Some days, the work is easy
Some days, it gets pretty tough
Some days, it’s all fun and games
On others, it can get pretty rough
Some days are there for the taking
But mostly, they’re just good enough
Whichever of those you end up in today
Some people have no regard for where things belong.
The other day I saw a bloke walking down the street holding a coffee mug.
Not a disposable cup or one of those reusable cups that looks like a disposable cup, but an actual fucking proper mug. It even had a handle!
The absolute nerve of this guy.
From the wary glances of passers-by, you could tell that this flagrant disregard for societal norms was making people uneasy.
Why does a ceramic mug belong on a table but a paper cup can go anywhere it likes? Who makes these rules?
These little rules exist in our brains to alert us to a difference in the environment that may or may not be a threat. It’s not a rule it’s just out of the norm.
Doing it on purpose is what we call creativity.
Doing it every day makes it a habit.
Doing it in public makes it normal.
Doing it for money makes it professional.
And doing it for free makes it an identity.
Except for mugs.
Mugs are just mugs.
Several years ago, I was staying in the back room of my parents’ house with little idea of what or who I wanted to be.
I knew that if I were going to survive in the world of work, or have any chance of success as a writer, I would need to learn to type.
People talk about how writing with a pen is more ‘connected.’ But it’s also slow and impractical in the modern age.
That connection is learned like any other, and so I decided to practice often to form that same deep connection with a keyboard.
So to start my day, and to instill the belief that I was headed somewhere, I would spend about 15 minutes every morning practicing touch typing. Then I would apply for jobs I didn’t want.
That bit of time invested has probably saved me hours since.
Today, the words flow through my fingertips onto the screen with the same ease as a pen and three times faster — faster than I can think.
The pen still feels snug in my hand. But when I sit down at a keyboard, the words just fly.
The first rule of survival is that you must always be doing something.
It could be hunting. It could be chopping wood. It could be making tools or clothing or food.
It’s the first rule because survival takes a huge amount of effort. It’s a constant struggle just to get enough food.
But every one of us is a survivor.
The amount of energy required to survive is so much that as soon that ferociously powerful brain of ours gets time to stop and think, we are instantly overwhelmed.
That’s what powers the ticking clock within us. The nervous itch, the restless tapping of our feet — it’s all because the ancient ape within is wondering how the hell we’re going to survive if we’re just sitting there.
We must move.
So we work. We make. We explore.
Or we dampen the urge with drink and drugs and food and fighting; we consume.
We made fishing hooks and wheels and philosophy and farms and skyscrapers and the blockchain all because that curious chimp couldn’t sit still.
The devil will make work for our idle thumbs, if we let him.
Only daily practice, kaizen, a future self, can keep him quiet.
Art doesn’t come easy.
What to say?
No wisdom to expound. Or inspiration to share.
It would not be missed if it was never made.
But there lies no escape.
What else to do but make?
Hammer down those dumb words.
Lash the paper with ink.
Rip a chunk from the mould and hack hack hack away until the tears flow.
There. It is done.
A common misconception about being creative is that it’s enjoyable.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being creative is fun. Creating for a living is work.
No muse appears for a deadline. We’ve just got to sit down and start working.
We won’t get calloused hands, but we’ll probably get repetitive strain injury. Our back won’t break from hauling stones, but it will creak from hours hunched over a table.
Being creative is rarely fun for long.
But it sure as hell is rewarding when you eke out something where there was nothing before — not even the desire to create.
It often seems like the quickest way to get through a long to-do list is to rush through as many things as possible.
The hope is that at the end of a few hours, we can look back at a crossed-off list and feel content.
But the list constantly grows. And the little things turn out to be bigger and more tiresome than we predicted.
By the end of the day, only half the list is ticked, and we’re completely zonked.
On days when I settle for less — just the one big thing — I almost always find that I have the time and the energy to do a few of the small things too.
Settling for less often turns out to be way more productive.
It’s not like we can lie around doing nothing and enjoy it forever.
At least not without spending a lot of money on drugs.
Sure, it’s nice to hit the beach or the lakes and do nothing for a bit. But after a few weeks, a tight emptiness forms in the guts, followed by a dull nagging in the back of the skull: shouldn’t you be doing something with your time?
Maybe some people are lucky enough to be born truly carefree, with no fear of the rapidly approaching Big Nothing. The rest of us have to distract ourselves by doing stuff.
It seems that we work to death one way or another.
May as well do something you enjoy. May as well get really fucking good at it, too.
Maybe then, it will barely be work at all.
A guy at work spent the last year working on one word.
Now he’s going on sabbatical.
Big companies that want to handle other big companies’ data must show that they’re going to look after it properly and protect it from anyone who might be snooping.
This guy at work spent the last year figuring out how to do that — and we are very grateful. The thought of all those painful words and mind-numbing legalese sentences makes me want to weep.
Multiple salaries were invested in the project. Operations were overhauled. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t cheap. But he did it.
All so we could add one little word to our website and become:
That’s one expensive word. One very valuable word.
We’re surrounded by the attentions of others. There are countless little things we take for granted that are the result of a life’s work.
All those things that “just work” when we push the button, work because someone spent their days designing it to work, for us.
What would you do for a dollar a day?
The phrase, “Another day, another dollar,” comes from a time when that was exactly how much a day of your life was worth — if you were lucky.
It was sung while slinging dirt out of the ancient Panamanian soil and hauling on salt-crusted ropes, hundreds of miles away from land.
It was grunted in the dark, forgotten slots of the mines and shouted between the thundering, crashing machines on the workshop floor.
And it’s sighed across cups of thick, lush coffee in sunlight-lanced kitchens as we crack our knuckles, wiggle our toes, and settle down for a few hours talking and typing.
“Dollars for days” is just what we do.
But at least I get to spend these days in my pyjamas.
And the coffee is better, too.
In case you were ever worried about the robots coming you should know that AI won’t take our jobs.
AI will offer us new, better, more interesting work that we’ll enjoy more.
If you told someone back in 1920 we’d have cat psychiatrists, dog masseurs, and a ten-year-old who made millions from unwrapping presents, they’d probably put you in an asylum.
Yet here we are, psychoanalyzing pets and making synchronized dancing videos for cash instead of squeezing down a mine or milking a cow.
Don’t fear the future.
Imagine whatever wild place you want it to be and start walking.
The rest of us will just have to catch up.