Categories
Creativity Life & Philosophy

Mental clarity begins in cleaning out the basement

The basement gets a bad rap. It’s the relegation zone. It’s a mess, with cobwebs on the door handles and mountains of dust building in the corners.

There may be mysterious sounds and unidentifiable creatures living in the cracks. But the basement also presents the biggest opportunity to turn disorder into something presentable.

When you start at the bottom, you’re working in reverse.

In cleaning out the canvass, you empty the head and suddenly envision how to fill in the blank slate with something more meaningful. You will give a new meaning to emptiness.

Anyone can emerge from the darkest places back to life if they’re willing to start from scratch. Accepting the Herculean task of debugging your messy ways can help reprogram your mind so you can breathe fresh thinking into the void.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

Reexamining the Kiss Principle

“Keep it simple and stupid.” That was the acronym coined by aircraft engineer Clarence Johnson during the early 1930s. He proposed the “H” style tail for airplanes which helped stabilize flight.

Keeping it simple is always easier said than done. What may appear visually simple, took a deduction of complex details.

We don’t get to simplicity without amassing a pile of disparate parts first and then building shitty first drafts.

Complexity is often hidden within the design — such as the case with Apple products and apps like Instagram which appear simple on the outside but contain convoluted architecture and code on the inside.  

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Leonardo da Vinci, who painted over pieces that didn’t meet expectations. Artists like Pablo Picasso and writers like Ernest Hemingway edited down their pieces, again and again, to reduce their craft into the most practicable and understood forms.

Erasing difficulties requires patience of experimentation. It takes both head and heart work to minimize the unnecessary while maximizing utility in powerfully simple ways.

With a bit more curiosity and execution, we can turn less into more.

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Creativity Productivity & Work

It’s never too late to do something incredible

Everything good takes time.

We have to get comfortable with the idea that the work worth doing almost always never comes to fruition immediately.

Our craft is also likely to be misunderstood for long periods. There will be periods of self-doubt and chapters of confusion, all signals that the muse wants us to keep going.

If we’re 100% certain about where we’re headed, then we need a little more nuance and complexity in our life.

Being vulnerable and taking on challenges fuel aliveness, preventing one from getting too satisfied with results.

As the Japanese artist Hokusai said:

“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

Hokusai

If we work on something long enough, it should look just as simple and confounding as when we first found it.

Categories
Books Writing

‘Good work only comes through revision’

After a lifetime of hounding authors for advice, I’ve heard three truths from every mouth: (1) Writing is painful— it’s ‘fun’ only for novices, the very young, and hacks; (2) other than a few instances of luck, good work only comes through revision; (3) the best revisers often have reading habits that stretch back before the current age, which lends them a sense of history and raises their standards for quality.”

THE ART OF MEMOIR BY MARY KARR
Categories
Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy

Chaos and structure

There’s beauty in chaos — when the outcome is limitless, ripe with multiple interpretations. Thus is nature.

It is structure that intends to display meaning. The mind stops guessing at identification, shielded with the brain’s umbrella from the books of rain.

Certain things require definition

Stairs need to be intuitive enough to walk and up and down. However, silly putty asks to be flexed and misunderstood. Both are pieces of art, finished or unfinished.

Art requires mixing materials. The end product just needs to work, perfect or carefully disorganized.

The freedom to create is also the freedom to appear unfinished, spaces left vacant for the curious mind to fill in. “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star,” said Nietzsche.

One never overcomes the chaos — they merely live in it.

Categories
Arts Creativity Writing

Why Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward

Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward (mirror writing) because he didn’t want others stealing his ideas. Writes Da Vinci biographer Rachel A. Koestler-Grack:

“The observations in his notebooks were written in such a way that they could be read only by holding the books up to a mirror.”

But did a genius who combined art and science so brilliantly really need to hide his work? Perhaps it was practical: as a lefty, he didn’t want to smudge the ink. As a contrarian, Da Vinci also strived to be different. As blogger Walker’s Chapters writes:

“Do you really think that a man as clever as Leonardo thought it was a good way to prevent people from reading his notes? This man, this genius, if he truly wanted to make his notes readable only to himself, he would’ve invented an entirely new language for this purpose. We’re talking about a dude who conceptualized parachutes even before helicopters were a thing.”

Read more: Why Did Leonardo da Vinci Write Backwards? A Look Into the Ultimate Renaissance Man’s “Mirror Writing”