I’m re-reading Cal Newport’s “Deep Work,” an accessible and forthright book about how you can—and why you should–forcibly abandon the distractions that keep you from doing your deepest and most valuable work.
One of the points he makes is that we need to set up our lives to accommodate this type of work. We have to train our minds and our habits to support times of extended focus on thinking, reading, and writing, and we have to do it because the world is clamoring for our attention.
Newport uses several examples of people who have made huge breakthroughs in science and art and other fields, and points out the rigorous schedules of deep work that they keep. Whenever this topic comes up, I think about Shakespeare. At this long remove from his life and times, when basically all we have is his body of work and a few biographical tidbits, it’s easy to label him a genius (and he was.) But “genius” is a cop-out. What Shakespeare had was a talent for writing and a whole bunch of bills—he made his living as a writer. He couldn’t wait for genius; he had to sit down and churn out the pages. Without the script, the play wouldn’t go up on time, and he wouldn’t get paid.
When we call someone a genius we are shortchanging their hard work and our own potential. What could we produce, given enough time and space to really immerse ourselves in our deep work? What is there, waiting to reveal itself once we get away from the pings and dings and open-office distractions?
I really recommend Cal Newport’s blog. Check it out here: http://calnewport.com/blog/