0577 – make stuff you like

I was reading some Melting Asphalt and Kevin quoted something from Scott Adams. I think Scott said something like, “I enjoy being admired for making work that people enjoy, and I’m happy to repay the favor– I will admire anybody that makes good work, and I hope that admiration compels them to continue creating great work”. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but I relate to that idea. I think it’s an elegant and accurate idea.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our taste as makers is really one of the most powerful or important things in the world, literally. I’m glossing over a lot of technical details and know-how– but to greatly oversimplify it, taste helps to create amazing things like iPhones and all sorts of amazing, inspiring things. It’s also about open-ended tinkering (which I think is important), but is anything ever truly 100% open-ended, truly 100% random? Taste is always a part of the picture. This is the logical addendum to everything is a remix– everything is a function of your taste.

How do you develop your taste? You need to be honest with yourself about what you like and why you like it. I’m reminded of the Quentin Tarantino interview here (the one he did for Playboy), where he talked about how weird it was to him that so many people in the film industry didn’t seem to know what they thought about something until they had talked about it with other people. Quentin, on the other hand, was a film geek himself, a person who made films because he was such a fanboy of films.

The fanboys shall inherit the earth!

No but really, the point here is that taste is valuable. The world beats it out of you when it isn’t developed yet– they say you’ll never go anywhere with it, that you’re wasting time, being too verbose, full of yourself, pretentious, blah blah. Or maybe too serious, too arty-farty, too SOMETHING. Too different from the norm. Too unusual. And when you’re new to making stuff, it’s going to be different in a way that is a little laughable, silly, wrong or not-even-wrong.

Heh. Anyway that’s my roundabout way of revisiting and circling around my ideas about taste [1].

Wait, what am I trying to do here again? I was starting with the Scott Adams quote. Prestige, admiration, making good things, being admired and signal-boosted for making good things, appreciating good things in turn. All of this is good because it makes people better off somehow, supposedly.

This vomit is a little sketchy. I think I’m getting sleepy again. Which is good. All of this is just practice, rehearsal, going through laps in my brain in preparation for something better down the line.

All of this is me trying to recalibrate my personal attitude towards my own motivations in life. What matters? What should I be doing? How should I be spending my time? For a long time I carried in my head the idea that I would do a modern translation of George Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and The English Language.’ In the end I decided to just copy and paste it, and format it a little, and add headers and stuff like that. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m happy that I’ve done that.

I’d like to do more things like that. I’d like to go back over my own brain droppings and examine the patterns– see what I’ve always said that I’ve always wanted to do, and just push out little oversimplistic prototypes of them – and then share them with the world, and see what sort of feedback I get. Yes, that is what I want to be doing with my time. I also want to finish this word vomit project. I used to have some sort of fantasy ideal for what the project would look like, but I’m getting a little tired and bored and am willing to settle for something messy, hacky, as long as it serves my broader writing goals.

So… what’s next? I can just make a list of these ideas from scratch every time I feel stuck. Previously I thought I ought to maintain a rolling list of sorts, and maybe I might do that again eventually, but I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. This stuff shouldn’t feel like an obligation or responsibility. I should be free to abandon things halfway when I feel like it. I have an obligation to writing itself, but not to any single piece of writing. I have an obligation to my taste, so if I feel something needs doing I should do that. If I make a list of things, and I get tired or uninterested or frustrated, what should I do? I think I should pause / hold that list temporarily and see where my interest leads me.

I recognize that there’s a danger element here – it’s possible to end up starting 10,000 things and never making progress on anything, never finishing anything, giving up on everything when it gets hard. But so as long as each thing is ‘completed’ in the barest, simplest of forms, it’s allowed to live. For example– I once obsessed with the idea of writing about ‘hacking and leveraging the 7 deadly sins’. If you google “visakanv seven sins”, you can find what I’d written about it. I think that’s great – I never got around to writing a big book about it, but I have figured out a way of thinking about that stuff in a way that’s useful to me, that I can share with others if I wish. It could be packaged a little batter even as it is – I think I’m always going to have that opinion because I’m always going to be refining my aesthetic sensibilities.

The point is… I should just ship stuff based on my ideas and ship as fast as I can, and if I get bored or uninterested, I should just follow my nose and do whatever interests me next. Why haven’t I already adopted this, why isn’t this simply a part of how I work, for my personal writing projects? I suppose I’ve been feeling “itchy”, I’ve been wanting to write for public consumptions.

Patience, Visa. Get your house in order. Make stuff you like.

[1] I plan to have a nice, canonical essay about it on my main blog, but I’m beginning to realize that it often takes many drafts and attempts before I can really have a decent version of something.

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