backyard; it’s where I do my best work. (You can read the back story on it here.)
I’d been meaning to take care of that spider situation all summer. But I’d been avoiding it, instead breezing by it with blinders on.
Kidding myself about the growing number of feathery webs.
Ignoring the small, growing piles of spider trash on the floor—the chewier parts of a fly, the undigested husk of a beetle. Spiders can be real pigs.
Then I started noticing more and more egg sacs—tiny cement-colored balls that seem rolled out of boiled wool and dirt. They look like sepia-tone models of that spiky Coronavirus ball.
That image has been everywhere this year, and now here it is on TP. Time to sweep.
Reclaiming Your Space
It was only later that I thought of the obvious metaphor—cleaning out the cobwebs, reclaiming a space.
The satisfaction of doing the claiming yourself. Of finishing your own unfinished business. Giving yourself a clean slate. A spider-free, virus-free spot to do your best work.
Georgetown professor Cal Newport says the details of the physical space you work in can substantially up the quality of what you produce. Giving yourself a place you feel good in helps you maximize what you get out of your brain.
Cal calls this principle “location-boosted cognition.” A place free of cobwebs, actual and metaphorical, is especially important for anyone who does a lot of thinking work—like marketers, like writers.
Cal’s description of “maximizing brain output” and “location-based cognition” feels a little bloodless to me. But, then again, his job is to create bloodless names for what goes on inside Tiny Houses tucked under a copse of trees in late August.
Especially in late August, when (as Thoreau wrote) “the year is full of warnings of its shortness, as is life.”
This time of year, he gets a little melancholy, that Thoreau. He saw late summer and early fall as the “night of the year.”
Time is closing in—on the year, as it will eventually on our lives. (See? Melancholy.)
So Thoreau challenges us, in his classic heavy-handed way that’s either wildly motivating or mildly depressing (or both): “What have we done with our talent?”
Also: I am a little melancholy this time of year during almost any year. But especially this year, when all kinds of spiders are spinning on overtime in my head.
Which is why I needed to clear out my own cobwebs. Which is why I needed to clear the rubbish heaps I walk by on my way to do my best work.
As August rolls into the fall, most of us are still working from home, and homing from work. These are questions we need to ask ourselves now, 5 months into this pandemic, in the night of the year:
- What are the cobwebs you need to clear to do your best work? Actual cobwebs; metaphorical, too.
- What business from the year is still unfinished? And what can you do this week to get closer to finishing it?
- How can you reclaim your space to do your best work?
Tweet me. Email me. Send me a signal. Let me know.
I’d love to hear.