What’s Your Profession?

Have you ever worked on a project with a dilettante? Also known as hack, poseur, amateur, or layman.

Notable examples include the hobbyist photographer: dropped $700+ on a who-gives-a-shit-megapixel digital SLR and think they’re Thomas Hawk because they’ve taken a few shots on their last exotic all-inclusive family resort vacation. The would-be copywriter: launched their very own blog (bravo for you!); writing an e-book off and on for the last 7-years or so, a mediocre collection of short stories loosely based on their childhood experiences (yawn). The weekend designer: took a few art classes back in high school, dabbles in logos and rustic illustrations; designed the invitations for their cousin’s wedding. The ‘hack’ web developer: prefers not to work with raw mark-up, but rather drag n’ drop graphically-oriented templates; couldn’t write a line of code if their life depended upon it.

These people bring to mind a scene in the film 300.

King Leonidas, leader of the Spartan army, marching into battle against the Persians is approached by one of his allies Daxos and his cobbled-together band of Arcadian men. Daxos upon seeing that Leonidas has assembled a mere 300 soldiers and who will inevitably be facing more than 100,000 of king Xerxes’ men feels Sparta’s chances of successfully defending their country’s border are grim at best.
King Leonidas, undeterred by Daxos’ cowardly remarks, says that he has brought more soldiers than the seemingly larger Arcadian contingency, pointing out that Daxos’ so-called army are not soldiers but rather sculptors, potters and blacksmiths and who are hopelessly unprepared for the looming battle at hand.

What Stifles Creativity

There are a million and one things conspiring to undermine your workflow on any given day.

Be vigilant. There are forces at work in the world around you: at home, during your commute, in the office, on this very screen you’re staring into right now —all diligently plotting to steal your creative energy and rob you of your best ideas.

Eventually the astute creative practitioner will devise clever ways to counteract the insidious idea-thwarting noise that destroys one’s ability to enter what John Cleese calls the creative open mode.

Work remotely the odd day each week if you can. Work in your pyjamas and slippers, if it helps you focus.

Stop dwelling on negative thoughts. Be gone!

Colleagues who feel compelled to gripe about so-and-so not pulling their weight or client/project so-and-so not living up to their expectations because it’s going through double-digit rounds of revisions. Hey, these things can get the best of us. But don’t let it. Suck it up buttercup. Welcome to the wonderful world of work. If you let every little thing get to you each day, read too deeply into every email or text message you receive (hey, you’re gonna get millions over the course of your life), eventually you’ll get an ulcer or some unpronounceable medical ailment that will effectively stomp your ability to do anything productive or worthwhile from this day forth.

Go smoke a cigarette (if you have to), put your headphones on, close your eyes and visualize what you want to accomplish. Now open your eyes and get down to work. Crush all subsequent distractions in your path.

It’s fascinating to think as we age we invariably begin to fixate on our various physical ailments, “oh my back’s been acting up lately”, “I’ve got this burning, itching sensation around my ankles”. You know, those awkward conversations, usually with someone your senior, perhaps an elderly uncle or grandparent. It seems every time you talk the first thing out of their mouth is “Oh I’ve got this pain in my -unmentionable- area”. And then you learn they’re taking copious amounts of prescription drugs, eating primarily processed foods with little or no nutritional value, completely abstaining from any and all forms of physical exertion. And they wonder why their body (and mind) are slowly withering away.

This is actually a really awful post. I’m not sure what the point is I’m trying to make or where this is going. I seem to be going off on a tangent.
Just thinking again about how my laptop broke down last week makes my blood boil. It’s just a stupid machine. I’m healthy and alive and so are my family and friends. That’s really all that matters.

I’d much rather be thinking about my creative zen-space right now.

Defeated Today, But Not Tomorrow

I feel utterly defeated today. It’s 20-minutes after 11pm and I’m wondering where the day has gone. Where did it go? I had this wicked to-do list planned sketching out all the important tasks I was going to plough through and I’d still have time to hit the gym, make dinner and clean out the fish tank. Yeah right, who am I kidding. I didn’t even come close.
The house is silent now. My 7-1/2 year old son is tucked-in bed and I can finally muster a few lingering moments of clarity before I head off to bed and think about my future and the insignificance of this day. Thanks to the persistence of digital information I’m sure this blog will be running in some crude capacity 30 or 40 years from now when I’m a frail old man. I’ll probably look back and have a good laugh.

Oh let me see, it appears I squandered the better part of 1/2 the day calling around so-called “official” Hewlett Packard computer parts/service “resellers” searching tediously for a replacement hard drive for my unreliable 2-1/2 year old laptop that decided to spontaneously stop working last Wednesday.
When my computer started acting up noticeably Wednesday afternoon at the office one of my co-workers suggested rather decisively that the problem could be resolved if I simply got a Mac. This immediately got me thinking (again) about finally ditching the mainstream toolset (i.e. Windows or Mac OS, Adobe CS, MS Office, Skype, Gmail and generally everything produced by Google) and build my own computer from scratch running Ubuntu or some other Linux OS flavour. Then I think how the tech industry locks us all in and how difficult it can be to break away from the mainstream wares.

Like other people working in the digital/marketing/design/communication field (that is, I sit in front of a screen all day) I rely heavily on my computer hardware and software working properly to earn a living. When something breaks and I can’t connect and feel I can’t get any meaningful work done it’s incredibly frustrating. You know the feeling. But hey, the silver lining: I was smart and remembered to back up all my work/files, so nothing lost —only my time.
Sure, I can be creative with just a blank sheet of paper, a pencil and my imagination. I think Bruce Mau once said in his manifesto “creativity is not device-dependent”. No doubt, and I certainly don’t need a computer and software to materialize my ideas. But give me a bloody machine that works once in a while!
I spent an hour earlier this evening writing a lengthy email to some nameless support person over at help@hp.com (probably some nondescript call center located off North American soil) explaining how I wasted my afternoon trying unsuccessfully to find an HP reseller who could help me locate the laptop components I so desperately need replaced.

I’m sure they could care less about my trivial predicament.

Am I surprised this whole process is made difficult? Not at all. The tech industry, and generally all other consumer product segments, are built around the engineered obsolescence model in which a product is purposely designed with a limited lifespan (e.g. functional and aesthetic attributes) to ensure future sales continue.

Now, where else did the rest of the day go? Oh yes I remember, over 1-hour or so back and forth in emails with a recruiter regarding an upcoming opportunity. That’s right, I was consumed (temporarily) writing several emails outlining my relevant experience in the digital field, also highlighting a recent campaign for one of my clients. I suppose it’s too much to ask for a phone chat or a meeting. No. Can you just please outline your experience in area XYZ in an email and we’ll get back to you.

Where else was my time spent today? Oh, of course, those pesky Basecamp notifications. Yes, email notifications from Basecamp concerning obscure projects several of my colleagues may be working on yet I have literally nothing to do with. Those are a great. What a time suck. Delete – delete – delete.

Onward.

Tomorrow I will seize the day and pound it into a beautiful symphony of layers. Tomorrow I will prevail. Tomorrow will obey my vision.