creativity

J.K. Rowling’s storyboard – writing as engineering

Below is a snapshot — literally — of one of J.K. Rowling’s storyboards.

Firs of all, it looks cool!

But more importantly, it illustrates an interesting point. No matter how natural and effortless a Harry Potter book is to read, clearly writing it is a pretty analytical process. Starting with a big vision, drilling down into the details, and finally “shipping” the end result seems similar to making software.

I’m organizing and planning my own book using software engineering tools and processes, all the way down to version control and text formatting. What can I say, as a software engineer, this is my comfort zone. Having a good process gives me the freedom and security to be creative, try ideas without risk, and literally commit when I’m done. 🤷🏻‍♂️

And like a great app, I hope the end result will impact you but appear effortless. Stay tuned to see how that goes. 🤓 #goals

Quotes

“Within me there lay an invincible summer.”

In my experience, this is dead on.

Albert Camus, gagnant de prix Nobel, portrait en buste, posé au bureau, faisant face à gauche, cigarette de tabagisme.jpg
“Al” Camus in 1957, three years before his death

In the depths of Winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

If you get through a hard time, and really conquer it, then you are 10x stronger on the other side.

The key is to actually go through your winter (not around it), own it, and then flip it.

This Al Camus guy seems interesting. Apparently he was a philosopher, author, and journalist (yes!) from French Algeria.

I should probably read some of his books. 🤔

Quotes

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

You gotta love this guy. He’s a real Einstein.

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.

Albert Einstein

All the greatest scientists had wild imaginations. Otherwise you’re just a nerd in a lab coat.

Interesting things like time travel, black holes, and atomic energy can’t be solved by simply using what we know. You have to expand your mind.

And if you want to be extra smart about it, develop some theories and test them against reality (aka science). That’s such a powerful combination. 🤩

Software Dev

“Perhaps you could tell us what you personally have been doing for the last seven years.”

As MacBreak Weekly celebrated the 14th anniversary of the iPhone’s launch, I was reminded of Steve Jobs’ “redemptive arc.”

Here is Jobs addressing a somewhat hostile question at the 1997 WWDC. At the time, Apple was nearly out of money, and Jobs had just returned after previously being kicked out of the company.

George Bernard Shaw said that “your patience when you have nothing” is one of the two things that define you. It’s interesting to look at Steve Jobs when he is down and see the vision and patience that was brewing at the time.

As we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with what incredible benefits can we give to the customer, where can we take the customer. Not starting with ‘let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that’.

And I think that’s the right path to take.

It would be four more years until the iPod launched and ten years until the iPhone launched.

The end of Jobs’ answer also reminded me of Teddy Roosevelt.

Some mistakes will be made a long the way. That’s good, because at least some decisions will be made along the way.

Steve Jobs

Ah yes, patience and decisiveness. Like a good game, they are easy to learn and hard to master.

Quotes · You

“What a man can be, he must be.”

Good ol’ Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist who gave us a pyramid and a hammer, is at it again with some pretty sensible insights.

This time he’s riffing on Aristotle’s function argument about what the heck we’re even doing here. Basically, we’re here to be useful.

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.

(Apparently he was an old-school fan of the “he/him/man” pronoun. 🤷🏻‍♂️)

It’s one thing to find your purpose — and those who do so should consider themselves fortunate. But the real trick is to actually do something about it.

It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

Thank you for the reminder, Mazzy. Can I call you that? Because here’s another Mazzy who found her purpose.

Me · Music

“I Want It All” 🎶

Here is Japanese Breakfast’s perfect companion to The Walkmen singing “Baby, I want everything”.

I want it all.

Japanese Breakfast – Diving Woman

I’m feeling this vibe. I do want it all.

I don’t want six cars, a mansion, a helicopter, or even a fancy watch. Please, no. Just no.

I do want to travel, but not all the time. I could probably spend 1000 years happily just goofing around Central Texas.

But I do want to write a novel, make some music, raise some amazing kids, have a long and challenging career, learn to tell good stories and jokes, improve the world a bit, take care of myself, and be a good friend.

Am I asking too much? We shall see. 😆

We’re only given this one life, so you might as well at least try to make the most of it.

You’ll have it all
I’ll have it all
We’ll have it all

creativity

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”

John Cleese gave this speech back in the 1990’s about creativity. Apparently he was a bit of a student of the topic. 🤷🏻‍♂️

His main point was that creativity is not something that you have or don’t have. And it is not related to traditional intelligence.

Creativity is a mood – an open, curious, and playful way of operating. He calls this playful, creative state “open mode”, whereas we normally go through life in “closed mode”, basically trying to get stuff done.

To be fully effective, a creative person needs to juggle both modes well. After all, you’ve got to find the creative flow and keep your projects on track to actually get sh*t done.

(Thoughtfully subtitled in German 🤷🏻‍♂️). Full version of the speech here.

This creative “open mode” is subconscious and requires de-focusing in a way. In other words, you can’t force creative breakthroughs. It is in this relaxed open mode where the creative magic happens. You just need to allow yourself the time and other factors to let yourself be creative.

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.

One reason I liked improv class was that it forces you into this open, playful mode (even when you are terrified).

Hopefully, when creativity is applied consistently over time, then great things can happen. 🤓

Books · The World

On Tyranny – Little Things You Can Do To Save The World

In America, we have the assumption that tyranny naturally comes from the government. After all, our whole origin story is based on some scrappy settlers rebelling against a meddling, powerful empire.

But the January 6 siege of the US Capital showed us that tyranny can also come from common American citizens, determined to disrupt the own constitutional process, spurred on by distributing, nonsensical, violent theories. It’s a reminder that tyranny can happen here, and it may come from the most unexpected sources. 🤔

“We see ourselves as a city on the hill, a stronghold of democracy, looking out for threats that come from abroad. But… human nature is such that American democracy must be defended from Americans who would exploit its freedoms to bring about its end.”

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to visit practical tips from book On Tyranny. This book is full of simple lessons from 20th century Europe that we can apply to our own lives to help maintain our freedom in this really weird modern American scenario.

On Tyranny book cover
Look for the fun graphic edition coming this summer. 🙃

Contribute to good causes. (Some ideas: help make good information accessible, empower people, fight hate, or go local.)

Pick a charity or two and set up autopay. Then you will have made a free choice that supports civil society and helps others to do good.

Support a newspaper or a magazine. Real journalism is tough work and needs your support.

“Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on the internet is there to harm you. Take responsibility for what you communicate with others.”

Support the multi-party system. It is critical to have viable liberal and conservative parties vying for power.

Support the multi-party system and defend the rules of democratic elections. Vote in local and state elections while you can. Consider running for office.

Be inclusive. Take responsibility for the face of the world.

“You might one day be offered the opportunity to display symbols of loyalty. Make sure that such symbols include your fellow citizens rather than exclude them.”

I try my best. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Practice professional ethics. State election officials got tested this time around but stood strong, even dealing with violet threats. It’s a reminder that democracy doesn’t just happen automatically.

Maintain your rational, independent thought and individualism. Don’t let yourself get duped into something just because you like being part of a group (looking at you, yoga moms).

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.

The renunciation of reality can feel natural and pleasant, but the result is your demise as an individual—and thus the collapse of any political system that depends upon individualism.

Be a patriot. Love your country and the best of what it stands for.

A patriot… wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves.

A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.

So there are some simple things anyone can do to help. It’s easy but also hard.

You

“Meaning is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.”

Cool quote from this TED talk about almost dying and then living.

Meaning is not found in the material realm; it’s not in dinner, jazz, cocktails or conversation. Meaning is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.

There are lots of way to interpret that quote, of course.

One way I look at it is this: life is about who you are. If everything in your life suddenly disappeared and you were dropped into an empty field in an unknown country, what person would be standing there?

I’m not talking about some crazy Naked and Afraid survival scenario. Suppose you have some money and some clothes. But not much else. Who is that person standing in the field? What does he know? What does he want? How does he move forward? How will he impact the world around him? That’s who you are.

I’m not actually sure if that’s what that quote meant ☝️, but there’s my take. 😆

This goes with Aristotle’s idea that the meaning of life is what you do — how you impact the real world. As humans, we are uniquely gifted with smart brains and “rational faculty”. We are happiest when we use these minds for some purpose in the world.

A poet should write, a teacher teach, and a doctor heal. Not only should each person do their thing, but they should do it well.

I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty inspirational. 😊