In search of a writing process

A gif animation of pencils writing and deleting

That blank page screams at you with all its anxiety for you to fill it in. But starting from scratch can be intimidating, especially when anything goes. It's not surprising that so many aspiring writers quit their canvass–it's so much easier to avoid the pain of inconsistency.

That's where the system comes in. Instead of waiting for inspiration, you set a schedule for the muse to wake up. Whether you can squeeze in an hour between 5 – 7 AM or find time to write during lunch break at work, the practice has to get done. The method is everything. Everything is practice.

What you write isn't as important as the process itself. Some days (i.e., most days), what spews out the ink is garbage. However, nothing goes unused. That weak sentence or kernel of an idea resurface in more lucid prose in the future.

Words are tools for making stuff. And the more one sits down to yank them out of the head and onto paper, screen, whatever–the more likely it is to do it again and keep going regardless of how the person feels. When in doubt, the processes that worked before.

In search of clarity, it only comes through at the result of the work.

The big picture view

An animation of girl lying down dreaming in the sand

Everything is a work in progress. From your health to relationships, to making art, the finish line remains elusive because we're always preserving the status quo or making things better. Even democracy is a work in progress.

En Media Res–That's Latin for being in the middle of the action. If inertia is the enemy of action, then we can't afford to sit the good life out.

What's your modus operandi? What're your criteria for a successful future? Is there an ethos you're trying to build for yourself over the next few years?

To stay on track, you need to set goals. Not the ones that invoke jealousy, make you unhappy, enforce you to keep up with others. Chase goals that inspire a way of life, benefit those around you, help develop a sense of purpose, and inspire you to say hell yes despite the burn!

Live by choice, not by chance. Taking control allows one to stay connected to the big picture view. Hold on to your ideas and ideals on how the experience should be and never be afraid to see it through.

Balancing opposites

Animation of frogs trying to balance each other out

Settle into the system or shake it up. Pursue happiness or devour tranquility.

Expect disruption or create your own law of contrast. Strive for greatness or let go and let God. 

Chase power or be your best self. Maximize productivity or step away from the grind.

There's an inverse relationship between forcing something to happen and actually achieving it. When you take your foot off the gas and relax a little, that's when things to start to open up. 

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.”

Alan Watts

Building layers of ideas

Gif of woman's head spinning around with flashing colors

Examining the world, collecting artifacts, awaiting that sudden flash.  To believe that epiphanies are a result of short-term thinking is a canard. Good ideas emerge from gathering string over stretches of time.

Whatever it is–a mental note, a collection of brain farts or images, bunches of index cards or Pinterest pins–the most important thing is to get any observations recorded so you remember them now and then again, later. 

Having a system of aggregation is vital to the thinking process. Like a series of connected synapses storing up bytes of memory, building on top of ideas spurs on a curiosity that lends itself to an aliveness unheard of in the day to day numbness. 

Digging into the crate to uncover the truth is a never-ending process. Every time we discover something new, we create new challenges for us to solve. Persistent novelty keeps us awake.

gif by @boy_betts

Crossing a telephone with a TV set

Image of old Western Electric ad for telephone and TV set

What do you get when you cross a telephone with a TV set? That's what Western Electric was asking in 1968 with this advertisement for its Picturephone.

Western Electric is crossing a telephone with a TV set.

What you'll use is called, simply enough, a Picturephone set. Someday it will let you see who you are talking to, and let them see you.

The Picturephone set is just one of the communications of the future Western Electric is working on with Bell Telephone Laboratories. Western Electric builds regular phones and equipment for your Bell telephone company. But we also build for the future.

What is now considered FaceTime on the iPhone, the convergence of video and phone technology took another 42 years to come to fruition. The above image appears in the book The Golden Age of Advertising: The 60s.


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Thinking through the repetition

Gif of brain bouncing from wall to wall

Doing the dishes, sweeping the leaves, shooting free throws, organizing your records—repetitive tasks can also be mindful experiences.

There’s something about the fluidity of motion that jogs the brain into a presence on par with meditation.

You’d think that boredom would set in and condemn our brains to seek dopamine-hitting pleasures. But some of the most everyday activities, even driving the car, can be therapeutic.

Thinking without thinking is a liberating experience. Unlike the robot, the brain never rests; rather, it is collecting itself in moments of pause to seek understanding and clarity of purpose.

gif by @liannedias