Everything goes in the queue

The queue is more of a scrapbook than a notebook. It’s a hopper of brain farts and observations brewing in all formats: text, images, video, and sound. It’s…

  • Where ideas get stored and intermix
  • Where content molds and takes shape
  • Where visions incubate until the timing is ripe
  • Where some concepts never the day of light

Your goal is to never let the queue go empty. You should always keep refreshing it with new content to help you sustain your thinking presence. The dull, the interesting, the ephemeral; it all goes into the Tumblr bin to age marvelously.

“I’m not writing it down to remember it later,
I’m writing it down to remember it now.” — Field Notes

Take copious notes and frequently revisit them. In generating novelty, you’ll always be two steps ahead.

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‘The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work and gave to it neither power nor time’

“It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays

Philip Roth (RIP): ‘Writing turns you into someone who’s always wrong’

“Writing turns you into someone who’s always wrong. The illusion that you may get it right is the perversity that draws you on.”

Philip Roth, American Pastoral

In 2016, Roth donated 3,500 of his books to his hometown library in Newark, his ‘other home.’ Among those were the fifteen books Roth said influenced his life the most.

How to persist after hitting rock-bottom

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We can toil in obscurity for years before we get a lucky break. We can also give up and accept that it isn’t meant to be.

But something happens when we feel like a complete failure. We start to simplify everything — what we own, where what we do — and get back to basics.

Defeat offers its own beneficial limitations. It pushes us to play with what he have and stick to the belief in our art.

When JK Rowling hit her lowest point — divorced as a single mother on child welfare with no published books — the only thing she knew was to keep writing. As she said in her Harvard commencement speech:

“I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.

Even when the publishers rejected her, she kept on and wrote even more. She leaned in on the process of showing up every day at the cafe and getting to work.

Failure can either be deemed temporary or definitive, depending on how we frame it. But with the right mentality, we can leverage the foundation of rock-bottom to help us limit our choices and persist.

‘The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle’

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The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never get struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us.

John Green, Paper Towns

Slow and simple notebooks with BIG TYPEFACES

JSTORY: Slow and simple notebooks with BIG TYPEFACES

I saw this in my Pinterest feed (yeah, I’m on Pinterest) and immediately snatched one up.

In our ever increasingly fast-paced world, it’s nice to slow down every once in a while and plan something out. And these pages look huge! I also just dig the simplicity of the notebook names and huge typefaces: LARGE, MEDIUM, BIG, AND SMALL. If you’re looking for a great pen to accompany your summer planning, try the Pentel Tradio Pulaman, the classic Bullet Space Pen or a pack of Pilot Roller Ball stick pens if you need more than one.

JSTORY: Slow and simple notebooks with BIG TYPEFACES

Jstory is a South Korean brand. If you go to the official website and Google translate the text, you’ll see that the company was launched by an architecture and design student back in 2006.

They also make some awesome creator notebooks that feature Architect, Engineer, Painter, Musician, and Writer in big fonts. You’ll have to order those directly from the site since I can’t seem to find them on Amazon.

JSTORY: Slow and simple notebooks with BIG TYPEFACES

PS. If you’ve seen any other neat notebooks lately, comment below so I can check them out. Thanks!

There is no perfect idea

the shape of ideas, books
The Shape of Ideas by Grand Snider

There is no such thing as the perfect idea. As Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, ‘Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.’ Or as novelist Iris Murdoch instructs, “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”

Our creative work calls for more action than reaction. Sure, there are benefits to structured procrastination but at some point, we have to sit our ass down (or stand up, whatever your preference is) and do the work.

How do you know when to stop working?

Ernest Hemingway’s writing habits always ensured he sustained momentum. In Moveable Feast, he writes: ‘I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.’

'I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.' — Ernest HemingwayClick To Tweet

Hemingway’s approach for writer’s block was to write badly and then hold on to the bit with the most truth.

Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. So, finally I would write one true sentence and go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”

The discomforting tensions around perfection are means to go, a green light to turn a work into something fresh.

Read more about conquering creative struggles:


 

‘Write drunk, edit sober’ 🍺✍️

write drunk edit sober
gif by @andreeailisai

In a recent study done by professor Andrew Jarosz of Mississippi State University reveals that drunk people are more creative at problem-solving.

We gave participants 15 questions from a creative problem-solving assessment called the Remote Associates Test, or RAT—for example, “What word relates to these three: ‘duck,’ ‘dollar,’ ‘fold’?”; the answer to which is “bill.” We found that the tipsy people solved two to three more problems than folks who stayed sober. They also submitted their answers more quickly within the one-minute-per-question time limit, which is maybe even more surprising.

What Jarosz’s study showed is that impairment of focus is a boon for creativity. Sober people tend to overthink. Being a little tipsy loosens the need for perfection and crowd-pleasing.

“Aha!” Let’s relax and unwind

The study is not an excuse for artists or anybody for the matter to get drunk. But what it says is that our intention to be serious and focus all the time can get in the way of outside the box thinking.

Keep in mind that Ernest Hemingway only imbibed after his writing sessions ended so take the study for what it’s worth. Nonetheless, here’s Hemingway kicking a beer can.


Freedom from the to-do list: ‘The Art of the Wasted Day’ by Patricia Hampl

The pace at which we move is extraordinary. Look out the window. Stare at the seagulls. Nobody has time for that!

Obsessed with productivity or the pursuit of distraction, we’re never not doing something. Even when we’re bored, we’re making lists or planning them out in images on a Pinterest board.

As Umberto Eco once said, “We like lists because we don’t want to die.”

But Patricia Hampl’s new book The Art of the Wasted Day wants us to reconsider time management by removing the burden of the to-do list and daydream instead. She encourages us, especially in our old age — what she calls the third stage after youth and middle age — to let go of the over-scheduled life.

The to-do list that runs most lives through middle age turns out, in this latter stage of existence, to have only one task: to waste life in order to find it. Who said that? Or something like that. Jesus? Buddha? Bob Dylan? Somebody who knew what’s what

Wonder, rather than pursue

Why keep adding to the list tasks like meditation and yoga? The urge to scratch the itch or check the boxes means more doing rather enjoying the freedom of idleness.

Patricia Hampl encourages us to be ok with making unscheduled time and doing nothing at all. She wants to remind us that it’s ok to pause and dance with pure nothingness. We can always get going again.

Loafing is not a prudent business plan, not even a life plan, not a recognizably American project. But it begins to look a little like happiness, the kind that claims you, unbidden. Stay put and let the world show up? Or get out there and be a flâneur? Which is it? Well, it’s both.

Paper just works

bullet journal, bullet journal layout, bullet journal ideas, bullet journals how to start,

Touching is believing. That’s why bullet journals are all the rage. People want to slow down and get everything from their worries, random thoughts, weekend plans, shopping lists, gift ideas, blog topics, exercise schedules etc., all down and out on paper.

Writes Mike Vardy in his piece Why Paper Works:

Paper works because it is only limited by what you’re willing to put on (and into) it. Paper provides an escape from your devices and does so without compromising your ability to get things done. Paper is safe and secure in that it can be both lifesaving and disposable depending on the circumstances. Paper is versatile, compatible and portable. Paper — simply put — just works.


Boring is the new interesting. We can’t think with clarity with candy-colored apps flashing at us tempting the latest scroll.

A simple pen and paper ask for our attention. And we give it.

Longform doesn’t squander our best thoughts the latest social media refresh. The handwritten word complements the learning process.

Digital is where we source the ideas and paper is where we write them down and connect the dots.

When we use analog and digital tools with intent, they tend to complement each other.

Maria Popova: I loathe the term “content”

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Brain Pickings blogger Maria Popova sat down with WordPress in the Own Your Content series to discuss evergreen ideas and rethinking the meaning of content.

Popova writes about timeless topics. “I am drawn to ideas that remain resonant across time and space, across cultures and civilizations.” If you read her blog, you know that she excels in digging up little-known gems from primary sources and combining them in an interesting way.

Her talent reminds me of what professor Kenneth Goldsmith of the University of Pennsylvania said about education in the internet era: “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”

Maria excels in making old content relevant again. Following her blog is a direct line to her insatiable curiosity.

In this sense, then, it naturally inclines toward what you call “evergreen” — which I take to mean enduring ideas that hold up across the years, decades, and centuries, and continue to solace and give meaning undiminished by time.

Yet, she also dislikes the word content as it compels merchants to race the bottom in the form of attention-seeking missiles:

I loathe the term “content” as applied to cultural material — it was foisted upon us by a commercially driven media industry that treats human beings as mindless eyeballs counted in statistics like views and likes, as currency to be traded against advertising revenue. Somehow people have been sold on the idea that the relationship between ads and “content” is a symbiotic one, but it is a parasitic one.

While tech may be the cigarette of the century,  the internet does provide space for writers like Maria Popova to demonstrate combinatorial creativity in the name of the hyperlink. If used properly, the internet can be a learning machine rather than a propaganda tool.


A still inchoate creator

gif by Sharon Liu

The blank page doesn’t write itself. It stares at you, pleading for you to quit and move on to something else.

Those who persist pace themselves into unfamiliar territory. A big bang does no artist any good. What matters is not the end result, but pushing through in a gradual approach.

Creators strive for long-term serotonin over the short-shock dopamine.

They’re the ones that embrace vulnerability. They dance with fear while building up the bicep of the brain. Confidence speaks as if it were alone, dying to go public.

The barrier lies within the self. It tries to impede greater personal growth. You are your own worst enemy of nuclear insignificance.

To wait in the ambiguous middle while everyone else flies by on the racetrack of certainty.

“You have to do the work now, because you don’t have forever.” — Spike JonzeClick To Tweet

Doing the work is a conscious anxiety-ridden habit, but it can run with it like a GIF loop. Chances are if you did it yesterday you can do it again today.

The race to patience is on. It’s settling that’s the problem.