Repetition without improvement

Can you think of something that you’ve done more than 1000 times? The first thing that pops into your head is good enough.

Now think through the last time you can remember adding tangible improvement to the process of that action.

Some things may not need to be improved, but they still deserve the evaluation.

If you’re feeling adventurous, find a way to change the thing you’ve done 1000 times, and do it completely differently when you can. Shake things up and see how you react.

Dig Slightly Deeper

Imagine you’re mining for gold, armed only with a pickaxe and healthy ambition. You finally hit a small vein after a full day’s work and this is the first you’ve seen in weeks.

It’s imperative that you go just a little deeper and expand out from that spot, ensuring that you’re not leaving any gold behind.

If you’re learning a new skill, or seeking out information on a specific problem, find what you need at that moment and then dig just a little deeper.

For example, if you’re learning how to add a solid border to a button in CSS, take a moment to read about adding gradient animations as well. If you’re learning about the proper watering schedules for specific flowers, take a moment to read about their potential uses and atmospheric benefits.

You may only need distinct information now, but you’re already down in the shaft with the pickaxe. You might as well swing it a few more times.

Allow your art to surprise you

Let your art surprise you. So often it feels like we’re in a battle for new ideas and fresh takes on what we need to do.

Many times the answer is in the work. Do the work, and the work will help you find the next steps.

But there’s another thing we can try by letting the work actually do itself. It’s tricky to make this happen in every discipline, but it’s definitely possible with art and just another tool against perfectionism.

At first we think that the goal around creating things is to create something that is perfect, but that’s not the right starting point. The goal is not to create something that is perfect, but rather create something that is imperfect and then improve it.

If we have something as a base, as a starting point, not only can we get to that point faster, but it can provide a jumping board to new ideas and endeavors in a way that we could never achieve on our own with a blank whiteboard.

A great way to practice this is by playing around with Generative Art, which in my experience has been writing scripts that programmatically generate interesting visuals. At it’s base level, you’re writing code that will draw lines and shapes on a canvas in as complicated ways as you can design. The important part is introducing randomness. It could be as simple as some of the shapes rendering at random sizes, or as complex as randomized color palette.

Whatever I’ve done with Generative Art always leads down so many branches of ideas and projects. A partially finished piece will usually spark some ideas that take off on their own. If I simply sit with a piece of paper and try to plan out multiple generative pieces however, most likely I’ll hit a blank.

The goal is for the end result to be a surprise. If you’re surprised, then almost immediately you will have new ideas come to you. Move fast, let the work do itself when you can, trust yourself, and see what happens. It’s very difficult for own work to surprise us unless we let it.

100 Times

Take a look at the image below. It kind of looks like a randomly generated grid of cells. Some of them are colored, but most of them are empty. The important thing about this image is everything is random except for the number of filled in squares.

10x10 grid of squares

This image is actually the visual representation of my progress writing a novel after hitting 9,500 words. Each black square represents 500 words written, with the ultimate goal being to complete the grid and have a minimum draft of 50,000 words. I have a script where I specify the number, run the program, and then save the image.

Does this help me write? I think so. Getting the first black square on the board was incredibly motivating, and even now with only about a fifth of the goal completed, the task still feels doable. I greatly prefer this over simply watching the word count.

My belief is that any task can be broken down into less than 101 tangible steps. If I ask myself, “Can I write a book that’s 50,000 words?”, the answer is yes but with a healthy dose of doubt and intimidation.

On the other hand, I know that I can write 500 words, because I’ve done it before. If I’ve done it before, I can do it 100 times. That’s the book.

The work must be done

We have the ability to create things because the work must be done.

You have an obligation to work on your goals because the work must be done.

You will be able to write the next page of your book because the work must be done.

Other people are doing the work that must be done as well. They’re not doing the work that you have to do, they’re doing their own. Focus on what comes next, accept that these goals have been given to you along with the potential to accomplish them, and get to work. It must be done.

Starting a Daily Blog in 2021

I wish I had started something like this years ago, but for the wrong reasons.

Somewhere in my head, there’s a belief always there, hiding from me, that says if I had started much earlier, then I might currently be enjoying the success that others have. With a blog for example, I’m imagining thousands of daily readers and published collections sitting on the shelf, all available to me if I had only started sooner.

Not only is this not true (it could be, but doubtful), it’s a dangerous mentality that could easily block me from ever starting or pursuing anything at all. Starting something now does not mean I have less energy available to give it than if I had started sooner. Furthermore, it’s a disservice to myself to only focus on the things that I have yet to start and ignore the things I have already done.

So I am aware of how easily I compare my initial interest in a pursuit against the accumulated skill of seasoned experts, but I have another belief that outweighs the first. It’s also extremely unreasonable, but in a way that enables me to try things, and fail in a way that pushes me forward as a human being. It’s the belief that whatever I decide to do, I can do.

That’s all I need. I really just want to be willing to attempt. Results aren’t as important to me. What matters most is that I’m willing to live a life full of effort. A discussion can be had around what is worth continuing with and what deserves to be cut loose, but at the beginning of things, when I feel strong emotion towards possibility, I need to see action and not hesitation.

This is the first post in what I am initially intending to be a daily blog. I’m approaching it as kind of a journal used to document my thoughts, beliefs, projects, triumphs, and failures. I recognize the importance of choosing a niche, so the niche I’ve chosen for now is my collection of interests. At times they can be pretty broad, but I think they’re connected by relevant themes, and I’m excited to explore them.

I’m not sure what form that will take as things continue, but the goal is to keep things brief and instinctive, and never take it too seriously. Thinking ahead, I would be excited to have even one month’s history of successful posts, so I plan to just start there.

The awesome thing is that by just writing this first post, my productive belief has won out against my limiting one. I have written a blog post that no one will read (for now), and I will always prefer that to having nothing for them to read at all.