Random Notes

The public notebook of writer and essayist Scott Nesbitt

I recently stumbled across a post by software developer Dan Allison which dovetailed with similar thoughts to mine. Allison points out that:

Tools are just a means to an end, but the cultivation of skills in pursuit of mastery of one’s craft is a worthwhile goal in itself.

It's a short post, but it's definitely worth reading the whole thing.

Godin has this to say:

Even if no one but you reads it. The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts.

And sometimes, even if those thoughts are only partially-formed, you have to click the Publish button.

Steven Ovadia looks at that question and concludes:

Tools aren’t going to get you to your goals, but the way you use them will.

Read the entire post, especially if you find yourself falling into the trap of tool fetishism.

People like putting things, and others, into little boxes. They like categorizing things. They like pigeonholing people. All of that sort of thing. It's easier than thinking, and doesn't disrupt their view of the world.

But rarely does someone fit comfortably into any one category. Life just doesn't work like that. Take music, for example. When I was a teenager, I listened to a lot of thrash metal. Immediately, people assumed that was the only music I was interested in. They didn't realize that I also listened to progressive rock, jazz, blues, classical, Krautrock, and more. When they learned that, dazed and confused was the only way I could describe their reactions.

If people try to pigeonhole you, the problem lies with them and not with you. They refuse to think before they make a judgment. You're not going to change them. Don't try.

How many times have people asked you Why did you buy/choose/do that? Or worse, ask you How could you ... ? Often, they ask those questions in an accusing or exasperated tone.

I can't tell you the number of times I've been bombarded with some variation of those questions. The underlying message is that the person asking the question wants me to justify my choice.

You shouldn't have to do that.

Your choices are your own. You make those choices based on what works for you. If someone doesn't agree with those choices, if they don't mesh with that person's frame/outlook/way of life, then the problem doesn't lie with you.

For better or for worse, we all get trapped (to varying degrees) in our own little bubbles. Sometimes, we can't see outside our little niches. But we shouldn't expect others to be enveloped by our bubbles, to inhabit our niches.

Ignore your critics. Don't feel that you have to follow the crowd. And definitely don't spend time and energy justifying your choices.

Dave Winer on why you're crazy not to use an outliner :

It's just a tool, not a religion, or a cause, it has no mystical properties. It's just useful. Like you use a hammer for some things and a screwdriver for others. It's also easy to use. Text on rails.

Well, crazy is a bit harsh. But he does make some good points. And yes, Dave, I do use one!

The worst thing that you can do as a musician is listen to your fans, listen to what they want. Don't ever listen because everyone has an opinion. The most important thing is to create music in a vacuum. There's a great irony, a great paradox about being an artist: to be an artist, I think you have to be incredibly selfish but, at the same time, you need people to buy what you do.

You cannot pay attention to what your fans want. To evolve as a musician, to be true to yourself you need to be incredibly selfish.

Steven Wilson

What Steven Wilson said doesn't merely apply to music. It applies to ever creative endeavour. If you respond to the whims of your audience, you'll lose them eventually. And there's a chance you won't gain a new one. Your current audience might become very fickle and turn away when they get bored of you giving them what they want.

David Bowie was successful mainly because he always stayed a few steps ahead of his audience. Bowie shaped the audience's wants, not the other way around.

For most of us, though, that approach can be hit or miss. We might gain a wider audience. We might lose our current one. Or we could be playing to an empty house.

Being selfish, and taking the risks involved with being selfish, is worth it. You stay true to yourself as a creator.

While taking digital notes has its advantages, for many of us the good old fashioned paper notebook is a must.

Why? If you're on the go, or even if you're not, it's faster and easier to jot down and idea or quote with a notebook and a pen than it is with a smartphone or tablet.

What paper notebook you use is a personal choice. I've met writers whose favourites, and the reasons for choosing those favourites, don't mesh with mine. There's nothing wrong with that — I don't believe there's a one-size-fits-all solution to anything.

Here's some advice to help you if you're struggling to find the right paper notebook.


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