My new year’s resolution for 2012 is to write something or take a photo every day (which, in all honesty, is a bit of a cheat; I’d love to reach a point where I do both daily). I’m setting out to do this for a number of reasons; for one thing, my current position is not one in which I generate much creative work, so I feel a significant lack (which was a big part of why I started this blog in the first place). I also know that engaging in creative work every day eliminates the fear of the blank page, and leads to better work simply by dint of volume. It’s highly likely that in a stack of a thousand photos, at least one of them will be great. In a stack of ten, it’s not so certain.
Sustained engagement in creative activity also makes the process more fluid. With photography, the more photos I take, the better my eye for detail, and the better my muscle memory for creating the perfect settings. With writing, my voice becomes clearer and less forced, and I find that I have more and more that I want to say. I finished my dissertation relatively quickly in part because I wrote every day, and I have had many conversations with students, colleagues, and friends (especially @ekfletch) about treating creative projects as work (rather than as mysterious flashes-of-genius that somehow flow through one’s passive fingers). Still, it’s not easy to do, especially when the goal is more nebulous than a dissertation and has no clear endpoint.
I now have at least three (four?) posts that I have started and not yet finished. I started each because I needed to write something, or because I had finished reading something and wanted to jot down a few thoughts about it, but I haven’t felt committed enough to them to really figure out what I want to say. The unfinished posts are unsettling to me: I like to finish what I start, and I don’t like letting projects linger untouched. What I suspect I need to learn now is which ideas are worth working on, and which ones to drop.
I just read this Wired post by Jonah Lehrer on how we identify our good ideas, and it was a helpful reminder that time away from the thing is one of the most useful tools for separating good work from garbage. It’s something I’ll try to keep in mind, maybe by allowing an extra day between finishing a post and hitting that “Publish” button.