Quitting the Internet

Comedian Aziz Ansari on quitting the Internet, deleting a number of apps like email, Twitter and Instagram from his devices:

… Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things. What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore. When I first took the browser off my phone, I’m like, [gasp] How am I gonna look stuff up? But most of the shit you look up, it’s not stuff you need to know. All those websites you read while you’re in a cab, you don’t need to look at any of that stuff. It’s better to just sit and be in your own head for a minute. I wanted to stop that thing where I get home and look at websites for an hour and a half, checking to see if there’s a new thing. And read a book instead. I’ve been doing it for a couple months, and it’s worked. I’m reading, like, three books right now. I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the Internet and not remembering anything.

I keep thinking about these words because I identify with them a lot. Ironically, I read them after clicking a link on Twitter, but I have been trying to cut back recently. Yes, that’s a link to me saying that on Twitter. I recognize this isn’t looking good for me right now, but progress happens one step at a time.

I’ve noticed as I’ve cut back more, my appetite for more purposeful reading has increased and my creative energy has felt freer. “Being in your own head” more has a way of making that happen. I started to walk and run more recently — I think as a way to literally walk and run away from the screens. I crave that space. I’m going to keep heading in that direction, small step after small step. Purposeful seems much better than aimless.

Themers as Shipbuilders

Working with WordPress themes can often be misunderstood. How could you build sites without knowing the content? I love building themes because I believe that a good WordPress theme can open up a new world to those using it. In turn, also reveal something unique about the site’s owner to the world. I read a quote from Henry Rollins on creativity, success and failure that reminded me of how I feel about themes, especially  when I finish one:

I’m a shipbuilder. I don’t want to sail in them. I want you to sail in them. I’m just happy that they leave the harbor so I can have an empty workplace.

I feel the same way when I launch a theme. I’m more excited to start the next one than continue work on something from the past.

Conan O’Brien Interviews Jack White

I listened to this interview Conan O’Brien did with Jack White a few years ago, and it touches on a number of interesting subjects. These include creativity, art, technology and digital manipulation. It’s great to listen to if you’re a modern-day digital creator.

One of my favorite aspects that White hits on is deadlines. In the interview, he describes how he often won’t start writing songs until a day or two before he has studio time booked. That limitation helps him just work, and the work is creating. I love how that approach blends creativity with regular, every day work and craftsmanship.

Hat tip: Jonathan Snook.

Just Blog

Putting your work out into the world can intimidate even the most creative and confident of artists. You do that when you blog, but many fail to put it on the same scale as writing a novel or painting a landscape, for example. Why is it so hard to just blog? A number of reasons come to mind, and I’ve encountered most of them during my career as a writer and my hobby as a blogger. I wanted to share some advice to help make hitting the publish button easier.

Jellyfish

Consume What Inspires You

We all have passions that make us glow from the inside out. Gravitate toward those, and consume them in whatever way possible. They can serve as fuel for your blogging. It can be anything from reading or taking photos to cooking or building classic cars. You get the idea. Don’t feel guilty about consuming because it’s part of the creative process.

For me, in the past year, I’ve read a lot of blog posts about the open Web, accessibility, video games and parenting. That’s reflected in my content here.

A writer’s quote about this that I love:

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
– Samuel Johnson

Man overlooking canyon

Blogging Helps You Process

Writing or blogging makes you a clear thinker. It gets you to the other side of hard problems, in any part of life. It’s a creative process, so you’ll naturally find new sparks that give way to new insights. In the last year of blogging, many of my shorter posts have helped me form better, more complete posts on the same subject in the future. Even though I may have considered the shorter posts incomplete, it moved my thinking forward in a way that wouldn’t have happened without hitting “Publish”.

A writer’s thoughts on this topic:

“Writers live twice.”
– Natalie Goldberg

Curvy road with fog

Start Over Now and Then

Life is one giant work-in-progress. Every day, you wake up and iterate on the day before. Creative activities are much the same. Embrace that. I’ve deleted blogs, combined blogs, reworked categories and tags and changed my permalink structure multiple times. Sometimes a fresh start gives you a new outlook.

As a writer once said:

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
– Philip Roth

Blowfish

Be You

My favorite thing about the Internet is clicking a link and landing on someone’s personal site. Your blogs are extensions of you, let them be that. I stopped from hitting publish a lot because I felt the idea wasn’t full baked, someone else said it better, or no one cared. But in reality, when you are you, and you blog about your career, your life, your passions, amazing stuff happens. It becomes unique. It’s less about what you want people to see and more about what you see in the mirror. Unique. Real.

One of my favorite thoughts on writing:

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
– Allen Ginsberg

I hope this helps you hit “Publish” more often. Trust the process.

Writing quotes from Reader’s Digest. Images courtesy of Unsplash.

Living in a Developer’s Utopia

Yes, working on the web can challenge even the most seasoned web worker these days. Developing for the web means juggling new technologies, changing best practices and the will to keep up with it all. Several have expressed similar opinions in recent blog posts.

I think about how I used to fill my time with coding. So much coding. I was willing to dive so deep into a library or framework or technology to learn it.

My tolerance for learning curves grows smaller every day. New technologies, once exciting for the sake of newness, now seem like hassles. I’m less and less tolerant of hokey marketing filled with superlatives. I value stability and clarity.

Ed Finkler in The Developer’s Dystopian Future.

I feel the same way, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve lost almost all interest in being a web developer. The client-side app world is much more stable, favoring deep knowledge of infrequent changes over the constant barrage of new, not necessarily better but at least different technologies, libraries, frameworks, techniques, and methodologies that burden professional web development.

Marco Arment in response to Ed’s piece.

I’m in an intriguing position on this subject, because I’m not a developer anymore. I haven’t launched Xcode since last December. Every time I’m out socially with software developers (which is often; I’ve made many good friends in that line of work, and I have no desire to lose them), at least one person asks me if I miss the job.

My answer is always the same: not really. The actual truth of the matter, as ever, is more nuanced.

Matt Gemmell in Confessions of an Ex-Developer, in response to Ed’s piece and Marco’s piece.

I think about it a bit differently. I like the Web’s uncertainty. I don’t mind that it splinters off into a million different directions, often with new ones every day. I work on the Web because of its universality.

That universality leads to a lot of choices. That’s all. Learning something new, integrating it into your project and choosing what you think is a “stable” work environment is up to you. It’s your choice.

Bastian Allgeier writes about that choice, one he made recently:

Creativity is within you and all you need is a fast way to let it out. The more direct, the better.

For a web developer the editor is the pen and the browser is a piece of paper.

The longer I look at boilerplates, build tools, frameworks and ways to make my life as a developer easier, the more I long for the basics.

In the last two months I moved away from SASS for all new projects, though I know how helpful it can be in many places. I moved away from inuit.css, which I really liked as a CSS toolkit and went back to better structure my own CSS. I ditched Angular for Kirby 2 and went for a very reduced and tiny combination of loosely coupled js components.

Bastian Allgeier in Simplicity.

Having all this choice makes me feel like I’m living in a developer’s utopia.