Categories
meta

Impromptu creative month?

I’ve never had much interest in National Novel Writing Month. Since my attempt to pen my own Tolkienesque fantasy saga as a twelve-year-old, I haven’t been tempted to try my hand at fiction.

But today, Shawn Blanc made me rethink my NaNoWriMo disinterest:

Starting today — Friday, November 1 — I’ll be writing and publishing something every day for the whole month of November. Though, instead of writing a novel in a month, I will be simply be focused on publishing something — anything — every single day. From photos, links to interesting things, articles, reviews, etc.

I’ve been looking for a reentry to creative work on the web.

I love this, and I’ve been looking for a reentry to creative work on the web. So, on a whim, I’m planning to follow Shaun’s example—posting something each day throughout November.

So far, so good; this post is Day 1!

Categories
apple

The “$100 iPad Pro”

The iPad’s “jobs”

There are digital tasks for which the iPad is better-suited than a smartphone or laptop.

For example, drawing on the iPad (with the Apple Pencil) is fantastic. Not so much on the other devices (even if you pair a Wacom to your Mac). Or consider minimalist text entry, for which the “iPad + Smart Keyboard” combo is uniquely suited. The Mac feels over-built for that simple job, and the iPhone’s software keyboard falls short.

Despite these legit use cases, I didn’t preorder an iPad Pro last week. Honestly, the inflated entry price scared me off; sure, I like to draw and to write without distractions, but would I do those things enough to justify that much cash? Probably not.

The $100 iPad

Other (cheaper) tools for the same job

I’m bummed to miss out on the hotness, but here’s the thing: I can meet these “needs” without dropping $1,200 on an iPad Pro, a Smart Keyboard, and an Apple Pencil. It simply requires some creativity—and some willingness to compromise.

Here’s my recipe for a “$100 iPad”:

Use Case #1: Drawing

  • A new 7” x 10” drawing pad. No, I’m not talking about a Wacom device or an Android tablet. This is literally a $7 book of drawing paper!
  • A few color markers for “funning up” my line drawings. Total cost for 72 fine and extra-fine colors: about $30.
  • I already had some nice graphic pens, pencils for sketching, and a big honking eraser, but you could pick these up for $20 or less.

Use Case #2: Minimalist text entry

The iPhone works perfectly well for distraction-free writing. In fact, that’s pretty much how I took notes in grad school—on an iPod Touch, paired to an old Palm keyboard. That screen was much smaller than that on my iPhone X.

Here’s what I picked up this time around:

  • A folding stand from Anker to hold the iPhone upright. Eleven bucks.
  • A new folding Bluetooth keyboard. (Unfortunately, I immediately shipped this back to Amazon; its build quality and typing feel failed to measure up. I’m still on the lookout for a decent keyboard that folds into a pocketable form factor. In the meantime, I’ll use this less portable AmazonBasics model, which isn’t awful. It cost $26 when I bought it.)

All told, then, since I already own a smartphone, I can cover the iPad’s core uses for less than $100.

The obvious disclaimer: the real iPad is better

If cost weren’t a factor, I’d rather have an iPad Pro than a bag full of markers and phone accessories. It’s convenient to have one device that can do it all in a portable, compact package. But, as a novice artist who doesn’t need a dedicated minimalist writing device, the convenience of the iPad Pro is not worth $1,000+. ■

Categories
meta

“More experiences with people I love. Less validation from strangers.”

My online audience is minuscule, and it’s likely to remain minuscule for the foreseeable future. My Twitter follower count stalled out years ago, my blog gets precious little traffic, and my podcast boasts very few subscribers. When I write or record, it feels a bit like shouting into the wind. Is anyone listening? Does anybody care?

Marshall’s tweet reframed this feeling for me. Yes, I’d love a larger audience, but would that really make me happier? Would strangers’ appreciation make me feel more loved or less isolated? I suspect not.

I want to use that feeling—of underappreciation by the internet—as a cue to invest in relationships that have a guaranteed return: my family. My friends. My hometown.

The next time my follower count threatens to bum me out, I want to be mindful enough to shut my laptop and go wrestle with my daughter instead. I want to silence my phone and sip a quiet latte in my neighborhood coffeeshop. I want to close Twitter, leave behind the iDevices, and invite my family on a rainy-day hike. ■

Categories
meta

Being okay with being terrible

Lately, in addition to blogging and podcasting every day, I’ve been recording short videos and uploading them to YouTube.

These vlogs are pretty bad. I address the camera from my cramped little home office—a talking head with a weird-looking haircut. My ramshackle light rig casts a yellow, washed-out pall over my face. I deliver this scripted, stilted little speech, often spouting half-baked ideas. Very few viewers ever see these sad little videos; as I record this, yesterday’s episode has a grand total of one view. One.

Making something mediocre, let alone something that’s genuinely bad, is difficult for me. I’m very much a type-A personality; I was the kid who mourned every A-minus and who restarted a piano piece every time he hit a wrong wrong note.

And it’s not hard to see the flaws in what I’m posting, particularly when I compare it to others’ work on the web. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Casey Neistat, vlogger king. His work makes me feel simultaneously jealous and ashamed. I feel jealous because he’s so damn good at what he does. And I feel ashamed because Casey and I are almost the exact same age (we were literally born just four days apart). Two thirty-six-year-olds, one who does amazing, admired work, and one who… doesn’t.

This self-critical, all-or-nothing mindset has sabotaged my creative impulse before. I have abandoned a half-dozen online projects when I wasn’t satisfied with either the quality of the result or the (nonexistent) audience reaction. My latent perfectionism sabotaged the daily discipline, grinding the machine to a halt.

The only difference so far this time around is that I’m pushing through that discouragement and trying to ignore the results. In short, I’ve learned to be okay with being terrible. I’ve decided to just keep making stuff, whether it’s mediocre or not. ■

Categories
meta

Does Steve Jobs’ creative philosophy (“Make something wonderful”) apply to obscure bloggers?

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of Steve Jobs’ untimely death. Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO, shared this reflection on Twitter:

Here’s a longer version of the same Jobs quotation, which Apple highlighted in the prelude to its September marketing event:

“One of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there…. Somehow, in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something is transmitted there.”


I don’t feel a strong sentimental connection to Apple’s co-founder, but I find him a fascinating figure: irascible and difficult, yet undeniably visionary, even prescient. At times, he was childishly petulant; at others, he demonstrated careful thinking. So it seemed worthwhile to reflect on how Jobs’ ideas might apply to my renewed blogging and podcasting efforts.

Now, “expressing my appreciation to the rest of humanity” isn’t the way I usually think about my daily writing and recording routines. But maybe it should be; too often, I get hung up on “appreciation” flowing the other way around: from readers and listeners to me. How many times did listeners download this episode? How many views did that post get? Could I ever earn enough followers to monetize this site? Is anyone out there even paying attention?

This sort of selfish obsession quickly leads to discouragement. I lose my motivation to write, and I’m tempted to quit, as I have so many times before. That’s why I haven’t enabled analytics on this site’s current incarnation; I’m terrified that knowing how few readers I have will derail my determination to rise early each morning and do the work.

The Jobs quotation above suggests a more productive approach: ignore my desperate desire for affirmation and appreciation. Instead, focus on the work itself: creating something good, genuine, and helpful. That mindset makes blogging more sustainable, more fun—almost automatic.

Now, the end result may not be “something wonderful”, in Jobs’ parlance, but if I’m investing “a great deal of care and love”, it will be rewarding—to myself, if not to anyone else. ■