Making time for creative work: a gadgetry approach

Make Time Clock by Fractured Atlas

I admit it. When I heard about the Make Time Clock, the first foray into product development by Fractured Atlas, I admit I was a little skeptical.

But after seeing Selena Juneau-Vogel’s 5-minute IGNITE presentation (basically a modified PechaKucha) about the clock yesterday at NAMP, and talking to Selena for 15 minutes last night, I’m sold, and I just made my Kickstarter pledge.

The idea is simple: create a visual and tactile representation of ongoing progress toward a project or goal that you’re having trouble making time for, to help you move forward on what’s important (what matters to you) rather than what’s urgent (what matters to everyone else).

There are systems out there to help you prioritize and systems out there to help you make incremental progress. But this is different: it’s something that sits on your desk or your kitchen table and gives you (and the members of your family/household/work community, which is not incidental) evidence that you’re putting in the time necessary to make progress: by default in sessions of 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.

There are three things I particularly like about this approach:

(1) It’s a physical object, not a thing that runs on your computer (or on pieces of paper, or in your mind).

(2) It’s visible to others, not just to you, which makes it possible for you to solicit and receive social reinforcement—again, from people who are physically present in your environment, not just your Internet friends.

(3) It acknowledges that five or ten minutes snatched here and there will not be sufficient. Creativity happens in sessions, not in five-minute increments; there’s a ramp-up and a wind-down.

I’m actually going to use this thing.

They have a little under four weeks left to get another 120 pledges, so get yours in. Tell them that Selena sent you.

Showing up to do creative work

In his opening plenary today at NAMP, Radiolab host Jad Abumrad quoted Ira Glass reminding us of one of the most fundamental truths we all know about our creative work. It’s a truth that comes in two parts: (1) We’re not good enough for a long, long time; and (2) The only way around that is through it. But Glass put it better than I did:

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 it’s 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.

It’s true. If you do anything professionally creative, or anything that remotely involves the creative impulse, you know it is. You just have to keep working, keep trying and re-trying and optimizing and reshaping, until you get it.

Mormons double down against marriage equality

Temple_Square_October_05_(8)_c-500-x-375We knew it was too good to last. Last week we were hearing some quasi-official Mormon voices saying respectful things about gay people and the law of the land and so forth, but this week a new policy on gay families an actual LDS church document sets forth a new policy on gay families that’s exactly the same as the old policy, except even more so.

Not only will gay Mormons who get married be treated as apostates and excommunicated—their children will be treated as untouchables, which seems like an appalling choice for a movement that claims to be committed to family wholeness to make. This is the circling of the wagons, and it confirms that the church is on a path toward cultural irrelevancy. As John Dehlin, who was excommunicated in February for, among other things, taking seriously gay people’s desire for basic rights,put it: “The inclusion of same-gender marriage as specific grounds for apostasy is surprising only because it really paints the church into a corner, and leaves them less room to slowly finesse a change over time.” That’s exactly right. Like the Boy Scouts, the Mormons are digging themselves into a hole. Except the Boy Scouts, finally, are starting to dig themselves out.