Sitting on the Floor of an Empty Room

I'm spending a few days at my dad's house while he's away on business. I didn't bring very much with me: Mac. iDevices. Kindle. Toothbrush.

As I write this, I'm sitting on the floor of my old living room. I took my desk with me when I moved out.

There's something I love about sitting on the floor of an empty room. Just me, my computer, and a few other possessions. It has a romantic quality to it. I'm alone with only my thoughts.

But at the same time, I'm also in so much company. My thoughts are infinite, and even though they exist only in my head, they never abandon me. I'm not quite as alone as I thought.

Likewise, all that's in front of me is my MacBook Pro, but this 15" screen is a window into the vast expanses of the Internet. I can read about anything, learn about anything. I can listen to music. I can write. What more do I need?

Sitting here on the floor of an empty room reminds me that a lack of physical things does not equate to a lack of meaning. In fact, I'd argue that it augments my awareness, and subsequently, my ability to experience and create meaning. I'm not distracted by stuff, so my thoughts come through much clearer. It's quiet. My perception is heightened. I notice the air and the crickets chirping. I'm more aware of my emotions and why I might be experiencing them.

If I was surrounded and distracted by stuff, there would be no room for all that.

When we remove stuff, we create space, and we become better equipped to fill that space with meaning.

An empty room is, in some ways, the most hospitable.

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The World's Commander

When in the world I lived I was the world’s commander.

It’s weird being in a place you used to — but no longer — call home.

I was on campus yesterday, after completing my courses and full-time internship there a year ago. Back then, even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was comfortable. Safe. I had courses I was doing well in. Professors who liked me and thought I was talented. Students and coworkers who were friends and support systems. And a cubicle, which though I detested it, was always there.

Back then, it was home. I knew what I was doing. Who I was. Whom I could count on. I could walk across campus confident and self-assured.

Now I’m a stranger there. A guest. Walking across campus makes me uneasy. I walk by people who are living a life I used to be a part of, a life that I’m now just passing through. I’m just a guy who still hasn’t finished his stupid thesis.

Part of you longs to get back there, where things made sense, and you were on top of the world even though you didn’t realize it.

But a campus is just a place. You can’t take the buildings and the parking lots and the trees. You can’t take the cubicle.

But you can take with you what matters. You can take the memories and the people. You can preserve the friendships. That way, when you leave campus, you haven’t lost as much as you think.

And you can focus on being the commander of the world you live in now.

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A Creative Catalyst

Sometimes my brain feels stuck. I have a hard time coming up with new ideas, and I feel a general sense of stagnation. Dissatisfaction. Boredom.

I found myself in such a mood yesterday while I was in my room. I just felt so… bleh. I even did a bunch of push-ups and sit-ups, but nothing would shake the malaise.

It wasn’t until I left my room to go grocery shopping that I snapped out of it. I got in my car, put on Clockwork Angels at the appropriate volume, and started driving. Within minutes, I had an idea about something I wanted to write about. I jotted it down with Pop. A little while later, I thought of something else. And then something else. Before I had even arrived at the grocery store, I had a small handful of new ideas.

And I thought to myself, “Isn’t that funny?” All I had to do was start driving.

A creative block can have many solutions. Sometimes it pays to just sit in silence and think — to enter an oasis of quiet — until the ideas deep within us bubble to the surface. This sort of inspiration is internal.

But sometimes we need to look outside ourselves. In my case, sitting in my room wasn’t cutting it. It wasn’t until I got outside, in motion, that I was reminded of everything that existed outside my little room — including some things I could write about. The music, the sky, traffic, other people… observing all of these things — none of which were in my room — jumpstarted my brain and caused it to think differently. Suddenly, I wasn’t grasping for ideas in space. The ideas presented themselves to me, and I was fortunate enough to receive them.

I suppose this is a roundabout way of saying that inspiration doesn’t always have to be summoned from within. We can perhaps find it just outside the door. But then again, inspiration isn’t just over there, waiting for us to go get it. Rather, whatever’s over there may have the potential to stir something within us, something that leads to the next idea.

Instead of trying to squeeze water from a rock, consider the possibility that it may take something outside yourself to rekindle your creativity. You may be in need of a catalyst.

When stuck, take a ride.

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Stranger in a Strange Bed

Michael Schechter on The Make Mindset:

I want to do more, I want to make more and the best way to ensure that that happens is to continue this shift in my mindset from take to make. I’ve been pushing myself to put down the remote, to ignore my RSS feeds, to avoid my browser and to try and make something out of nothing. I’ve needed to push myself to make better choices and attempt more ambitious endeavors.

This is exactly the mindset I’m trying to adopt now that I’ve moved out of my parents’ house.

I haven’t been sleeping well since I moved out. The bed is loud. The birds freak out in the morning. The sun wakes me up very early.

But it’s good.

The thing about sleeping in a strange bed with a strange pillow in a strange room is that it gets me up in the morning.

My bed at my parents’ house is insanely comfortable. It’s queen-sized. The pillows are fluffy. The sheets are soft. The room is dark and silent. I can sleep for days there, in safety.

But it was too comfortable. It’s very difficult to get out of a really comfortable bed. Just five more minutes, you say. And before you know it, it’s lunchtime, and you haven’t made anything. And that’s depressing, so you retreat back to the comfort and safety of your bed.

A strange bed is easy to get out of. The mattress groans and creaks. It’s sway-backed on one side. The sheets are rough. Your feet hang off the end. This isn’t a long, deep, peaceful sleep, but merely a series of short naps, interspersed with strange noises and uneasy dreams.

And so getting up in the morning is easier. There’s no temptation to stay in a strange bed. And that initial motivation can propel your entire day forward.

A strange bed is a reminder that you are not where you want to be. Not yet.


I’m not quite who I want to be, but the more I align what I want with what I create, the more things begin to move in the right direction.

Maybe take off that extra pillow tonight.

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Movin' Out

My internet colleague and cohost, Richard J. Anderson, on The Big Move:

Once again, I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want. I certainly don’t want ten times more of what I have now. For God’s sake, I am ready, at least, to be scared shitless and stop doing what I am expected to do, and go do something new and different.

I moved out of my dad’s house this weekend.

I’ve been writing this website for eleven months, and I’ve always neglected mentioning that I lived at home, primarily out of shame. Not that I don’t love my parents — of course I do — but no twenty-five-year-old wants to admit he lives in his parents’ basement, no matter how nice a basement it is. (And mine was really nice.)

I graduated from college in 2009 and then immediately went to grad school. Because I was still a student and living on a paltry graduate intern salary, I moved back home. The initial plan was that I’d move out six months after graduation, but because my thesis is taking for-freaking-ever, those lines got blurred. Eventually, my dad and I agreed that June 1 would be the deadline.

It was a benevolent and mutually agreed upon deadline. My parents wanted me to leave the nest and spread my wings, and I wanted to not live in my parents’ basement anymore. So it’s a good thing. Kind of scary. But a good thing.

Living at home is a double-edged sword. It’s very comfortable; food, shelter, love… Everything is provided for you. But because of this comfort, complacency inevitably follows. There’s no sense of urgency when you live at home. Sure, you know you need to move out and do something with your life, but there’s no one threatening to break down your door if you don’t. You’re safe. Protected.

And why shouldn’t you be? That’s what home is. But while home is a wonderful thing, it’s not the best environment for getting to where you want to be.

Sometimes the fire under one’s ass is best lit by fear.

While I was living in my parents’ basement, I found it very hard to be productive. I got my blog posts written, but did little else in the way of creating. I certainly couldn’t work on my thesis. I was home. I was comfy. Too comfy. There’s my couch, and my computer, and my books, and my television, and my basses. I can’t do work right now. No way. I’ll do work later.

I was trapped in this vicious cycle of comfortable complacency, and it depressed the shit out of me.

And so begins Phase One of starting my life as independent.

I’m staying with a good friend for the summer. The bed is loud. The birds are loud. The sun is bright in the morning. It’s not my house.

But it’s a start.

It’s a start because, now that I’m out of the house — scared, vulnerable, uncomfortable — there’s a sense of urgency. This is the real deal.

I’m out from under my parents’ roof. I’m exposed to the elements. It’s up to me to decide what I’m going to do today to get to where I want to be.

It’s survive or die.

And I’m not going to die.

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Get Out of Your Natural Habitat

I’m writing this in the local library I used to visit when I was little. I came here to work on my thesis, and I managed to get several hours worth of work done, which wouldn’t have happened if I stayed home.

There is value in getting out of your normal habitat and doing work someplace else. At home, I’m surrounded by comforts and distractions. My bed is looking for an occupant, music wants to be listened to, websites need to be surfed, books want to be flipped through, guitars that want to be played, and so on. With all of those delights around me, how could I possibly choose to work on my thesis? Answer: I can’t.

The library is not my normal habitat. The chair I’m sitting in isn’t very comfortable; it’s not my chair. The cubicle is drab and cold; it’s not my desk. The lamp is harsh and glaring; it’s not my lamp. But, a library is quiet, and I’m surrounded by knowledge.

I always had a hard time doing homework in bed. It’s too comfortable. Too relaxing. Difficult tasks in easy places don’t mix. Desk equals work. Bed equals rest/play. You wouldn’t sleep on your desk, would you? Not on purpose, anyway. Sleeping on a desk doesn’t yield high quality rest anymore than doing work in bed yields high quality work. At least, not for me.

The utilitarian nature of this library cubicle forces me to do the work. I’m not going to surf the Internet here because I can do that in style at home, not to mention I didn’t drive here for nothing.

A new habitat forces you to see things in a different way, and subsequently to think in a different way. You’re probably so used to looking at the same things in your room, you don’t even think when you look at them. But, I’ve never sat in this library cubicle before. I’ve never looked out this window. I’ve never seen this street from this point of view. I’m surrounded by encyclopedias about the Cold War, the eighties, and names. The unfamiliarity of my surroundings puts me in a mindset different from the lazy, easily distracted one I assume every day at home. That mindset energizes me and helps me get things done. What else am I going to do in this ugly little cubicle?

Sometimes, the easiest way to fight distractions is to leave them behind.

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