Doing Nothing No More

Sometimes I find myself paralyzed by indecision. I have so many things I want to do but I end up doing nothing. I think I fear not being able to finish something so I never start. The promise of what could be completed and the hope of that future completion is a powerful sedative. The dream becomes the goal rather than the realization of the dream. When you do nothing with your dreams, you risk nothing and you have no potential for failure.

But, at the same time, if you avoid risk and failure your whole life, then you risk failure of your life.

So what’s the solution? Is there a magic bullet that gets a person motivated and kicks them into gear? Yes and no. There are many motivators in the world but I don’t think there are any universal ones. I’ve found that the best solution and the one that comes closest to working for everyone is to just start moving.

Make a single brush stroke, write one line of code/poetry/your story, take a picture, get a person’s phone number out, or put one thing away. Each of these things is an accomplishment in itself and can then act as a springboard for doing more. Your brain will feel the pleasure of an accomplishment and will crave more. This craving will almost always be more powerful than the sedative of dreaming without doing.

Music and Creativity Don’t Mix?

I came across an article on called How listening to music ‘significantly impairs’ creativity. In the past, I had heard the opposite. Music could actually unlock your brain’s creativity. Of course, your choice of music has a lot to do with whether or not it will help or hurt what you’re working on. Actually, what you’re working on has a lot to do with it too.

For me, it ultimately comes down whether I need focused thinking or diffuse thinking for the task at hand. If I’m trying to follow a logical path (understand a piece of code I didn’t write, or absorb a passage from a book) music is likely to throw me way off. However, if I’m trying to come up with a unique idea or solution (how to code a function or write a piece of dialog) music can put my brain in a diffuse mode and allow those solutions to bubble up to my conscious mind.

What really made me smile about the article was the Youtube video they made for it. Without any spoken words, there was a series of b-roll video clips with text overlays extracted from the article explaining why background music can be distracting. The entire thing was set to background music.

Bad Art Ideas: Toilet Seat Wreath

I’m all for abstract art but I think there has to be a limit. For me, that limit is a Christmas wreath made from a toilet seat. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse holiday offenses out there like adults dressing up like pink bunnies, putting out cookies for fat reverse burglars and the worst offense – putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

The toilet seat wreath, however, still ought to be considered at least a minor offender.  For one thing, it’s too obvious. It’s basically already a wreath. All you’re doing is hot gluing tacky things to it.

I get it, people think it’s funny to put something associated with defecation on their door or wall. Who wouldn’t want to be known for that? But just like bad posts on social media could cost you a future job, bad decorations at Christmas can cost you the respect of, well, everyone.

No, no, no and once again – NO!

Something New

I have plenty of activities to keep me busy each day. But that doesn’t keep me from trying new things.

I like trying new activities and learning new skills. It potentially gives me new things to put in my ever-revolving lineup of hobbies. At the very least it gives me one more thing to identify with. So far I can claim writer, poet, musician, programmer, geographer, cartographer, political scientist, photographer, mechanic, martial artist, hunter, Olympic (style) weight lifter, business owner, web designer, electrician, and artist.

All of the above activities I’ve either done professionally, in an organized and/or official manner or on a scale large enough to significantly differentiate myself from the majority of people.

Recently, I decided to add to my art repertoire by trying my hand at acrylic painting and mixed media art.  Maybe I should focus on trying to hone existing skills but sometimes you just have to widen the hole rather than dig it deeper.

I’ve only done a handful of paintings so far. Although I like the results, I’m sure in a few months, after doing more of it, I’ll look back and recognize how simplistic and unrefined they are. But you have to start somewhere.

I don’t need to be the next Rembrandt. I just want to create things that are pleasing to look at and give me another outlet for creativity.

As I refine my eye for color and feel for acrylic, I’ll keep posting what I make so the progression (hopefully not regression) can be seen and monitored.

Creative Maintenance

Most of the creative People I know love to do what the title implies and create things. They want to ideate, design and build. Like me, theycringe at the thought of having to maintain legacy entities.

As a programmer, I love designing algorithms, functions and modules. I love solving problems and deploying solutions. But once a program is built, it has to be maintained. That stinks.

Unfortunately, maintenance is a part of life. Everything breaks down. Therefore, everything needs some degree of care. The mower needs repaired, your body needs exercised, cars need their oil changed and clients need follow-up calls.

Like many, I’ve been guilty of viewing maintenance as a boring, thankless task that I don’t want to do. But over time, I’ve come to realize that not only is it essential but it can be fun too.

Creativity doesn’t have to stop at creation. Maintaining your brain child doesn’t have to be boring. If you’re truly creative, you need to figure out a way to bring that creativity to your maintenance duties. Programmers have this built-in. They can write test programs that run every time something in the code changes. If the changes have broken something, the tests point to the culprit.

In the world of geographic information systems (GIS) you often find yourself processing and analyzing ever changing data over and over again. Many GIS analysts solve these maintenance problems by learning Python or other languages and automating the tasks.

What about non-technical fields like sales? A salesman might secure a sale to a new client but the real money is in future sales to the same client. That salesman has to maintain the relationship indefinitely. But that doesn’t have to mean bland monthly emails or phone calls. There are lots of ways to keep contact with someone. Engage them on social media, write a poem for them or invite them to an even. Use your imagination.

Creative people have an advantage in their work. They can make life fun by bringing their talent to bear in all situations. Maintaining things that are already built is a challenge for them to go beyond the initial build and perpetually create.

The Human System

Human vision is amazing. Standing in my kitchen early one morning my eyes picked up the tiny, jerking movement of a very, very small moth. But my first thought was not “this is a moth”. Rather, it was “this is not a mosquito”.

Right now we’re in the middle of mosquito season and I’m always alert for ones that have invaded my home. I knew this bug wasn’t a mosquito right away although I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t clearly see it. It was the movement that gave it away. A mosquito seems to glide smoothly through the air while a moth makes erratic seeming movements in all directions.

My vision system registered all of that in a split second. Had it been a mosquito I probably would have reacted instantly by swatting at it since I’ve programmed my brain to think of them as needing to be killed before I get bit. Since it was a moth, I didn’t have to spring into action.

It’s amazing how the human brain reacts to its built-in sensors and makes a split-second decision whether to put the body into motion or not. Most of the algorithm my brain used to make this decision was formed over years of seeing bugs in flight, categorizing them and determining if they were dangerous or not.

Learning any task or skill is built up the same way. Repetitive input through the eyes and ears along with the movement from the rest of the body program the brain to recognize patterns and respond to them. At the same time, the brain uses these recorded programs to send feedback to the body that allows it to output the pattern. A skill is born.

What I’m interested in now is finding ways to imprint those patterns on the brain faster and more permanently. Of course one has to practice skills. But is there a way to acquire them more efficiently?

Punk Micromastery

The punk mentality insists, “Why not try it?” Instead of waiting around for the ideal moment, find a simplified version, a micromastery. Instead of learning to play the guitar, learn one song. Play it a lot. Experiment with it.

Robert Twigger