Embarking on the Year of Creation
Photo by Timothy Eberly
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. ~Maya Angelou
This past year I embraced the idea of creating a theme for the year. Themes are more robust than goals or resolutions, because they allow for adaptation in the face of unknown factors. The ability to adapt in the midst of a global pandemic helped my own well being.
My theme for 2020 was the "Year of new"; I wanted to focus on trying new things. Over the course of the year, I experienced many growth opportunities. I gave a talk on Declarative and Manageable State Management with XState at my first virtual conference, found a form of exercise I enjoy, and most recently have been re-imagining my note-taking and writing process. I could not have guessed that I would have done any of these at the start of the year. However, the yearly theme served as a guiding light while navigating this hellscape of a year.
After much consideration I have landed on my theme for 2021. Creation. I am also embracing the utilization of several sub-themes to support the main theme. I'm really excited for the details and objectives within this theme. While there are many details on the theme and sub-themes below, these are just my thoughts on where the theme may take me at this snapshot in time. Again, the beauty of themes is not tying them to anything too detailed so they can be adaptable to our current circumstances.
Why Choose Creation as my Yearly Theme?
As a child, and until recent years, I felt like I wasn't a creative person. I believed creative work was tied to art mediums such as painting, drawing, and music. I've never really been attracted to or good at any of those. Don't ever ask me to draw anything beyond stick figures 😀. Over the past few years I have recognized that this was far too narrow a view on creativity, but habits and mindsets are reticent to change. I want to make a concerted effort at making progress in this mental shift.
I also suffer from getting sucked into a consumption loop. I'll read many articles, watch YouTube videos, and dive deep into various topics. I love the ability to aggregate information and ideas across a variety of sources on a topic. However, I'll regularly hit the point where I'll tell people I want to create something, but not put forth the time and energy to make it happen. This is precisely why I needed community support to help me kickstart my writing practice again.
New this year are three sub-themes which support the main theme of creation. These are the focal points for my year, and I feel they represent a balanced approach to allow greater flexibility. For example, specifying a theme around writing more would be too specific in my opinion.
Consume and Create Intentionally
I have a problem with checking social apps far too frequently. Did my team enjoy the witty gif I dropped in chat? Is anyone saying anything about the latest blog post? It's distracting at best and and creation blocking at worst. My main opposition here is focusing on one of them at a time. If I'm reading articles, books, or engaging on social media that's fine as long as it is intentional time. What's not ok is when that creeps into time that should be dedicated for other tasks.
I envision intentional creation time reducing these distractions and making other potential accommodations to maximize this time. I have already been experimenting with some potential approaches to move in this direction with some positive initial results. I am eager to continue these experiments and share how they are going in the future.
Writing has been an effective means to my learning process. It helps me to condense and synthesize ideas that I have read and experienced. A great example of this is when I undertook a 30 day challenge to learn functional programming concepts. The process of framing complex concepts in these posts increases my retention of them; yes I can still even give a high level explanation of a monad too.
One of the challenges that I have had in the past is deciding on topics to discuss. I feel like some of this was due to my blog previously being almost entirely technical in nature. Finding valuable information to write about and a way to present it was difficult. I also avoided short posts. My colleague Mike Crittenden wrote a post encouraging people to write 5x more but write 5x less. This encouraged me to experiment with shorter form content. This has been a valuable experiment and reduced some writing friction. Of the 12 blog posts published this year (prior to this one), 7 of them were published after November 24, 2020.
Another aspect of my writing that I am interested in exploring further is finding my particular writing niche. I don't want to move away from technical articles entirely, as I do find them valuable. However, I don't know that I want them to be the primary focus. I appreciate conceptual posts which transcend a given technical problem which is restricted by the specific technical details as well as the time it was written in. Currently, I am intrigued on the intersection of Engineering and Psychology as the past month's posts indicate. I studied Educational Psychology in school and re-engaging with these concepts has been invigorating.
Writing is the largest sub-theme in my year of creation. I currently anticipate that it will largely be more regular content on this blog, but it may take another direction entirely. Regardless, it is a skill I want to hone and benefit from.
Other Creative Ventures
I have a tendency to go deep into one particular thing, exhaust all available energy and resources on it, and then shift to something else. It's something that helps with learning, but can have negative implications on other parts of my life. Knowing this about myself, I'm hesitant to solely focus on writing as a means of creation. My hope is that supplemental creative ventures will help balance this particular tendency as well as expose me to other areas of interest.
This particular sub-theme is the least detailed, in part due to the unknown of future availability with the pandemic. Once again the benefits of themes shine here. I do know that I want to rediscover my love of cooking again. I've fallen into a cooking rut making the same 5-10 recipes in a continual loop. It doesn't require much mental energy, but at the expense of a sea of monotony. The spark of cooking for its own sake is faded; it is primarily viewed as a biological necessity. I'm excited to tend to that passion once again.
In closing, I'm excited for 2021 to be a year of embracing creation. I'm looking forward to the disruption of unintentional consumerist patterns and to see what unfolds in the coming year. Are you entertaining or setting a theme for the coming year? I would love to hear about it on Twitter.
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