Preparing to Create instead of Creating

Sometimes procrastinating isn't as obvious as this

I’ve recently fallen prey to such “productivity” sites as: Lifehacker, Zen Habits and 43 Folders. These sites all offer useful types and links to a variety of content (soft and hard) that is supposed to streamline the and facilitate the creative process and act. These sites do a good job of finding content, that exists to help people create, across the internet and providing it to their readers in short blurbs and easy links. Lifehacker is full of information on websites, programs, apps, etc. that will help those who use them “create.”  Except they don’t. Instead you get caught up in getting ready to create. The focus of these sites, even when they tell you to stop reading and create, is not for you to create but to keep getting ready to create with the help of this app or that program.

I’ve been diligently reading all three recently and I want to show you some things:

It might be a little hard to see but go ahead and click on the two pictures above. The folders circled in red are productivity software, they’re there to help me create better digital images, better code, better digital audio, better notes for future projects, better computer management, better command line interface, easier scripting, etc… etc… My computer is full of the stuff. My cell phone is clogged with it as well. Now I’m going to show you my ‘documents’ folder where all the now easy to do creative works are stored:

Not much to show here...

That’s the entirety of my creative output for the year of 2011. Nine 200 word book reviews, one 500 word writing challenge, and two incomplete book reviews. I haven’t taken any pictures, let alone manipulate them. I haven’t written any code. I haven’t recorded or edited any audio. The extent of my idea capturing notes? Two entries; links to websites I wouldn’t to further explore later.  What does this mean? It means the idea of greater productivity has effectively made me non-productive. I’ve spent all this time optimizing, optimizing, optimizing for when I’ll have the perfect creativity system. That’s great, I suppose, when do I sit down and create though?

All this pursuit of productivity is great for Lifehacker and friends they’re getting millions of eyeballs on their webpage, millions of clicks to their adds, and making millions of dollars. It isn’t helping me, or you, create anything though! For the creators and makers all this productivity is just another excuse, another form of procrastination. It’s one more thing we can do to keep us from the difficult task of creation.

So, close your browser. Set down the cue card system. Pick up your pen, pencil, camera, keyboard, etc. and let’s start going about the hard work of creating. If you lose a few minutes, or hours, because however you create isn’t optimized, who cares? Worry about that after the creating is done!

Doing Without?

Composition No. 10 by Piet Mondrian. An excellent example of minimalist art

There is a minimalist living thread on Talking Time that I occasionally read. A poster recently linked to a post on mnmlist which is a blog on minimalism (not the art style but the way of living.)  The post asks what you could live without accompanied with a list of examples. After thinking about it some I came to some conclusions, here they are:

  • Cable TV – living without it now. Not for miminalist reasons but because it’s a horrendous waste of money and time.
  • A smart phone – Nope. This thing in large part is replacing my computer for many things.
  • Any kind of cell phone – We don’t have a land line a cell phone is the only way for me to stay in touch with friends and family.
  • Any kind of TV –
  • An Internet connection –
  • A couch – We could get rid of the couch but I don’t know where guests would sit when we have them over for dinner/parties.
  • More than one pair of shoes – I probably do have too many pairs of shoes. I could cut down to three pairs: work, exercise, and regular.
  • More than a few shirts, or pants – Another area where I could cut down, somewhat. My work though requires a lot of formal wear.
  • A microwave – For a while we didn’t have a microwave and got along fine, it is convenient though and makes cooking/baking easier at times.
  • A car – fixing mine up to sell now.
  • Sweets – I don’t understand why you’d want to get rid of this? Food is one of the best, and simplest pleasures in life.
  • More than a handful of books (at a time) – I try to only keep books that I go back to again and again. This is a slow process of removal. I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year or so having donated/recycled more than ten boxes of books.
  • Makeup – don’t wear any.
  • Hair – How is getting rid of your hair minimalist? I honestly do not understand this one
  • Mementos – Outside of photographs, not really.

I’m sure some people “score” better than I do and some worse. I understand that the author’s point wasn’t to judge or imply that use/possession of items on the list above is wrong or bad, but rather to consciously think about the stuff we buy/have. Some of it though makes little to no sense, “hair” being the best example. I have a hard time seeing how having hair could distract you from the goal of conscious living, even people who take time to do their hair aren’t letting it control their life, if they are “stuff” isn’t the problem they should be focusing on… “Sweets” is another example, what does that mean? Candy bars, sugar, fruit? Why remove those things from your life? They are simple pleasures that can help us escape from a bad day.

I think my real gripe with aspects of minimalism is the focus on necessity. Again, from the mnmlist blog post: “just as [sic recte ask] yourself the questions. Is it really necessary? Can you live without it?” This is not the question we should be asking ourselves! Why? Because it leads down a destructive path. The fact of the matter is that humans can live without everything but water, food, and some form of shelter (and not even that depending on climate.) The human experience is not a race to the bottom. In fact by our very nature we collect and by collecting we can create and through creation humanity has bettered its state over and over again. Do modern people have a problem with consumerism? Yes. Can people become a slave to the things they own? Yes. The answer though is not to throw all that away. The answer is rather to live consciously, be aware of what you have, why you have it, and the costs associated with it. If you do that then you’ll be fine and you won’t have to live like a cave hermit.

And why would you? Those guys smell!


A Quote Worth Sharing

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous

Found here. I haven’t had that problem so much here… But I’ve been on the internet long enough to have seen conversations that mirror the quote precisely. People do funny things when they think no one is watching.

FOUND: A Letter I Wrote to Denny Atkins and His Reply

My Letter to Mr. Atkin and his Reply
My Letter to Mr. Atkins and His Reply Cont'd.

I was going through my old journals (yes I keep one and yes it goes back 13 years or so!) and found this printed out old email exchange. It appears to be a letter I wrote in 1999, to Denny Atkins, who at the time had just left Computer Gaming World. I don’t recall ever writing this email or getting the response. I do want to thank him publicly now though for taking the time out of his busy schedule to write to me! I did take his advice, by the way, I started reading video game magazines and websites earnestly as well as emailing various authors/editors. I even landed a gig as a reviewer for and then after that at UGO (2000-02). Sadly, I didn’t cultivate relationships with the people I worked with and I couldn’t tell you what most of them are doing today or if they even remember the young, eager high school graduate they were working with back then.  When the dotcom bubble burst, writing assignments dried up and I found myself with a girlfriend, friends, a part-time job and a full-time students’ workload. For me, video game journalism  fell by the wayside. I never picked it up again…

PS – well maybe a little, I’m still listed as a senior writer for, a small news site, where an old friend from the Gamepen days is the Editor-in-Chief.

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