Creation > Consumption

Creation > Consumption

It's easy to fall prey to simply consuming, and not creating. Reading about the stuff that'll improve your skills, your habits, or your very being, certainly contributes to some sort of growth. However it's important to remember that one, ridiculously simple fact:

Read all you want about making something, but at some point that "something" needs to be made.

Austin Kleon talks about how all advice is autobiographical, and this one is no different. Personally, I find it's so much easier to read, watch, and listen to what others have made, than it is to sit down and just BE in that self-inflicted torture chamber of creativity and creation.

You'll never feel truly ready to do the thing, but at some point you just gotta decide to "do what you can, with what you've got, where you are".

Fun fact: That last quote is often misattributed to Theodore Roosevelt, but in his autobiography from 1920, Roosevelt himself quoted Bill Widener, calling it "a bit of homely philosophy which sums up one's duty in life".


The written word, and its life span

  One of the earliest known signs of writing, from the Sumerian culture around 3100–2900ish B.C.

One of the earliest known signs of writing, from the Sumerian culture around 3100–2900ish B.C.

If you look at a photograph from a hundred years ago it could easily stop you in your tracks. The content, and the context, of that specific photo might stir up some emotions. It might be a piece of clothing from a different era, maybe you start to analyze how the photo was taken based on the approximate date. Whatever it is, it’s still intriguing after all these years, which brings us to the conclusion that an image has a long life span.

The problem these days though is that it’s all bites and pixels. Same thing with text. it’s all ones and zeros. How will they be viewed in a future far from now? How will they be remembered? Will a hand-written word have a longer life span than a digital one?

If we want our words, our thoughts, to be remembered in a distant future — say a hundred, or even a thousand years from now — what is the best way to go about saving them?

Write blind, edit later

You might’ve heard the saying “Write drunk, edit sober” (a quote that seems to be misattributed to good ol’ Hemingway). Which hypothetically could be helpful every once in a while, because it’s implying something about your intentions and thresholds. When you’re drunk you‘re likely to lack the patience to think things all the way through. And you can’t really bother to find the perfect words that’ll result in the most descriptive, precise, and beautiful sentence humanity has ever read. Basically you don’t really give a fuck.

Nevertheless, you have a thought, and clumsily you make letters appear on the screen, hoping that you’ll be able to get the gist of it at a later point.

With that thought in mind I recently started to write blind. What I mean by that is that I turn down the brightness of my screen to zero. My screen is completely black. Which relates to the whole “writing drunk”-thing. Granted this technique does require a certain familiarity with the keyboard in order to be some-what efficient. Nonetheless, when you can’t see the actual characters you’re typing out you don’t end up obsessing over typos. Instead you’re getting your thoughts out there so you can look back on them later.

You can’t edit what you can’t see. I’ll admit I find myself hitting backspace quite frequently when I can feel that I’ve spelled a word wrong, but that’s ok. There’s just no way you can possibly go back any further than 5–10 characters without completely losing track of where you are in the paragraph.

As a sidenote this opens up for some really interesting, and slightly innovative technologies. Being able to type on a keyboard without having a screen to disturb you, but at the same time, knowing that it’ll all end up in Google Docs, Evernote, or Dropbox would be super helpful. It allows you to focus on the writing, and nothing but the writing.

That’s where apps like OmmWriter have gotten so close. They’ve done a fantastic job optimizing the writing process for you, but they’ve left the one thing that will constantly disturb you — the letters in front of you. If you’re writing you need to write, and nothing else. You don’t need to edit straight away. Save that for later. Focus on the thoughts you need to get out.

Perfection and its flaws

P for Perfection – A quality, or standard that no one can actually live up to.

It’s a mountain you can’t climb, yet so many aim for it.

A moment in time might feel perfect in all its glory and wonder. But if you scratch that surface it’ll be like looking underneath a big rock in your backyard, simply to discover a lot of bugs and spiders. That’s what perfection is.

An undefined ideal full of expectations, anxiety, and dissapointment.

The opposite of perfection however – imperfection – is both fun and inspiring. Full of flaws and give-a-fucks. It’s being true to yourself. And it’s being honest and vulnerable to others.

Don’t strive for perfection, strive to get the work done.

No, your stuff is not original, but that's ok.

During my first two years at college, studying graphic design, I remember beating myself up for not being "original". For not being good enough, and not living up to my potential. Now these are really difficult emotions to deal with for anyone, but in my case there were two specific moments where I suddenly managed to lower my shoulders just a bit. Where I managed to relax more, and be just a bit nicer to myself, by letting myself off the hook every once in a while.

That was the first time I watched Kirby Ferguson talking about how Everything Is A Remix. (This really ought to be the introduction to creativity in general.)

And when I was introduced to Austin Kleon's concept of stealing like an artist.

For way too long I was aiming for perfection, for that alluring "100% satisfaction" with your own creation. But that's simply not possible. Attempting to reach perfection in anything is setting yourself up to personal failure in the end. No matter how hard you try, or how much you work, you will never reach perfection.

Neither will you ever be able to create something that is so mind-blowingly original that the world has never seen anything like it before. There will always be inputs, or even epiphanies, in the process of creation. And those elements are the ingredients of your own remix.

What comes out of our heads is nothing but a result of what we put in it.
— Jihad Lahham, from the book "1000 ideas by 100 graphic designers"

The moment I realized that fact it made everything more enjoyable. The process of creating something is still a hassle from time to time, like everyone else I still doubt my own capabilities as well as reasons for doing what I'm doing, but my default state of mind is way more relaxed than it used to be.

The never-ending pursuit of knowledge

We all consume more information, inspiration etc. than we produce. More thoughts go in than out. After a while this can start to feel tiring. It just feels like you're wasting time. Gary Wu said it wonderfully:

Information overload is a real concern these days. It leads to analysis paralysis and a never-ending pursuit of knowledge just for the sake of knowledge.

There will never be a point in time when you've "finished" the information game. There is no end goal. There will always be new things to learn, more knowledge to absorb, more thoughts to process. The one thing you need to keep in mind, and to further quote Gary Wu's answer on Quora"If you're unhappy with where you are and how you're spending your time, it's best to reduce your consumption."

The most important thing you can do is to be aware of how much you consume, compared to how much you produce, how much you publish for the world to see.

If you can relate to this as much as I can I definitely recommend reading "Create more than you Consume", by Mikael Cho, as well as "Stop Consuming, start acting" by Paul Jarvis.

Daily struggles through centuries

I was reading in Mason Currey's book Daily Rituals, where I came across this passage about James Boswell. And I gotta say, it feels good to know that the same struggles I face on a daily basis, and most likely every other person as well, was the exact same in the 18th century.

James Boswell (1740-1795), the great British diarist and biographer often had a terrible time getting out of bed in the morning, and frequently fell prey to the “vile habit of wating the precious morning hours in lazy slumber.” For a while he even considered trying to rig up some sort of anti-oversleeping mechanism: “I have thought of having my bed constructed in a curious fashion. I would have it so that when I pull a chord, the middle of the bed would be immediately raised and me raised with it and gradually set up on the floor. Thus I should be gently forced into what is good for me.
— Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey

Reminds me of the morning routine in Wallace and Gromit:

Words of wisdom, mostly for creative people

If your work or hobbies rely on creativity, listening to either one of these commencement speeches will help to keep you sane.

.. So be wise. Because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise, then pretend to be someone who is wise and just behave like they would.
— Neil Gaiman
I never really had one of these dreams and so I advocate passionate, dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you.
— Tim Minchin
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
— J.K. Rowling

What I would check out if I was you #3

  1. Louis CK on how everything is amazing, and nobody's happy
  2. Monica Lewinsky aims to change the culture of humiliation.
  3. How the Sagrada Familia will look like when it's finished in 2026, 144 years after the construction began.
  4. A new look at the past, old photos you've probably seen before, but now in color
  5. How Facebook distorts your reality.
  6. A year of planning resulted in a 5 minute video showing the most beautiful landscape Norway has to offer.

  7. Everything sucks some of the time, that's why you should give these 7 silly and philosophical questions some serious thought.