A personal journey of lifelong learning, sharing resources, creating things, and trying to be better.

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The Craftship Workflow

Arrow Inside Black CaseSource

Idea → Prototype → Product

When you’re creating anything, it can feel daunting to try to go from an initial idea to a finished product. We think we have these fantastic ideas for things in our work or personal life, but they suddenly become vague and murky when we sit down and try to actually hash them out on paper.

In my previous post, I wrote about the difficulties in trying to find a balance between creating and planning. In this article, I’ll discuss how to make a more fluid transition between planning and creating. In other words, doing both simultaneously.

Craftship is a termed for the creative work done by someone who practices a trade or handicraft — it is the act of doing. This is exactly what this workflow is about: taking action instead of contemplating taking action.

This workflow is heavily inspired by the UX design lifestyle, as well as agile management, but has been adapted for personal use and general creativity.

Setting Ideas FreeSource

Craftship Overview

1. Brainstorming

Before anything, figure out a problem that needs to be solved, or a question that needs to be answered. This doesn’t need to be groundbreaking — it can already have a solution or an answer, instead, try to focus on alternative ideas. Create a hypothesis to solve it and start brainstorming.

Allow yourself to open up when brainstorming, don’t stop yourself from writing anything down, no matter how silly it might seem. Research and study. Look at interesting and obscure books and articles. Try to look at the issue from a completely different point of view.

Start jotting down ideas, try to connect similar ones together. Digital platforms are a great way to coordinate concepts and objectives. Using microblogging platforms like Twitter to write out these ideas is a great idea, whether publicly for receiving feedback, or privately just to have a collection. Utilise #tags or a good search function for organisation.

Don’t go overboard with this, stick to one objective or concept. Trying to execute too many ideas at once will cause you to ultimately not fulfill any properly at all. When you come across a new and exciting train of thought, separate it into it’s own entity. Don’t wait until what you have developed is perfect in any form, settle for good enough and move on to creating.

2. Creating

Once you begin your first draft, the most important thing is to simply do it. Write out the long, technical details from the short, conceptual ideas. Create an outline and fill it in. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted, don’t try to edit the minor details while you’re initially hammering things out. Just do it.

When the first draft is finished, open yourself up to allowing others to help collaborate on it, to give you feedback. Understand how your ideas and intentions are perceived by others. Start making changes to your prototype. Develop cycles of iteration. Figure out what needs to be added or removed.

There are often times when, sometime during the process, you’ll realize that what you’ve created essentially falls flat. Just as it’s important to open up with creating ideas, you also have to open up to discarding things when they don’t work. See if you can pivot what you’ve created into a new direction, explore new ideas that can be worked into it.

3. Review

One of my favorite quotes is by Paul Valéry, which is that a poem is never finished, only abandoned. It’s easy to feel that after the hard work of a few drafts, that you have a completed work. The reality is, though, that everything you make can always be improved upon in some way.

Reviewing what you’ve already created is vitally important to progress forward and improve your skills. Think about how you can repurpose content — not for the sake of milking it, but instead to explore how different mediums could add to how to your ideas.

Would you be able to better explain your blog post as a chapter in a book? Would you be able to better explain an idea if you provided visual graphics? Don’t be afraid of delving deeper into the complexities of something once you have a handle on it.

Using metrics is also helpful, figure out what work people respond to and what they ignore — what separates them? When you figure out what works, double down on it. Invest on effective measures and discard what doesn’t work.


Summary

  • Take action with your ideas, don’t wait until they’re perfect to start.
  • Iterate on those ideas, make incremental changes in a positive direction.
  • Adapt what is useful, disregard what’s ineffective.

Resolutions for 2017

FireworksSource

17 Changes that I’m Making

Around a year ago, I wrote my first real post on Medium. Coincidentally, it was also about New Year’s Resolutions:

https://wandernotebook.com/the-best-time-to-start-a-new-year-s-resolution-is-right-now-ffdd389fbf01

The essential message that I was trying to make was that you don’t need an arbitrary date, like January 1st, to mark that you want to change. You can change — or do new things — anytime you want. And that it was better to do anything at all, than it was to do nothing.

But, looking back on this, I realized that I didn’t go into detail at all with what I truly wanted to accomplish.

Something I have learned the hard way, after trying time and time again, is that you cannot change your entire self.

When I read a lot of self-help articles and books, I often find the author telling the reader the many things that they need to start doing differently. My skepticism makes me often wonder if the author themselves practice what they preach.

So I am plainly going to write out what I plan on trying to accomplish. None of it is rather grand — baby steps. Feel free to copy any of it.

These aren’t goals, either, rather they are plans for a better system. Things I can work on every day, and not stop when I reach a specific milestone.

I. Health

  1. Have a healthier diet. The exact science of ideal human nutrition has become more of a debate as time goes on — polar opposite diets regarding specific macros are said to be the healthiest way, with studies to back them up. But I’m a simple person, so really this just means cutting out things that have a high sugar (or artificial sweetener) content, as well as stopping myself from overeating. Maybe adding a few more fruits and veggies to my diet, too.
  2. Stretch for 15 minutes every morning. This routine is also one that’s debated, as runners that do stretch show signs of strain and injury nearly as much as those that don’t. But I find limbering myself up before the day makes it easier for me to handle physical activity.
  3. Meditate for 10 minutes every morning. Meditation is something I have done since I became a practicing Mahayana Buddhist when I was around 13 or so. I believe it is one of the most essential habits one could have, as it allows you to truly and deeply think about what exactly you want to do with your day. Visualizing your day is a powerful tool.
  4. Go for a 25 minute jog every other day. Back when I was in high school I used to do a lot of sprinting, but I now usually find myself barely able to write-in any physical activity into my schedule. Using a tool like Runkeeper is also a great motivator.
  5. Sit less. While I don’t think sitting is as detrimental to your health as some might believe, I do think that it’d be healthy to get up every 20 or so minutes, particularly if I’m working at a screen.
  6. Go to bed early, wake up early. My circadian rhythm has proven to be difficult, and I often find myself staying up late and consequently waking up late, giving myself no time to focus on the rest of my day. And I know that nothing makes me feel more energized or gives me more momentum than having spare time to do the things I enjoy in the morning.

II. Creativity

  1. Publish a story on Medium bi-weekly. When I post, I find myself doing it sporadically and in great quantity all at once. By queuing and planning ahead with my writing, I’d be better able to maintain a consistent pace and write more often.
  2. Read and comment on more Medium stories. Something I need to take advantage more of on this platform is the community. There are so many amazing stories and authors that go unrecognized and ignored, and I want to start a dialogue with that.
  3. Learn a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo on-and-off for a few years trying to improve my French. If I start using it, among other language resources, every day and expose myself to more French media, I know I’ll be able to become fluent.
  4. Self-host a blog for a side-project. As much as I thoroughly enjoy Medium for blogging, using it as a host is a crutch. I need to expose myself to more front-end and back-end web development by deploying my own blog for another niche hobby (maybe poetry, photography, music — who knows). A few good examples would be Jekyll or Ghost.

III. Productivity

  1. Tame my monkey mind. I believe this is the most important thing I want to accomplish. It’s a humorous way of saying I want to stop procrastinating and wasting time — allowing myself to subside and mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Reddit. I would much rather spend half of that time doing something I sincerely enjoy to relax and feel a lot better about it.
  2. Write a weekly review, every week. One habit I seldom partake in when I journal write is reviewing. I often leave my notes said and done with, but going back and reviewing the most important aspects of my week would really help me see where I can improve. In addition, once I have my weeks reviewed, it’s far easier to review the month, the year, etc.
  3. Start working with a Pomodoro timer. One of my worst problems when working is burnout. I usually work for three or four hours straight — or don’t do any work all. Pacing is key to working longer without a decay in quality.
  4. Review and study for 30 minutes each day. Whether it’s for school or for my own self-education. Utilizing flashcards and mnemonics instead of rote learning helps exponentially.

IV. Personal

  1. Be kinder to all. I am often times, too hard on myself, and others around me as well. Whether it be strangers or good friends.
  2. Care less. On the other hand, I also find myself getting mixed up in things that truly hold no meaning. I can’t waste my time fretting about fake news, or getting worked up about differences of opinions. I have no time or energy for things that don’t consume me entirely.
  3. Review this document each day in 2017. Most of the time, we unconsciously give up our resolutions because life becomes too busy and we fall back into complacency. By forcing myself to look at this document every day, I’ll be sure to increase my chances of sticking to what I want to start doing. Maybe I could start making updates? I’m not sure, for now.

Why Write?

Notes | Source

Stepping back and reflecting on it all.

Time is Money

A lot of the time, when I’m browsing Medium, I look at the articles that are circulating, the ones that are popular and current, having gained an audience. I ask myself, why was this written? I don’t think it’s an unfair question — it’s difficult to find viral content without it being sprung by some sort of agenda behind it.

Out of many answers, most of them can be summed up by money. Whether it’s ethical (or unethical) sponsored content, or freelance writers with tip jars or that are on Patreon. I’ve thought about doing the latter myself, but it doesn’t seem worth it:

https://wandernotebook.com/voluntary-art-4b76c6e2325a

I can’t even begin to think how much work I’d have to put in to start monetizing my writing. After doing the work, I’d reason that — at least in the beginning — I’d be making a profit around $1/hr.

I’ve worked as a cook and as a housekeeper for the past year, in order to save up for school in a few months for an Information Technology Diploma. I know how much money my time is worth right now, and it’s not that.

But I also realize there’s a privilege in that. Unlike others, I don’t need to rely on my writing for monetary support.

Recognition

In addition to money, another reason I’ve found is simply ego. People do the work of writing for the sake of an audience, whether it’s to oblige the one they’ve created or in search of one. It seems like an unwinnable battle, though. If a writer relies on the opinions of others as motivation, then there’s often going to be times where he’ll have no motivation — and he’ll just give up.

When one attempts to write for others, she loses a large amount of freedom. In a similar way to how she might lose her freedom when writing for the sake of advertisers or marketing. The writer ends up having to play it safe and replicate what has worked in the past for others, instead of trying new things that might fail.

The correct answer is that you need to learn how to write better, not how to market better. Spend a hundred hours honing your craft instead of spending ten marketing yourself. Become good enough at something that you won’t need to sell yourself.

Lunar Footprint | Source

Obscurity

However, let’s say for the sake of argument, that you do succeed. After a long amount of time and work, you go viral. Your work will receive a vast amount of reception and if you’re really lucky, you might have an opportunity to appear in some news story or speak on a podcast.

— But what comes after that?

What exactly do you have planned for after a sensational hit? The right answer is to continue to work diligently, but even the best work ethic cannot interfere with how often these moonshots are often one-hit-wonders. You’ll often find it impossible not to find yourself back into the shades of obscurity.

To truly leave a legacy that lasts longer than your lifetime, you can’t focus on the fifteen minutes of fame that our world can give you right now. It can the body of work accumulated over the span of your entire career before you find yourself getting recognized in a meaningful way.

For Friends and Family

One of the reasons that I initially began writing was because I felt a frustrating disconnect from those around me. I’m often introverted and keep to myself — and when I do open myself up, it’s often in a joking manner. A lot of people that know me personally can’t take me seriously, and it’s honestly difficult to break out of the sort of character you mold for yourself after a while, specifically in an awkward atmosphere such as high school.

With that being said, I’ve realized that this doesn’t actually work in practice. I’m fairly certain the only person — that I know — that regularly reads what I write is my family. (Hi, Mom.) The majority of people that read what I write are strangers from across the internet — and these posts are more akin to messages in bottles, drifting aimlessly.

Over Sharing

I think a reason for this is — in our current social culture — there’s a far higher interest in personal oversharing in small bites. Whether it’s for support or schadenfreude, people turn to Twitter or Tumblr to read up on the intimate details in the lives of those they care about, to some degree.

It would be hypocritical of me to say that this form of dialogue is negative — not to mention condescending. I’m definitely an advocate for others to become more vulnerable in life. Regarding the downsides, it’s not possible for me to know whether it strengthens relationships or has any sort of impact on people professionally — but I do know that it’s not my style.

I’ve lived a lot of my life impulsively saying whatever was on my mind, and not thinking before I spoke. I like using Medium because it gives me a chance to slow down and ponder before making a regrettable off-hand remark. I’ve even doubled-down on this, making both my Twitter and Instagram private.

WFSW

Since I started out, my motivation has changed. My philosophy is now simply Writing for the Sake of Writing. I allow myself to delve into a topic, focusing on creating — and trying my best not to think about what the outcome might be. It’s the process, not the product, as they say.

Most of the time, what happens is I start with one idea and then end up pushing out an entirely different one. And there’s a chaotic, almost powerless, feeling with this. I don’t care what I publish, so long that I take the time to formulate something that I can be proud of publishing.

Apathy can seem like a useless, or even dangerous thing. It can seem off-putting that I don’t really keep track of my audience or what they’re looking for. But we have a limited amount of energy — sometimes it’s better for us to reserve our resources on the things that don’t actually matter to us, or to anything in the long-term.

Just write — just do it. Sometimes you’ll settle and sometimes you’ll push yourself to extremes, it’s useless to track the variables or try to follow the advice of those who are only actually looking out for themselves. Build yourself sandcastles and allow yourself to smile when the tide comes in.

Mindfulness

As a final note, try to ask yourself why you’re writing. Pause before hitting the Publish button. Ask a few questions: Are you really putting your best effort into what you’re doing? If not — why? What, actually, is the reason that you’ve decided to pour yourself and hours of your finite time into something?

Is it worth it?

Spirit Lake below Mount St. Helens | Source

Appendix: Reading on Medium

On a somewhat unrelated tangent — when it comes down to it, I enjoy being a positive and optimistic person. To the point of being hopelessly ideal — and perhaps a bit manic. Which is why I feel disappointed in myself for writing up criticism to those that — I believe — miss the mark regarding writing.

But I can’t help but feel to speak up when the writers with the high following count are giving advice such as: ‘follow as many people as possible’. And that’s because I feel it’s dangerous to give that kind of advice to budding, new writers looking for advice.

There’s an innumerable amount of content on Medium, and a lot of people don’t post regularly (perhaps because, in a similar vein to Twitter, people use it for a week or two and then forget about it) and so — as of right now — I follow less than forty people.

Writing on Medium is only half of the equation — finding interesting and innovative things to read is by other writers is the other half. I love reading books and newspapers, but there’s a separate thrill in reading work from contemporaries — to be able to help each other and collaborate. But building a community requires a deliberate and selective choosing in who one follows. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the narcissism of only looking at the work you’ve produced.

When I do want to search for new material, or new people to follow, I try to use interesting tags. This can lead me to find a lot of talented writers, but sadly their accounts usually become inactive after a short amount of time. I’m not sure if Medium has hired any retention engineers, maybe they should steal a few from Facebook.

https://wandernotebook.com/voluntary-art-4b76c6e2325a

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