Even One Word

The Blog of Nathan St. Pierre


New Years Revelations Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So every year we all make a long series of resolutions for the new year. We're always convinced it's going to be a different year, and by the definition of different, we win, because the year rolls over with or without us. But as far as changing our lives, losing the weight, learning the new language, or becoming a professional wrestler, we rarely meet up to those expectations. The goal, everyone says, is making realistic goals. Nothing too drastic: nothing desparate.

So with that in mind, here's my drastic and probably unattainable set of goals for the new year.

Use social media less. A lot, lot less

So, I think we all tend to have this vice these days. Maybe it's not actually participating in an online community, maybe you're just lurking (imgur). Maybe you post things in order to feel like you're clever and hope a celebrity notices (twitter). Maybe you stalk people from high school in an attempt to compare your life to theirs (facebook). Maybe the "you" in all these hypotheticals are obviously me and these are the things I do all the time.

So in any case, these individual networks aren't really adding a whole lot of value to my life. In fact, not only is it stealing productivity, it's draining me of original thought: I feel like half of what I say is a reference to a meme now. That can't be healthy, especially when communicating with people in real life.

I had planned to do this for a long time, but what finally pushed me over the edge was seeing that Neil Gaiman (who has become incredibly adept at tweeting and facebooking and newly coined verbing every day with some kind of new media) is taking a social media sabbatical.

It was then that I realized something very true about myself: I am really seeking validation on all these networks. I don't do stuff unless I think people will +1 it or "like" it or tell me I'm funny. It's like being a really tragic standup comedian that doesn't actually see people or get paid. But that's the problem: I'm not creating anything worthwhile: I'm fighting myself, trying to be what other people want or don't want for the sake of some vague form of validation I can't quite comprehend.

I'm not deleting my accounts, I'm not blocking myself via proxy (though I may install some extensions to my browser to save me from myself at first), and I'll still be doing marketing efforts for Odd19. But I'm going to be spending a lot less time trying to get validation, and a lot more time just doing stuff.

Make a thing, Every Day

My Wife is a comic artist, and many of her colleagues insist that the best way to grow at first is to do a sketch, every day. It doesn't have to be good, it doesn't have to be fast, it just has to be complete. For the obvious reasons, it teaches you the skills you need for your job. But then you also learn how to stick to a schedule, you teach yourself the best time of the day to be creative, and you force yourself to accept that something is "finished" at least once a day. You can also create a blog or something to prove you've done it and get people to hold you accountable, but this kind of violates my first principle.

I've also realized I have a slight tendency to try to get feedback on my work from large communities of anonymous people, who in a lot of cases just end up destroying my confidence with their incredibly mean and thoughtless comments. I don't blame them, you asked for feedback, so they'll either ignore you or be a giant jerk since they're anonymous. Even in design communities like Dribbble you'll find people who are popular and people who are newbies, and the two very rarely communicate. Asking for help or for comments is usually met with absolute silence, though in some cases it results in really bitchy comments like the kinds you see on those model shows: "This doesn't work. I won't tell you why, because it's not worth my time."

So, I'll just make stuff. And I'll put it out there. I started a web comic called Meticulous Failure and immediately got too busy to work on it. I created a Labs site to display my experiments in web development, but then I ended up putting my experiments on Copepen instead. So, since I'm not exclusively an artist, a writer, a developer, or a comedian, I think doing any one thing exclusively would not be helpful. So my goal is to at least put out something: a poem, a picture, a web comic, ANYTHING at least once a day. That's only hard if you're spending 3 hours on imgur laughing at content other people made a long time ago and have re-shared a thousand times.

I'll probably be collecting some of the successful stuff here, since as you can see I don't have a commenting system so I don't have to contend with my natural urge to be doing this for kudos, good cheer, or any other snack food-based analogy for personal validation (banana stickers?).

Get out More

We just moved to Seattle, which is an incredibly new experience for us. But we've been so busy with the apartment, selling the old house, and all the other aspects of our day to day that we haven't done nearly as much exploring of the city as we wanted to. It doesn't help that we both have pretty introverted tendencies, so we end up just staying in watching TV. Danielle is at least doing a TON of art, I don't really have an excuse.

So, it's about time that I found the community here. Joined a hackerspace, found a group to do drink and draw with, or people to share my stuff with in person. Like some kind of real person. This is a pretty nebulous goal, and I know that violates the typical SMART goal principles, but screw it. If I quantify this I'm setting myself up for failure.

Work Out Some

I say less and more above. Right now, working out at all would be a huge improvement. At first I thought I'd set a goal for myself (3 times a week? 5 times?). But I'm realizing now, in the shape that I'm in, setting a goal of working out at all is a huge step. We have a fitness center in our apartment, I have a kettlebell, and tons of martial arts equipment. I have zero excuse at this point, and in this city I feel like one of the fattest guys. It's not like San Francisco or anything, but there's definitely way more skinny guys here than there were in Texas, and while I don't envy these guys who look like obvious vegans, I do wish I was in better shape, and it's my own fault that I'm not.

Be more Honest

Another nebulous one, while I'm at it. I tend to be a pretty tactful guy: I play diplomatic games and I try not to say things that are horribly offensive. But invariably someone gets offended anyways, and then I feel like a jerk. Solution: just be honest. I'm not responsible for other people's feelings. I'm not saying be a giant dick (which is always tempting), but just be more of myself. I'm told I'm a pretty neat guy. We'll test that theory.

Read More

I currently read a lot of blogs, usually trade journals and things, but I'm realizing I end up crawling through a bunch of nonsense in the process: I wiki-crawl or end up going through someone's entire twitter history after reading their blog. So, in this case I need to catch up on a lot of the books that I have laying around the house. A great Christmas present from Danielle was the entire Song of Ice And Fire boxed set, and I plan to make great use of it this year.

Play more Music

I used to use my guitar as a method to keep myself from going insane with stress. I'd practice bass for 3+ hours a day just for a competition with no real reward in the end. Why? Becuase I saw myself as a musician, and that's what musicians do. It defined me. Real life has a way of telling you that you can be more than one thing, and then you end up hating yourself because only a sellout talks like that. But only a loser ignores skills and abilities they've had their entire lives.

Be a little easier on myself

Every day I tend to try to measure myself against others. What did they accomplish by my age? What did they do by this part of their lives? I agonize that my boss is younger than me, or that my friends from music school call me a sellout or a hobbyist.

Honestly, I'm finally realizing (at the ripe age of 30): who gives a shit what they think? Who cares what they've accomplished? That's their life. Wanting to be like other people is what got us stuck in a suburban nightmare, a house we admittedly loved in a neighborhood we didn't care about mowing a lawn we didn't care about to talk to people about sports we don't even like. Ultimately, the only way I'm going to fail or succeed is living up to my own expectations, which are usually either so high they're unattainable or so pessimistic that they result in nothing. So, this year I have this post to look back on from time to time.