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Maxvoltar - After the Zone

Maxvoltar is the personal weblog of Tim Van Damme, a freelance interface designer at Made by Elephant.

50° 54' 47" N, 4° 25' 50" E

After the Zone

I’m standing on my balcony smoking my last cigarette before I hit the sack. It’s a quarter past midnight. Early night. Just had a great evening of zoning. Girlfriend went out with colleagues, leaving me and the cats to rule the house (I work, they sleep). A couple of hours ago, I was standing on the exact same spot, doing the exact same thing, and was thinking: Is there such a thing as a Creative Zen? If so, how does this relate to the Creative Zone? I should write an article about this…

Because, back then, I felt like I was in the center of the my universe, fully responsible for the past, and in almost total control of what the future will bring. I was in peace with my scheduling until the end of the year, and with everything that happened in the last couple of months. (Yes, I had a burnout, and yes, I finally know the cause of it. It wasn’t just because I worked too much, ignoring the hours a human body should be resting. I was eating soup with a fork. But, and this is the part of life that I love, I learned from my mistakes, wrote them down in my Moleskine, and moved on, carrying that extra wisdom in my back pocket.) Here’s how I got in my Zen: Went playing tennis, came home and ate dinner, took a hot shower, went outside in the cold and lit a cigarette. As soon as the first stream of nicotine went through my body, my own Zen was born. Your “path to Zen” will probable be a lot different from mine, but you should try finding out what “does it” for you.

I think the Creative Zen has the same (or even more) value the Creative Zone has. Working behind a computer screen all day (and night), following up on email, Twitter, RSS and IM is a pretty hard task for the brains. Your computer is multi-tasking, and so are you. Once and a while, you got to step back from what you’re doing, and look at the bigger picture. I’m not talking about where a project is going, or if you will make that deadline or not. I’m talking about where you are going. Are you happy with the creative growth you’ve experienced in the last couple of months? Are you happy with the way you do business, compared to how you did it when you first started your own company? Are you happy with just about any goals you set for yourself?

People need goals. Long term goals, short term goals. This keeps them on track with their life, their self esteem, and probable also their mental state of mind. Get into your Zen a bit more often, and maybe that’ll project itself in you getting into your Zone more often.


  • Jason Cale

    5007 days ago

    I’m not sure I’m I’ve found Zen yet .. I just tend to plug the hole with booze..

    On a side note, (and this is probably just lingering addiction) .. but I still feel that since I gave up smoking I’ve lost some of my powers .. It definitely focused me somewhere, be it in the zone or in mushy nicotine heaven..

    definitely something to ponder, while I wonder if im going to get this work done .. :)

  • Francis Booth

    5007 days ago

    Thanks Tim, this has really struck a chord. Balance and mindfulness are beautiful in thir simplicity, yet devilishly difficult to achieve.

    Sorry to hear about your burnout.

  • Jason Robb

    5007 days ago

    Awesome thoughts, Tim. Burnouts (like failures) aren’t all bad. They’re a blessing in disguise! Glad to hear you pulled through.

    So what I’ve gathered from this is that there isn’t just a short-term zone, the “right now” zone. But also a long-term zone, the one ahead of and behind us.

    Taking a moment to appreciate and contemplate the wake of your existence is crucial to healthy, short-term zonin’. Very nice perspective.

    Definitely going to give this some more thought. I’ll let you know what I find. Thanks!

  • Jason Robb

    5006 days ago

    More thoughts on “After the Zone” here:

    Not claiming that I take Tim’s thoughts much further. But relevant none-the-less.

  • prisca

    5006 days ago

    Tim, thanks for this post. Very nicely written and definitely worth thinking about…
    The multitasking we all do everyday can end up in a blur – striking the right balance then becomes a juggling act. Stepping back to consider – easier said than done but ever so important.

    Thanks for your thoughts :-)

  • Luke Dorny

    5006 days ago

    Well done, Max.
    An interesting read.

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