July 2013

Rule 34 for Creatives

Salton Sea Detour
[Originally published on Medium]

If you create it, there’s someone who will like it.

As citizens of the internet, we all know about The Rules, most referenced of course is Rule 34If you can think of it, there is porn of it.

Some things are just such universally understood facts that there’s no point in arguing about them. Rule 34 is one such fact. But it’s easy to read at face value and then move on thinking it’s just a joke, but in fact there’s a much more important lesson here especially for anyone creative. I say creative but I should note that I think there are very few people who aren’t creative — maybe no one. Not everyone is a writer or an artist or a composer or a crafter or a hardware designer or whatever else you can think of, but as a people we enjoy making things and at some point you have to admit that requires creativity. Anyway, that’s another rant all together — back to the rule 34 discussion.

If you can think of it: Well that’s pretty much anything, because duh.

There is porn of it: This is the moneyshot of this statement, so to speak. Keeping things a bit abstract here, porn doesn’t just exist. Someone has to create it. But more than that, someone has to not only care enough to make it but also believe that someone out there in the world would also enjoy it. If you haven’t spent much time on 4chan you might not really be grasping the scope of what we’re talking about here, but seriously, anything you can think of, it’s out there, and someone enjoys it.

The way this relates to you, as a creative — that thing you’ve been thinking of… that thing you want to write, that thing you want to paint, that thing you want to sing, that thing you want to design, that thing you want to build — whatever it is, someone will dig it. Traditionally, producing things is scary. Will it be good enough? Will anyone like it? Will everyone laugh at you? Rule 34 applies to you.

If you follow through and actually do this (I don’t want to keep contextualizing this, but you know what I mean, whatever it is you are hesitating to do. For me it’s writing, for you it might be publishing some photos or starting a sketchbook) someone out there will like it. And that’s really all you need. One person to appreciate the work you put into. The catch here is that you may never know this person exists — but they do, and Rule 34 proves that. If whatever kind of crazy twisted freaky porn you can think of has at least enough enthusiastic fans out there to justify someone willing it into existence, then certainly anything you want to make but are second guessing can find an audience.

And better than that, if you keep doing it, those fans will tell their friends, and your fans will double in number. And before you know it you’ll have double digits of fans. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

I know I personally talk myself out of so much that I want to write because the stupid bullshit voice in my head tells me no one will care. No one will be interested. No one will like it. Rule 34 proves that voice wrong. I just need to know one person was glad I finished that thing and hit publish. Now I don’t have an excuse. How about you? What are you waiting for? That person is out there, don’t disappoint them.

Knowing the destination before setting out on the voyage

Earlier today I mentioned that there’s never been something I’m so equally attracted to and horrified of in my entire life – as writing. I’ve done it and not done it all my life and I’ve written about doing it and not doing it probably more than I’ve actually done it. I have this problem that I’ve become much more aware of recently, which might actually be making it worse now that I know about it, where I’m petrified of beginning writing if I don’t know where I’m going to end up. Depending on your perspective this has never/always been a problem for me to some extent – or rather, it’s been a problem in other areas that I didn’t realize were problematic, but hasn’t really been a problem with writing.

In my most prolific writing days I had no idea where I was headed until I got there and that was my salvation. Writing was incredibly therapeutic and with just a spark I could dig into my head and spill my guts all over a page and not only feel good about what I’d written, but feel better mentally as well. Like I’d worked through something. Solved something that I didn’t understand before and that drove me to keep doing it. At some point I got the idea that I needed that spark to give me the push, and then at some other point I realized those sparks don’t really happen on command. And then I started worrying about them and how to find them and what to do without them. The spark was like a quick strobe flash in a dark room that gave me an idea of what route to take to get through it, and without that I just keep standing there not knowing which direction to move in.

I told a story last year (and many times before actually) that as a kid I never took first steps, or said first words. I sat around staring at people for ever – much longer than I should have – and then just started walking, and just started talking in full sentences. It’s a story passed on to me from my parents and I don’t even know how much truth is in it. But I guess I convinced myself it was true, and then used it as an excuse by blaming some weird way my head works. I have to know I can do it before I start. Or I have to know the destination before I can embark on the journey. Which I think is bullshit, so that’s conflicting to say the least.

The thing is I love writing. When I’m in the groove it’s easily one of my favorite things in the world. If I could do that all day I would in a heartbeat. When I’m not in that groove it’s torture and I beat myself up about it all day long, which I’m certain only makes it that much worse.

I’ve talked to a number of my “writer” friends, or just my friends who write even if they don’t consider themselves writers. I ask them if they know where they are going when they begin. If they have a roadmap. If they just dive in blind. And their answers, of course – I knew before I ever asked them, are varied. Some people have outlines, some people have ideas, some people barely have a spark. So there’s no one solution, no one answer. And again, I already know that so I don’t know why I keep asking. But I do. I feel like I’m 1 year old just watching everyone walk around too afraid to try to take a step. Does that mean that at some people in the future I’ll just *get it* and suddenly be able to write without issue? I doubt it, but that’s a good excuse to not try today.

And it’s not even a fear of failure. I don’t mind if I suck. I don’t mind if what I write is stupid. I mean I don’t want to write sucky stupid stuff, but if that’s the result then I’m already OK with that because it’s a result, which is better than what I have right now. I’m afraid of getting lost. Afraid of staring at the blank page and not having any idea what to write next. Afraid of trying to tell a story and not having a story to tell. If I don’t actually write it then I can keep telling myself that I have a story that I just haven’t written yet. If I force myself to start writing it and hit a wall, then I have to admit that I don’t have a story. Which is where that desire to know the end before I begin comes from. And again, I know it’s stupid.

I’m not even looking for advice here, just trying to kick my own ass and sort through the crap in my own head so I can better grasp what it is that is actually standing in my way. Like with this post, I knew the first sentence because I’d already written it on twitter, everything else just appeared as I typed the line before it. So that’s something.

First 140 People On Twitter

(crossposted on Medium)
A conversation on twitter last night reminded me of a list I’d seen compiled many years ago of the first 140 people to sign up for Twitter – known as twttr at that point. The site where the list had been posted was down but thanks to The Wayback Machine I was able to find the list. I thought I’d repost it here just for posterity.

top 6 x 6 following list on Twitter I find this list incredibly fascinating for a number of reasons. We all know what twitter is now, but no one knew what it would be then so if nothing else (with the exception of the people who worked at Odeo) this is a snapshot of a somehow connected (it was invite only) group of people who were willing to try out new things that likely made no sense to them at the time. Who is on the list is just as interesting as who isn’t – and seeing how it spread. Jason Cosper invited me and I invited both Xeni Jardin and Richard Ault who signed up immediately. I recall the first few days much more vividly than I do the following 6 months. Random text messages from people stating that they were making sandwiches or going to the store, and the feeling that this info was probably important in a context I couldn’t quite wrap my head around – which made it exciting. It was also annoying. But it found it’s groove and as I’ve said before the service went on to change my entire world and how I communicate with people, and I’d argue I’m not the only one who feels that way. I can’t imagine a world without Twitter today. And because those first few days and weeks were so new and weird, this list is a bit nostalgic for me. I don’t know how it makes anyone else feel, but like I said I just thought it was worth archiving.


(Note: Unfortunately it seems that a few people on this list, over the last 7 years, changed their usernames or stopped using them and someone else has snatched those names up. They are obvious when you follow the links below, so this list is more an archive of the names and accounts, no so much the current users.)

Decisions Decisions

I feel like I used to be a lit more decisive. I don’t know if that’s true or if it’s just my head making shit up but I feel like it’s true. I feel like when I was presented with an option I would make my choice and run with it but at some point I started asking myself about the options and which was better and what might happen if I chose one over the other. I told myself that this was smart and it would help me make more educated choices and more thoughtful decisions. And that’s not entirely wrong, or bad, but the result of doing that more and more often hasn’t been making better and better decisions it’s been making some very well thought out decisions and being paralyzed in fear of making the wrong decision so not making a decision at all on far too many other things. Maybe I don’t have time to do the research I think I need to, or maybe the info that I found wasn’t definitive, or maybe I just didn’t feel like thinking about it – whatever the reason a choice left unmade was the result. And it’s been happening more and more often. It’s almost like I’m bikeshedding myself.

Anyway I sort of knew I was doing this but pretended I didn’t, and then I really knew I was doing it and thought I’d just ignore it. Turns out neither of those are really good ideas and it’s just been getting worse and worse. The anxiety. The indecision. It’s a bunch of bullshit, all of it. This morning I was at Costco with Tara because we needed to pick up a few things (protip: Costco sells a giant 26oz jar of MaraNatha Almond Butter which is amazing in smoothies for like $6, which is even way cheaper than Amazon, and the 12oz jar is $19 at my local grocery store – but anyway…) and we were walking down the office supply isle and Tara said “Oh we need printer paper” and reached over to the stack of paper packages closest to her, grabbed one and put it in the cart and kept going.

I stood there in shock. And then told her why I was in such awe.

There were no less than 8 different kinds of printer paper there. At even my quickest glance I could see they were all about the same price and about the same sheet count so there was no instant, obvious reason to choose one over the other. If I had been standing there and realized I needed paper it would have taken me 10-15 minutes of reading about each option and trying to decide which one was the wisest choice. I probably would have been googling them holding them next to each other to see how much of a difference there was between 92 bright white and 87 white. And I would have been unsure about my final pick. Did I spend extra for something I don’t need? Should I have gotten something brighter? What about recycled? Tara wrestled with none of that, she didn’t even care. She spent 3 seconds on it – if even – and then moved on.

I thought about this for the rest of the day and this afternoon realized why. I hadn’t really realized how much this indecisiveness was bothering me until I saw how little impact making a choice and running with it had on her. Because really, there’s no difference in any of those papers – they all do the job. So anything more than 5 seconds would have been a waste, but I couldn’t have realized that until I saw it in action. And so here I am, obsessing about that and promising myself that I’m going to stop wrestling with myself over shit that doesn’t matter and just make a decision and run with it, and be happy with it, and stop thinking about it so I can move on to the next thing. A decision made is better than a decision in limbo tearing away at me. I won’t even get into the months and months of disasterous mental hell I’ve been putting myself through over any number of choices that have been laid out before me. None of which deserve 1% of the time I’ve spent on them.

I’m feeling like this is a reckless decision but it’s probably not in anyway. But I’m making the choice to just start making choices. I’m committing to making a commitment and seeing where it leads rather than trying to know the whole map before I take a step. Maybe I’ll make the wrong choice sometimes, but I’ll be making choices and that’s better than where I’m at right now.

So we’ll see where this leads.