Working on time

Some extracurricular projects have kept me busy, and I let writing slip by the wayside for about a week. Now back to a normal schedule, or at least some semblance of it. My plans going forward will have me writing ninety minutes a day, every day.

Additionally, I’ve been playing around in some coding languages and, as it’s been a long time since I had done any coding at all, the learning curve has been a bit steep. Those two projects, plus the usual miscellany I find myself involved in, will make up the bulk of my “workload.”

Constantly seeking

There’s harm in perfectionism. Fear from feeling it’s not good enough. Procrastination because it has to start the right way to be what you envision.

Discouragement from falling short of your goals.

Perfectionism is the enemy. Seeking the perfect end, however, if approached by trial-and-error, is a good way to find success. Even if perfection is never achieved.

My content

What I write here is a cultivation of my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. They are uniquely mine, in that I don’t repeat them on social media very often, if at all.

There’s a freedom to having your content excluded from algorithms, or subject to the ups and downs of news feeds. Every day my post is the front of the page, only to drop down after my next post goes live.

Creating content, sharing opinions, and leaving it for all to see – there is value in that alone. After that, it’s up to me to say something worth saying.

Recent items 4

A temporary replacement to my weekly rundown. These are things of interest to me which I wanted to share:

  • Just about everything on TWiT.tv. I used to watch Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton on Screen Savers, a show on Tech TV back in the early 2000s. (Wow, just saying that…) While talking to a friend of mine a few weeks ago, those names came up. So I did a quick Google search and found out Laporte had this network. I’ve been diving into a few episodes, both video, and audio.
  • Trey Ratcliff’s photoblog. Not only photography but helpful instructional videos on how to replicate some of his techniques.
  • From Fast Company, is it time to rethink the 5-day workweek? (Yes.)
  • Great advice from former commencement speakers.
  • A multi-narrator reading of Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Even if you don’t think it’s your thing, I highly recommend giving it a listen.
  • And over in France, Le Joli Mai 2020Just over two weeks ago Paris lifted the lockdown, and filmmakers wanted to try something a little unique – but completely French.

To an audience of one

I have many issues with writing. I’ll admit that openly. It’s not something that I really thought of doing, writing for any purpose, but having done it almost consistently in morning pages for over four years and daily for this for the better part of the past twelve months, I’ve learned some things about myself.

One, it’s important to just do it. I can create any excuse to not, but as long as I sit down and actually write, then I’m writing. It’s really that simple.

I love research and learning, and the act of discovery. Partially why I love to travel. But when I get an idea, if I’m not careful, I can research it to death. To the point where I don’t even want to write about the idea. And if I just sit down and get some of this stuff on the page, then it’s out of me.

Two, writing to an audience is a challenge. Once I start writing to someone (or someones) that I don’t know, I start to self-censor. And that, I’ve found, to be incredibly limiting. Not that I want to throw around a lot of swear words in whatever I’m writing, but that bit of mental blockade starts to creep up – the one where you worry about what people think about you.

Steven Pressfield calls this the Resistance. On Resistance, Pressfield writes in Do the Work: “…any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.

Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these acts will elicit Resistance.”

Now I don’t know whether my form of writing could in any way be called ‘an act derived from my higher nature.’ But I do know that I have things to say, and I seem to do okay writing them out.

In writing to a mass audience I seem to lose my presence of mind in the face of resistance.

So, three, it’s better to write as if you are writing to someone specific. When Tim Ferriss wrote The Four-Hour Workweek, he wrote it “with two of [his] closest friends in mind, speaking directly to them and their problems…”

You can find a lot of inspiration for how you write from your friends who are in the same boat. Creatives who are stuck in survival jobs, or can’t seem to get past the block they’re feeling, or just can’t create for any number of reasons. I write these posts mostly to them, and also myself, trying to tell me things I’d like to hear.

Four, Ira Glass said something that resonated with me:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.”

And it’s true. You emulate the writers you like, and the work you do isn’t only derivative – it tends to be not good. And that can be crushing. The resistance takes ahold of that, and it reinforces your belief that this is all you’ll ever create: bad work.

But it isn’t true. It takes time to become better. It takes commitment. Just by the act of doing it, creating bad work, making mistakes; you get to improve then. Which leads me to;

Five. If you’re not shipping, as Seth Godin calls it, it doesn’t matter. You have to ship the work. Get it out there. Ignore the resistance as it attempts to dissuade you.

That’s a lot of what makes up my writing practice now. Come next year I’ll likely know more. And that, my friend, I’m okay with.

 

Weekends

Usually, weekends are a great time to relax. To shrug off the work week, get some things done around the house, and take it easy.

The new world doesn’t seem to take that into account. We haven’t yet sorted out the unique ways that our emotional and mental stability needs restructuring during these stressful times.

I wish that it wasn’t the case. I’d love for nothing more than this pandemic to never have happened, or at least be far behind us. But, it isn’t. Not yet.

I don’t really want to write about it. But I, like most everyone, has the virus implanted securely in their mind. It’s an incessant thought and even in those moments where you are enjoying time with loved ones, it’s burrowing its way forward trying to remind you that the world is different.

Lacking some great advice that will surely make the strain less, it’s difficult to write about much of anything. There are few words to make this moment any better. It’s a generation-defining moment. It’s an inordinate challenge that few of us, if any, were equipped to handle. We’re all trying our best and doing what we can.

So this weekend, I hope everyone is being safe and considerate as best they can. That they know with certainty that this too will pass. And that, hopefully tomorrow, I’ll have something a little to write about that isn’t focused on how I’m spending quarantine or isn’t about a pandemic.

Where it comes from

I’ve been somewhat isolated up here in Alaska. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve gotten a lot reading done, worked on a couple of projects, though not nearly as many as I should have (yet). But while I’m writing now every day, I’m wondering how much “water” is in the well.

That is, how many ideas can I pull out of my current situation?

Here, or anywhere, that can sometimes be a difficult thought.

I don’t recall which Seth Godin book I read this in, but Johnny B. Truant said: “You don’t hear plumbers complaining about plumber’s block.” (Found this quirky counterargument that, yes, plumbers can get plumbers’ block…).

People using creativity can get stifled. It happens. Stephen King doesn’t let it happen, by setting up his time to write in routine. Every morning he sits down and writes. The thoughts don’t get in the way.

Neil Gaiman also: when he sits down to write, he can either write or do nothing. By nothing, he’s talking about any other tangible task. He’ll sit there and think, stare out at the scenery, and basically let his mind wander.

And that’s what shower ideas are so damn useful! And sometimes annoying, because, you know, if you want to write that idea down, you’re in the shower and paper and pen aren’t really nearby. And you’re wet.

There was a podcast I listened to at some point, could have been three years ago, or eight, or anytime between. I don’t remember when. But the guest was talking about writing music. And how the muse would strike at the most inopportune times, like driving down the road. The tune would just fully form. But, the guest was driving, and at the time this was happening I’d assume there weren’t recording devices on cellphones.

So this guest made a deal with the muse. I’ll paraphrase what I remember, but it went like, “Muse. I’ll give you ample time to lead me in creativity. But it has to be the times that I’m able to use what you’re giving me. So, no more coming to me when I’m driving. I’ll sit down and open myself up to you every day, and that’s when you’ll visit.”

And it worked for the guest. (No, I don’t recall who the guest was, or even if it a male or a female. Only that it was a songwriter.)

All that is to say, the ideas can come from anywhere. As long as you’re open to them.

 

Half-a-year

Today is basically half a year of my posting every day. It’s… unbelievable. I wasn’t sure that I’d make it this long keeping up with daily posts. You get in a groove.

Admittedly, some days are harder than others. Some days I’ve found no time to write, heading from one gig to another. Some days I’ve been able to queue up a week’s worth of posts in one sitting.

One or two days, I just got it in under the wire.

This is a bit of a milestone for me, and thank you for taking any time to read this at all. It’s my practice and testing area; an avenue for thoughtfulness and experimentation; and a crucible of trying to come up with the right word for the right situation. But it’s been one-hundred eighty-three days, and damned if I’m not looking forward to the next six months.

And saying that, it’s basically my stay in Alaska. The next six months of posts will all be from Alaska.

Huh… How about that?

Writing is easy…

“Writing is easy. Just put a sheet of paper in the typewriter and start bleeding.”

– Thomas Wolfe

This quote has come up a few times, one a variation credited to Hemingway, others to authors I’ve not known before. But the quote has been rolling around in my head for days.

I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and I felt a very intimate sense of who she was, how she suffered, and what the journey meant. She bled, literally on the trail, and figuratively on the page. She exposed who she was.

It’s my intention to do the same, but in the writing, I always feel a bit of a filter in place. Not so much a mask of how I want people to see me, but more a guardedness about letting anyone become too intimately aware of my existence. Some sort of desire to remain among the transient awareness of reality.

It’s partially to blame for the vagabonding spirit I suppose. Anywhere I go, I can just as suddenly depart. While I’ve made many friends along the way, and good ones, any of them will say that I’m a shit-communicator when it comes to keeping in touch. Family likewise feels I stay distant, and I do.

I’m hopeful my summer will reveal more about me than I understand at this point. Cautiously optimistic, as anywhere you go, there you. But among the work requirements and the exploration, I’ll be sitting down at the computer and trying my best to bleed.

Here’s to whatever may come.