I just watched a Merlin Mann’s presentation from MacWorld – “Toward Patterns for Creativity” This is not his best talk but it is interesting and amusing in that Merlin Mann way. You can tell that he is in the “there is something good here but I haven’t quite got my head around it yet” state. This is a state that I stumble through often in my work. I learn about a new technique or start to see a new pattern and I can tell that there will be a richness eventually but I haven’t quite grasped the fullness of the idea. All of this is beside the point.
The point that struck me from his talk was towards the end. It came near this slide:
Merlin made a comment that if you want to get better at your creative endeavor, “you have to work at it and that means less time on Twitter or playing X-Box”. This is a way of restating the cliche that defines craziness as doing the same over and expecting different results. If you want to change something in your life, then you need to change what you are doing now.
This is something that I should make more explicit in my life. I have several personal goals that I’m working. To achieve them, I need to realign my activities and energies. Doing what I’ve always done won’t cause the change that I want to occur.
Over Christmas / New Years break I set up my watercolors again. I’ve really enjoyed painting and creating art again. I want to improve my skills and my creative vision and push to find my own style. I cannot do that if I continue with painting the way I have for the past decade which is to occasionally set up and paint a picture or two then put everything away for a year. I need to set some goals then stop doing something else to make time and space and energy for painting.
My goal is pretty straightforward – create at least one painting a month this year. Not very difficult in these Winter months. This will be much more difficult come Summer and hours when I want to spend my time my road-bike cycling around Southwest Wisconsin and on trips or to take Lola swimming.
The realignment: less mindless TV in the evening during the week getting my sketches done, more quality time at the easel on Saturday or Sunday morning.
Interesting outcome: less TV means less desire to buy a new 52″ LCD TV and more listening to music while I draw and paint. I’m saving money and rediscovering my CD collection and new music.
When I lived in California, I gained a lot of weight. I have gradually lost about 25 pounds of that weight. I’ve manage to, so far, not regain the weight I lost last Summer when I was cycling. Okay, this is mostly true. I dropped 10 pounds last Summer and I’ve gained back 2 or 3 so far this Winter. I’m fine with that trade: loose 10 over the Summer gain back 3 over the Winter. At that rate, I’ll be at my target weight in 18 months.
My goal is to get to 175 which would put me at a good body fat percentage.
The realignment: Personal Training twice a week. Weight lifting at home once a week. And, lot’s of time on my bike when the weather changes. This means less time working on the yard or house, playing with Lola and watching mindless TV. This will be in direct conflict with Painting. I’m not sure how I will reconcile the conflict with Painting. I feel badly about less time playing with Lola.
The realignment also includes changes in what I eat. I love breads and cookies. I adore cookies. I also enjoy cooking a wide variety of foods. I am explicitly changing to a more vegetarian diet. I’m not becoming a vegetarian – I enjoy being an omnivore. I’m eating fruits and vegetables that are local when possible from our incredible Farmers Market. I’m following Mark Bittman’s advice and reducing the size of my meat servings and their frequency in my diet. I have greatly reduce the refined carbohydrates in my diet.
This brings up another interesting conflict. Eating carbs is good for working out. Not eating carbs is good for weight loss. Eating fiber and protein and fat is good for feeling full and staying satiated though-out the day. Eating fiber, protein and fat before a workout can make you want to puke. Trust me on that one.
Interesting Outcome: increased strength, endurance and flexibility make me feel more vigorous. I sleep soundly at night and I have more energy during the day to work on my other goals. I find that sitting and watching mindless TV makes me twitchy so I want to do something rather than just watch something.
Last Spring I bought a real road-bike. This is first real road-bike I’ve owned since I rode the canyons of the Wasatch range in college. I own and ride my commuter bike a lot but a road bike is a different animal altogether. I loved my Summer of cycling in 2008. This year I want to continue with my cycling and take it up a notch. Last Fall, we rode the Door County Century – a 100 mile ride. This Fall, I would like to ride a double metric century – a 200Km ride or a 124 mile ride. I would also like to move my average moving speed up at least 1 MPH.
The realignment: I spent a lot of time in the saddle last Summer. Towards the end of the season, I was riding 12 to 14 hours a week. I don’t think I can get more time on my bike so I will have to train more intentionally. There is risk in taking on a more serious attitude towards training. You can loose the fun of riding. I had great fun exploring the hills and valleys that surround Madison by bike. I have to tread cautiously here. I have turned cycling into a evaluation of numbers and made great rides bad because I wasn’t hitting speed goals. So I caution myself to not turn the joy of biking into serious work that full of disappointments of milestones not met.
Interesting Outcome: Improving my fitness and technique would increase my average speed. Longer rides would take less time. I would, in effect, free up time to do other things like play with Lola or paint or work in the yard.
Being explicit in the changes in my routing is what Merlin made me think about. Truly focusing on “that is what I used to do. This is what I should do now if I want to reach my goal” will be my challenge.