Below is a snippet from technology and culture writer Nicholas Carr’s new book Utopia is Creepy, based on the collective musings of his popular blog Rough Type, where he writes about the craving for everything technology, including the way it’s become a religion and the way we think of it as the be-all and end-all for solving all the world’s problems.
“So began my argument with – what should I call it? There are so many choices: the digital age, the information age, the internet age, the computer age, the connected age, the Google age, the emoji age, the cloud age, the smartphone age, the data age, the Facebook age, the robot age, the posthuman age. The more names we pin on it, the more vaporous it seems. If nothing else, it is an age geared to the talents of the brand manager. I’ll just call it Now.”
Inspiration is not a prerequisite for creativity. In fact, it confounds what making things is all about—a dedication to the craft. If you only work when you’re inspired, you’ll get nothing done. Inspiration doesn’t strike all day, nor should you have to build it up to get started.
Do the work
Inspiration can be a distraction. Seeking motivation becomes an excuse to avoid the hard work. Producing something original requires concentration and distance. Roger Smith is a watchmaker at Hodinkee on the remote Isle of Man, far away from Switzerland and Cupertino.
“The influences just aren’t around, and I can just get on with my days work and just make what I want to make.” — Roger W. Smith
In an interview with Benji B, Thom Yorke of Radiohead said he doesn’t listen to anything else while making an album—he’s completely engaged in the creative process. Focusing on producing his own music distances himself from the temptation of finding the next interesting sound.
Making is an accumulation of what you already know. If you have good taste, you should be able to pull from outside influences and recast them in your own style. Taste finds a way of making it into your craft.
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” — Chuck Close
The human head consists of a left brain and a right brain, each with distinct cognitive functions. The left hemisphere is known for processing logic and doing verbal and mathematical analysis while the right half excels in creativity and imagination, the visual stuff.
But the left brain holds responsibility for how we react since it’s the one that interprets. As we think, so are we. As neuroscience writer Eric Barker points out, “anxiety and depression are caused by thinking problems.” In other words, we tend to exaggerate and jump to conclusions when there’s none to be drawn. Exhibit A:
Right Brain:The boss seems agitated.
Left Brain:Better get the resume together. We’re getting fired.
Mindfulness acts as the parent-guardian to a brain in flux. It helps people take a step back from the false information they design in their heads. Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski once said that “the map is not the territory.” In other words, a map is an abstraction of land, a mere model of reality just as skeuomorphismmakes an icon for trash look like a garbage can. Similarly, the medium is the message.
There is no such thing as the left-right lateralization of brain function; there’s only one brain that works with the sum of its parts. Designers can be mathematicians and vice versa, as the brain may be partial to skills but impartial to sidedness. It’s how we think about ourselves and our surroundings that usually gets in the way.
One of the key traits of any artist is to protect against and take advantage of the contradictions. It goes back to what F. Scott Fitzgerald said about intelligence: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” In this video, Chinese dissident/artist Ai Weiwei explains why he calls Beijing his home.
“I wouldn’t think Beijing’s a prison for me. But Beijing is definitely a prison for freedom of speech.”
Financial Times writer Barney Jopson went on the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan, a route founded and dedicated to commemorate the original 750-mile trek of Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi. Also known as Kūkai, Daishi returned from studying in China in the late 7th century AD to help import Buddhism in Japan. Jopson biked the route but given the age of many of the participants, most prefer to travel by bus while others walk.
“There are no definitive counts but each year between 80,000 and 140,000 pilgrims — known as o-henro — are estimated to travel at least part of the route. According to one survey, around 60 per cent of them are over the age of 60. The vast majority speed around on air-conditioned bus tours but a hardy band of 2,000-5,000 are estimated to do it on foot, usually completing the circuit in 40-50 days.”
A lot of people think thinkers can’t be leaders. But that’s exactly what leadership is: thinking. The leader of a group takes what they read and hear internally and externally and originates his/her own thought. They speak for themselves. As former Yale professor and best-selling author William Deresiewicz said in his 2009 speech to West Point cadets:
“If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.”
Half-ass efforts produce half-ass results. The same goes for 99 percent effort. If you don’t commit 100 percent to whatever it is–quitting smoking, writing a book, taking photography seriously–it’s going to fall to the wayside.
“Keep ’em typing!” says Kenneth Alexander, a typewriter repairer with over forty years of experience. He works for California Typewriter in San Francisco, one of the last surviving typewriter repair shop in the United States.
“If you want to concentrate, if you want to write in your own mind, write with a typewriter. You see the words hit the paper. There’s no distractions.”
One of the ways mobile behavior has changed is that instead of sharing stuff at the moment, we edit and share it later with a caption like “That time I…”. According to Washington Post journalist Britt Peterson, the phrase, and its various iterations (“that time when,” “that moment when,” etc.) create immediate intimacy with your followers which is why it works so well for celebrities, who may not want to reveal their present location for obvious privacy concerns.
“That time I” works in real time to make readers feel like they’re part of an in-group, creating collective nostalgia for events that just took place. In some way, it’s a neat linguistic trick.”
There’s a consumption period where you read books and articles or impulse-check Instagram or Twitter. Then there’s a thinking process where you take what you ingested and connect things (ideas, concepts, quotes, images, etc.after) to each other.
The doing is the hardest, which is why most people give up after the thinking part. Everyone creator thinks their work is original. It’s not; we steal from the artists that came before us.
“Beethoven depended on a Mozart to be a Beethoven. Picasso depended on a Cezanne. Without Michelson, there would be no Einstein” – James Altucher
The attempt to sell our output makes marketing the hardest. If you invent something comparable to the airplane or an online bookstore, be prepared to be misunderstood for a long time.
Not all consumers want to become artists and producers. In fact, the majority of people just want to look and move on. But if you stop once in a while, think about what you learned, you’d be surprised at what you have to contribute.