Extracting Value

Someone at work asked me what I wanted to get out of my blog. I have no idea! I didn’t have a good answer, but I fumbled together something about maintaining a daily habit, and taking on a challenge like putting something new into the world every day, even if it was a brief sharing of someone else’s thing.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing this every day, even though it’s not always easy to think of things to post. But I don’t want to view anything in the manner of a corporate raider, that the things we do need to return a profit of some kind—not to mention seeing merit in squeezing every asset until there’s no more value to cash in. I’m certainly not against valuation of creative work, nor profit. It’s just that I think we need more reasons to rethink and do an end-run around value calculations as reason to do something.

Always remember—I’m telling myself as much as you—the word “amateur” has the root for “love” in its beginning. Amateurs are dismissed and professionals lauded, but the labels say nothing about skill or depth or potential. Love comes first, figuring out making any money is later, at some point in the list.

I don’t know how well I can bring anything to being. But what I want from the site, at least at this moment, is to share what I know and the creative things I do. I want to inspire you to start doing the creative thing you’ve long dreamed about but have always put it off. And I want to be one of those things that’s there for you every day, as long as I can do it. All those things are an automatic Phase 3 by also being Phase 2.

Fake Milestones

Marking a significant life event is only natural. It’s uniquely human. Birthdays, anniversaries, achievements. It’s that last one that can seem arbitrary or trivial, sometimes.

But an arbitrary milestone can make you feel inspired or motivated. Picking something small and celebrating it bestows importance. That’s what you want as you make your artistic practice an essential part of your life. It should feel important. Modesty is rarely a bad instinct, in a social sense. If you trivialize your work early on, however, who’s there to counter that disparaging voice? The last thing you need is less impetus to keep working on your stuff.

So here’s a small, arbitrary milestone: this post makes 100 in a row since I missed in late January, just a bit before I was due to hit the first 100 in a row. Yay! Woo! I couldn’t have done it without you, truly.

Where We Look When

There are limits that we should place on our own nostalgia. Referencing our past can be a powerful element of our current world view, and therefore, work. But indulge that natural desire too much and we lose the connection to the present that makes looking ahead effective.

And there’s nothing explicitly wrong about making one’s work an examination of nostalgia, but I think it’s limited, a narrower box. You need some spark of the future to kick the work above the memory exercise alone.

Returning to our own past tickles some powerful neurons. But I’ve noticed that I crave reliving the original experience, and that isn’t possible. I’m not the same person I was. I have more experience, more understanding. More life.

We need to move with life, not spend so much time in the past or future. Here is all we have.

Home Stretch

Postpartum Post-mortem of a vacation.

Sleep deprivation. Satisfaction. Weariness. Lack of motivation. Minor disorientation. Relief for happy pets. Minor anxiety that one has spent too much money, didn’t read as much as one imagined, complained once too often instead of enjoyed the moment, you know, in-the-moment.

There’s a noticeable lack of disdain for fellow humans, a live-and-let-live undercurrent to encountering others. It’s possible that Oscar Wilde—via the little squib—was right.

So here we are, and there’s a habit to keep on track, and it was pleasant to have the routine both there and back again.

Road Tripping III: Home It Is

The end of any journey comes with mixed feelings. Ask Joseph Campbell. It also comes with new knowledge. We’ve learned things about our companions we never knew, maybe good things, maybe not, but more. If we’re lucky, we know ourselves better.

Mentally, we’re abuzz with information and ideas and experience to process. Emotionally and physically, we’re drained. This internal tussle can leave us befuddled and even quiet. We reflect. We look at our familiar things with new eyes.

Apply these things to the artist’s journey, making a new piece. I’m kinda too tired to do it.

Road Tripping II: The Middle Bit

There’s a moment in any journey where you wonder if it was a good idea. You try to decide if the fun moments you’ve had outweigh the irritation of the discomfort from enclosed spaces, too much unbroken time spent with particular humans, terrible food choices. Time slows to a dreamlike quagmire, then speeds up to a whirlwind.

In Las Vegas, things blur together. Building interiors, eye-searing video boards, the ubiquitous hum of refrigeration, strip malls with outrageously kerned signage, infinite blacktop. Lights. Purposeless walking. Pink lava rock gravel spilling out of every housing development’s landscaping.

But this is just the center of the excursion. There’s miles to press on to, more things that will occur, more decisions you have to make about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. And then home, with your own food and habits and bed and cat.

The Struggle Is Really Real

Speaking of failures, I’m still spending way too much time reading news, political analysis, and random minutiae online, despite a redoubled effort to shift my attention to creating stuff and reading books.

Distraction is easier all the time. Setting out to write this post, I have opened Spotify, messed with battery settings, checked text messages, started to read emails twice and realized what I was doing—it’s really endless.

I’ve learned how to circumvent this monkey mind dopamine loop—MMDL in the literature, I’m pretty sure—pragmatically: make your to-do list he night before, stick to it in Pomodoro segments, start early. It’s still always there, and it’s always a fight. Habits of distraction built up over years, as my social media and information overload have been, are really really hard to break.

I don’t have any real advice, here, maybe just an ongoing reminder that almost nobody knows what they’re doing and is muddling through it all just like you. Unless you’re effective and prolifically productive. In that case, teach me your ways, kind stranger.

Sick Day

I remember the last time I was sick. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick.

Most years I get one or two bouts of cold, the lingering, low-level kind. You know, the scratchy throat, the runny nose, the going to bed okay and waking up worse again, for lit’rally weeks.

But I can usually function, get around, go to work. That’s impossible with this thing. It’s a full-on flu, with attendant tight, phlegmy breathing and aches that have me staggering around like an eighty-year-old with a touch o’ the rheumatis’.

Something extra weird, though, that comes along with epic flu: the world seems surreal, dreamlike. It’s bizarre to have the universe wash over me like this, while I sort of watch in a stupor. It’s like being caught underneath a massive, transparent water balloon, things seem extra bright, but also muffled, sometimes a bit wavery.

I’m trying to understand how I feel, through the brain fog. I’d rather this wasn’t such a surprise next time.

Something positive to takeaway, gotta find something apropos to make a lesson out of, right? Um, maybe that everything doesn’t have to be a lesson. Sometimes observation is helpful and good.

No Easy Answers

She was tired. And tired she would remain for the rest of the day.

It was the same most days, but she supposed it was partly her obsession with getting 6 hours of solid labor clocked before she broke for a late lunch, some time after the sun had angled the shadows more or less 45 degrees.

Hakim had been playing on the couch, but he stopped, rested his palm on the strings and watched her.

“You okay?” She looked over and smiled, a grim one without teeth.

“Yep. Fine,” she said.

“Uh huh.” He waited, she turned back to stare out the window in front of her computer. “All right, I mean . . . okay.” She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. He was still staring at her. She faced him again.

“I’m fine,” she said. “Really. This is what I wanted, I’m doing it. This is good.”

He nodded, carefully. “Right. Are you sure it’s good for you?”

She opened her mouth to dismiss him, of course it was good—then shut it again. Was it? She’d never considered the question before. It was what every artist wanted: to do their art full time. To make it their job, their career. To fill their waking life with making, and not have the drudgery of a meaningless livelihood. But she was becoming perpetually exhausted.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Art was supposed to energize you, lift you up and give you wings, set your soul on fire. But she was doing it, and she just felt burnt out.

But then, she also felt free. She felt a deep satisfaction with her life and herself. Maybe it was just something else that was off. The scales had to shift.

“I think we should walk over to the lake,” she said. Hakim stood up and reached for her hand.

When the Night Comes

Always the same, at least at first.

The sun painting the sky as it falls. Yellow, green, orange, peach, magenta, lavender. Crickets. Frogs. Distant wheels on the highway it was too loud to hear before.

And the dread. Feeling like the day has slipped out of my grasp, wriggling impatiently as I try to hold on and stroke it to calm, hoping to soothe its restlessness and need to go. That fails.

But after the dread, trepidation, unease—the dark thickly envelops it all, real and almost tangible. Then it feel safe, calm, secure, sure.

The darkest moment returns me to center, and I can go forward again.