On the subway, a late Friday night commute home, the man next to me sets his phone’s wallpaper to a photo of a grinning child, presumably his son. Then he proceeds to go through each screen of icons, moving them off the boy’s face. Screen after screen of tapping and dragging, tapping, dragging, then flipping through to check — until each time the visage is lovingly ringed by app icons.
These days I’m getting more interested in data visualization, like this collaborative project between two designers called Dear Data that combines visualizations, handmade art, and the postal system.
Every week Giorgia and Stefanie pick something they can track about their daily lives, record the data for a week, then figure out how to show it visually on a postcard before swapping them by mail. The results are abstractly beautiful. They both write in detail about the process they took and then compare their approaches. Often the exact manner by which they tracked the week’s concept varies in fascinating ways.
I’ve spent the first couple weeks of 2015 finally getting up-to-date on the booklog — for the first time in about eight months! Now I have no excuses (or maybe just less) for other projects I haven’t been making time to work on.
Shortly before the new year I posted some new photos from a summer day in Big Sur. Then I also re-posted some older photos from New Years a few years ago that originally lived on my site uncapitalized, just because I missed having it somewhere online.
I’ve been starting to catch up on my second major booklog backlog of the year — it seems like taking a hiatus last year while rebuilding the site has only inspired me to take more breaks. It’s been a struggle and frustration to not have the focus since this has been the most consistent practice I’ve maintained over the years.
While listening to Debbie Millman’s Design Matters* interview with Tina and Ryan Essmaker, who run The Great Discontent, I found myself relating to their discussion of what their name represents, as well as creative sabotage and risks. First Debbie mentions sabotage:
You talk about the notion of sabotaging yourself in relation to your ambitions and your goals. And you talked about sabotaging each other... You quote Steven Pressfield on the Discontent, I believe in the about section... “Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” ... These moments of resistance or fear really tell us quite a lot about what we want. I don’t think we would feel fear about something that we were ultimately indifferent to.
Ryan then goes into the idea of “being content in your discontent”:
You can’t let that feeling of dissatisfaction or discontent keep you from doing the things that you want to do. You have to use that to propel you forward to new things and greater things.
Later Tina talks about taking leaps, the theme of their first print issue:
I put off taking risks for a very long time, and I tried to be very safe, and it just wasn’t working for me. I think after talking to enough people about the risks they’d taken and reframing it and realizing that you only have one life—
At which point Debbie interrupts to say, “—and what are you waiting for?”
*One of my favorite podcasts. It encompasses a range of creativity beyond just design. I especially enjoy to listen to it while cooking.
This time last year I was thinking about summer’s laziness, as I was lucky to have a lot of it then — now I am patching together my empty time in shorter sections. My friend Elka sent me a link about the importance of boredom, which references Adam Phillips’s essay “On Being Bored,” and it made me wistful for a freer schedule. I keep wishing I had “more time to think.” But it’s not necessarily any precise amount of idle time, but what the longer stretches of it tend to enable, as in the quote from Phillips’s essay where he describes boredom as a “precarious process” of “both waiting for something and looking for something, in which hope is being secretly negotiated.”
Some nights it’s enough to sit outside as the dusk deepens, watching the fireflies dart and blink and a gang of raccoons make their way down the fence thoroughfares that divide the backyards, off to whatever mischief they have planned for the evening. During the day I’ve witnessed for the first time the actual moment when sycamore bark falls off the tree, clattering down to the sidewalk as I pass by. It’s surprising that I never noticed this before, but now I'm tuned in to sycamore branches with their shed layers still dangling, as well as all the crumpled pieces underfoot and how they represent the moments we’ve missed.
That blank exuberance — “who can wait for nothing?”