Tag Archive | new life

It ain’t easy being creative.

This is a difficult subject. For one it is going to be hard to keep from sounding like a hipster that thinks his farts count as “performance art”. The perpetual coffee shop space taker with computer turned to the wall so no one can see that the “script” he’s writing is actually just dicking around on a series of ineffectual social media outlets.

That being said, it’s hard to be creative.

Now at first glance it would seem to be a golden age for the creative type. The internet allows the “artist” to run free and open with her soul stripped bare, spilling its rainbow sparkles of creativity all over the place. This marvel of modern technology is a vast garden where the seed of beauty can be nurtured into a full grown tree of magnificence. Sounds great doesn’t it?

The problem I see is at the same time the worst part. In the current age of human development we are collectively as rich as we’ve ever been. This is where I’m going to start sounding horrible but it’s true. If you are reading this right now chances are pretty good that you’ve managed to surpass the worry of daily survival. Your life expectancy is probably on the far end of the scale so you can afford, like me, to think on matters pertaining to the creative.

That’s a good thing. It should be commended. However, it changes the idea of what it means to be a creative person trying to earn a living through what could be called art.

Is it a good change? Perhaps. In the past only the true masters of their form survived into today. People that were so extraordinary that their names entered into history. That’s a tough act to follow. In Shakespeare’s time there were certainly plenty of other people writing plays, some memorable, some not. Though the average person would be hard pressed to remember anyone other than the immortal bard himself.

Today, by contrast, fame can be thrust upon anyone at anytime for any reason. These flare ups can be brief or they can lead into a substantial career. The problem, I think, is that while in the past it was certainly hard to make it through life as some manner of artisan there was a certain level of skill required to even make a go of it. Today with the internet more often than not fame and success are awarded despite quality of product.

However, (this is going to sound really pretentious I bet) the people that think themselves to be artists tend to hold back their work because they have convinced themselves that in order to be successful their craft needs to be on the level of the old masters from history. On some level this is true simply because the art consuming populace has the same requirements for greatness engrained in their minds. Also, thanks to the internet, the market for creative work has been flooded with low quality material that can swamp and fatigue the average consumer.

Then your typical starving artist has to deal with the internal pain of witnessing some of that mediocre swill succeed through some combination of luck and lowest common denominator. To add more misery to the pile the nature of the internet is progressing towards a market where the artist will have to compete against free. Anything that can be digitized can be traded for a monetary price of zero. This is hard to fight against and more and more it’s becoming a trend in some areas that are legitimate businesses as opposed to pirates.

SOPA/PIPA Disclaimer: I did not support these bills because they overreached to violate civil liberties. I don’t think pirating is healthy for the creative content production industry, however. 

So what can some jerk like me do about it? No seriously, I need some ideas….

One option is expansion of the skill set. This is easier said than done since “art” of any sort requires a great deal of practice. To take writing for example, it’s been said that every writer has about a million words of crap that they need to get out before they can produce quality work.

A million words. For reference, at this point in this post it is only just over 700 words and it’s already feeling over long. I haven’t keep track of my own personal count but I doubt I’m very close to that number if I want to be honest. So I’ve taken to branching out.

This is what brought me to write about this subject tonight. I’ve recently thrown quite a lot of money at shiny things that are marketed as being useful for the creation of artistic products in this crazy share space we call The Internet. I’m lucky to be able to have this money though it did cost me a family member and was only given to me due to failures of a paternal nature. I hope that it will not be wasted money. That is what gnaws at me now. If I fail at this venture then will I tarnish the memory attached to this money? Should I have given it to charity? Again it is hard to talk about these issues without sounding as shallow as a mud puddle on a hot summer’s day but that doesn’t stop them from bouncing around my head.

There’s a quote going around the internet recently from the NPR radio host Ira Glass. I’ll just add it here because it’s pretty good but long.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” -Ira Glass

This is pretty good advice that I haven’t really been following recently. I’ve always been drawn to the Jack-of-all-trades formula even though the cautionary addition to that phrase is “master-of-none”. I’ve been trying to branch out and its hard going. I feel overwhelmed at times. My biggest worry though is that my taste is no good.

Thanks for sticking around this long. Feel free to post a comment. It makes me feel like I’m running through a golden field wearing a cape of rainbow sprinkles riding on a magic unicorn.

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Fitocracy: Turning Fitness into an RPG, A Noob’s Perspective

I used to be a pretty unhealthy guy, looking back on things honestly. Still am for a large part. I wish I still had my old registration card that had my post college/pre Japan picture on it. I was a skinny bastard.

Some people lose weight over here but not me. Back home I had access to decent racquetball courts and a five day a week aikido habit. In Japan, however, racquetball is as elusive as a unicorn and aikido schedules did not match well with my work late, party hard life style that I adopted until fairly recently. I drank, I smoked a pack a day and the most exercise I got was a vigorous session of xbox. I’m pretty amazed I managed to increase my average weight by only 10kg. (Sounds much nicer than 22lbs)

Jump cut to August 2011, I quit smoking and have managed to stay quit ever since. This year I also made the decision to quit alcohol. It’s only been about 19 days but it’s not in the counting at this point. So logically trying to get in shape is the next step.

This is where Fitocracy comes in. It’s a concept that is becoming rather popular nowadays, Gamification.

In case you didn’t have time to check the video in the link (Why not? It’s good!) I’ll explain. Gamification is when in order to provide incentive and entertainment value to activities, elements of video games such as points and levels are added where there typically are none. In general that is. It’s an interesting concept that I think could have some great effects in areas like education, but I’m not going to open that debate up here right now.

So how does Fitocracy use this idea to make fitness fun? Simple really, points and levels!! The site has a database of common exercise techniques and allows you to add as many or as few as you want to do and adjust things like weight (if using dumbbells for example) and reps. Fitocracy does the smart thing and doesn’t really try to track your weight beyond using your body weight for certain exercises.

What I mean is the only thing you get for doing an exercise is an amount of points based on  some calculation that they’ve come up with. With points come levels and with levels come…well I don’t know actually. I’m only level 5 right now. I’ve seen people with badges for certain achievements though.

Another thing they do to make it game like is adding quests. I like these because some are designed around building a balanced exercise regimen. Just for example, there is an early quest humorously titled “No Chicken Legs Here!” which rewards the player for completing focused exercises that each hit a different muscle group in the legs. There are other little touches that I’ve learned are included to encourage proper fitness development, like limiting reps on weight exercises to encourage players to move up to heavier weights.

All in all it’s a pretty fun little website though you really only get out of it what you put in. There are no substantial rewards for levels or points and it works on the honor system. You input your workouts yourself so it’s easy to cheat, but then you’re really only cheating yourself. It’s also still in beta so bugs are a bit rampant still and the interface can be clunky and confusing at times.

I’ve still got about 8 invites left so if you want in send me a message over facebook and I’ll try to remember to get around to it. (Actually I just want to build my point lead some more, muahahahahaha!!!)

Good:

  • Helpful for people that don’t know what they’re doing.
  • Provides great incentive to work out.
  • Fairly robust social network scene already with people giving tips and help. (If that’s your thing)
  • Allows you to create and save regular routines.
  • They’re against SOPA/PIPA

Bad:

  • Beta mode so still some bugs and design flaws
  • Only get out what you put in. It won’t exercise for you.
  • No rewards other than better health and self confidence. (Not that bad when you think about it)