“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”Meister Eckhart
Self-awareness is a vehicle for making better decisions. It'll prevent you from the pitfalls of time-wasting, confusing busyness with productivity, and force you to reconsider the importance of stepping back to think.
The external world fights for your attention so it can rattle you. Email, negativity, and breaking news never go out of stock. Instead of cracking around the edges and yielding to data exhaust, we can sharpen on our focus on what really matters.
Self-perception is a passport to freedom. It hedges against the tyranny of algorithms that try to dictate culture.
Once we jump in and out of the information loop, things come into place. We dictate the landscape, exploring detours and paving the way to explore a world of intelligent questions.
art via giphy
Below is a version of my Web Gems newsletter sent out weekly to hundreds of subscribers. Sign up here to get it to your inbox.
I have some announcements to make before we begin.
- The Browser, my favorite newsletter that recommends only the best writing on the web, sent me 20 FREE three-month passes to give away. Here's the link. First come, first serve!
- I also received a special discount for 15% off on Focus@Will, scientifically optimized music to help you focus. Try the two-week free trial first. Note: I highly recommend the Ambient Channel if you're looking to kickstart that creative flow.
👉 And now for some of the most interesting links that are worth sharing this week:
- Typewriter for music. I'm still bugging out over this Keaton Music typewriter designed by Robert Keaton in San Francisco, California in 1933.
- Ellsworth Kelly Stamps. The USPS has issued a set of Elsworth Kelly's artworks as forever stamps.They're glorious.
- How alligators freeze this time of year. Watch how alligators survive a Polar Vortex.
- Mary Oliver (RIP) on her writing routine.
- “A small drop of ink makes thousands, perhaps millions think.” I wrote a 30-second read on why half-baked ideas are valuable ideas.
Thanks for reading. If you like the newsletter, subscribe below to get it straight to your inbox.
Alcohol and coffee are a study in consciousness – they both trigger experiences beyond the normal architecture of aliveness.
Neither beverage medicates problems away. Rather, they open the door to other choices and chapters in life that we may not have otherwise made. That second beer gives us the courage to ask that girl to dance or that double espresso powers us through a tough or dull assignment. Conversely, both actions could also result in equally damaging results.
Stimulants and depressants aside, we're better off starting before we're ready because the tyranny of hesitation thwarts all possibilities. It takes courage to go out of our comfort zone and bomb.
Once stripped of the ideal results, we let go of perfection and embrace the positive psychology behind tiny actions, despite any failure. We quickly realize that reality is too sober and feel compelled to act.
“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote.
When it's all said and done, we will have at least gained the satisfaction of trying. Because we already have everything we need to get going.
gif by @ethanbarnowsky
More often than not we aim for freedom from constraint. No one likes to be nailed down to a particular way of doing things. But on some occasions, constraints can be freeing.
For one, deadlines are great motivators. We'd never get anything done without any pressure. Writing is difficult enough — put a cap on it and all of sudden the words begin to flow.
Nothing resonates more loudly than an assignment, given by others or at the order of ourselves. Both require discipline.
So if you ever stuck on anything, establish an arbitrary count and then get in there and do some stuff — whether it's working out, shooting hoops, or writing a book.
Discipline is everything.
Writing a book is like telling a joke and having to wait two years to know whether or not it was funny.Alain de Botton
True, books can't be instantly graded like a Tweet. But giving a book at least two years of work enables the author to go deeper and explore the magic wand of editing. As Seth Godin reminds us, “The less reassurance we can give you the more important the work is.”
With the polar vortex sweeping the Midwest and other parts of the nation, there are some animals like alligators that welcome the freeze.
Crocodiles in North Carolina
Great athletes break the mold. They're not just gifted. They get creative in the arena, using their intuition and imagination to do things never seen before on stage. The same genius can be said for select actors, musicians, scientists, thinkers and the like.
Painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly liked to emphasize abstract shapes and bright colors. His work came to define the hard-edge painting style that originated on the West Coast but made its way east into Kelly's Spencertown, New York.
Fortunately for us, the United States Postal Service has issued a set of his artworks as forever stamps. Keep your eyes on the USPS website for availability.
“I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges and mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness.”Ellsworth Kelly
Home is work. Work is home. With the smartphone, we straddle one foot in and out of the office at the same time. There is no real freedom, no way to untether from the tyranny of the desk.
We are addicted to being ON all the time.
But the phone is not the new cigarette, as Cal Newport so proclaims in his new book entitled Digital Minimalism. The mobile phone is our bridge to the world. Used mindfully and appropriately (i.e., not spreading fake news), it's the most impressive tool man has ever owned. All the information in the world resides at your fingertips. Anyone can serve as a creator, consumer, or curator of content.
Liberated from the web, little by little we can take back control of our scatterbrain and take our thoughts for a walk. We can work toward what we want by projecting ourselves into the future.
Know what you write about, write about what you know; this is a golden rule to which you must adhere. To know you must study. The world is an open book in which all who run may read. Nature is one great volume the pages of which are open to the peasant as well as to the peer.How to Speak and Write Correctly by Joseph Devlin
Half-baked ideas are valuable ideas. Messy minds and messy processes generate new ways of thinking.
The more ideas we have, the more we have to play with. Brainstorming is, therefore, a democratic process that begets everything from rules and rights to innovations like the iPod. Thinkers look for gaps in human needs and find ways to build opportunities around them.
Concepting in any form — through discussion, rough drafts, or Twitter conversations add to the intensity of life's possibilities. In producing and collecting fragments the puzzle pieces start to become whole.
gif by @annasalmi
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see the disclosure for more info.
Introducing one of the biggest MasterClass courses yet: Award-winning author Neil Gaiman teaches students how to create compelling plots, new characters, and bring unseen worlds to life. Improve your storytelling!
In 19 lessons, the world-renowned writer takes his students through his own philosophy on what drives a story while also guiding them on how to develop their own unique writing voice. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the author of American Gods, Coraline, Stardust, and The Sandman, emphasizes that the class is more about storytelling than writing.
I definitely talk about writing, but what I get into more—because it’s much more interesting to me—is the mechanics of how you find and build the story and make your characters interesting. How you take that idea and build it into a short story, how you can look at a short story and decide if it has the length to become a novel. I suppose it’s my justification. I know lots of novelists. Novelists are very nice people. But I’m not a novelist. I’m a storyteller who sometimes writes novels, and graphic novels, and short stories, and makes film or television.
The course includes a downloadable workbook with creative writing exercises and interactive resources plus lesson recaps and ‘office hours' where students can submit videos to classmates and hear back from Neil himself!
Below is the entire lesson plan:
- Truth in Fiction
- Sources of Inspiration
- Finding Your Voice
- Developing the Story
- Story Case Study: The Graveyard Book
- Short Fiction
- Short Fiction Case Study: “March Tale”
- Dialogue and Character
- Character Case Study: “October Tale”
- Dealing with Writer’s Block
- Rules for Writers
- The Writer’s Responsibilities
If you’ve never taken a MasterClass before, it’s a great opportunity to take a peek into the mind and explore the process of some of the world’s leading experts in photography, writing, music production, filmmaking, and even cooking. You may be aware of Malcolm Gladwell's writing course, Tom Morello’s electric guitar course, or Serena Williams teaches tennis course.
If you’re looking for a great gift, consider sending one of the courses to a loved one or friend. Even better, gift someone the All-Access Pass so they can explore all the courses they want!
The Keaton Music typewriter was a typewriter specifically for music. Designed by Robert Keaton in San Francisco, California in 1933, it contained two keyboards, one moveable the other stationary, and 14 keys that plotted musical symbols onto blank paper into the carriage underneath.
The second iteration of the keyboard debuted in 1955 and sold for $225 or $2,000 in today's value, roughly the amount it costs for a brand new Macbook Pro. Now an antique, there are no more than 24 Keaton Music typewriters left in the world.
Imagination is a mental scratch pad, a place to delve into the urges of the non-existent. It is only there can we see what’s more captivating than reality’s everydayness.
Imagination not only protects us from boredom, it also protect us from ourselves. It acts as a neuroprotective stimulus for brain expansion — we are only as good as what we can envision.
Imagination helps us slice through the bedrock of the present. It moves us behind the boundary of facts. It screams yes to life, even when there’s darkness.
What is the imagination good for? Absolutely everything.