A friend turned me onto a podcast by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin called Back To Work. It’s…basically about helping people get unstuck. Getting people into the habit of creating.

Merlin spent the first episode asking “what haven’t you shipped?” You know, what’s stopping you from completing all those projects that were important enough to start.

One of the things he talks about over and over is sitting down to write, and essentially writing until your brain sort of turns off and your writing can really come out. I am sort of skeptical, I admit, but I’m going to give it a try. I mean, I know our brains are complicated, and one of the things we (or I) tend to do is overthink. And then doing is hard. So you start doing until the overthinking part stops, and before you realize it, you’re writing!

He has a post called “Making the Clackity Noise”, so that’s sort of what I’m basing it on, though I also know that this comes from a long line of others who talk about this. Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”, and others.

Basically, you have to sit down and *do* in order to create something, and do regularly in order to finish.

I don’t know where I’m going with all this, but for now I don’t care. I’m just going to write to see what comes out. As Merlin would say, to see what falls out of the keyboard.

I like that imagery. Little bits of ourselves (not just the food we eat at the computer, right?) hidden away in our keyboards.

I am mostly interested in Photography these days, and I have very little confidence in my writing. Though let’s be honest, I work in an office, and I’ve always been surrounded by people – managers! – who have atrocious English skills. And I don’t mean that English is their second language. I mean that English *is* their first language, but that doesn’t mean they actually know the difference between a comma and a period. Or any of the other basic stuff I was under the misunderstanding that we all graduated 5th grade knowing. So I have confidence in writing in that way. I at least usually know the difference between a period and a comma.

But as a kid, I was totally into writing. Creative writing was something I loved. My brother, 3 years older than me, had some learning disabilities. My parents managed this in a variety of ways. Tutors, of course, were huge, but this had to be extended all through summer too, because it was pretty much fatal to my brother’s education to have a 3 month gap for him to back slide. I don’t want to say it was forgetting – he’s not actually a stupid person – but something about the way he learns (or did then – maybe it’s not as pronounced now that the brain had a chance to develop and grow up) means he doesn’t really use buliding blocks the way the rest of us do. Everything is linear. So to learn to drive a car, he could not — COULD NOT — use what he knew about driving a boat. It’s just not how his brain works. He couldn’t use his understanding of addition to learn subtraction. It’s like everything is a completely discrete thread of knowledge, and has to be developed independently, like these discrete threads actually live in different brains and can’t be referenced.

So it takes him longer to learn things. And the typical backsliding that we all do when we take a break made it close to impossible for him to catch back up.

In other words, summer tutoring was essential for his progression.

And since my parents both worked and they had no idea what to do with me — their little star pupil who never had to work at all to get the good grades, the little annoying kid who out of boredom (and let’s face it, jealousy) had my mom teach me the math they were drilling my brother on…and who found it easy within minutes, despite that my brother was still struggling (and I mentioned – 3 years older, right?). So anyway, I had to tag along. And since they were then paying a tutor to essentially be a baby-sitter, they had the tutor tutor me as well.

But what do you tutor a kid in who doesn’t need tutoring?

It was creative writing. I still remember this worm shaped paper that I had to use to make…I don’t know, a story? I remember being a little baffled. I had no understanding of what was expected of me, but hey, I was a kid, and this didn’t bother me at all. Also, I knew that I was only there because my *brother* was the one needing tutoring. What could go wrong, right? Total no-pressure situation.

And I had fun with it. The tutor was an awesome woman, and she was very encouraging. So I wrote more. I would come up with goofy little stories, and read them to my mom.

That was part of who I was for a really long time. I don’t know exactly when that stopped. I think that maybe it was when grades started to matter. That was about the same time that teachers got more harsh and less encouraging, though my grades remained excellent. Actually, my grades *became* excellent then, when it mattered. I was a piss-poor student right up until then. I was bored, so why put any effort into it, right?

But in high school, not only did my grades become excellent, I was also instructed to essentially ignore my accomplishments.

My brother, you see, was a piss-poor student always. He worked *so much harder* for his C’s than I ever did for my A’s. I understood this. I mean, my mother explained it over and over, because she had to explain why I needed to shut up about my A’s, and not complain when they paid my brother for his (very very few) A’s and lavished praise on his B’s. We weren’t to talk about my A’s.

You know, I thought this was perfectly normal and acceptable. I agreed with my mom’s reasoning. And then in therapy, my therapist was like “do you think this is why you have issues with accepting praise and with recognizing your own accomplishments as an adult?”

Hm. DUH. Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t my parents?

So anyway, creative writing. I don’t have it in me these days. That is, I don’t pursue it. I don’t have confidence in it. And anyway, my main thing is photography.

Even there, I find myself stuck a bit, a lot of the time. I read some pretty awesome blogs by some pretty awesome photographers (Chase Jarvis and Joe McNally especially). I have a bunch of books. I’ve been really focused on lighting these past months. The past year, really. I want to know how to handle lighting.

I went to this thing in DC a few months back – the Flash Bus Tour. AMAZING. Inspiring. Seriously, I went home and stuck that flash I don’t know how to use on my camera and started playing. I learned a lot, too, but I was very limited because my camera (6 or 7 years old at this point) … um, we’ll just say isn’t fully operational. The pop-up flash doesn’t pop up. The hot shoe is apparently a little coated in crud, so the connection with the flash doesn’t always work. I can’t do any of the really fun stuff like remote flash because, well, because nothing quite works all the way completely with my camera these days. Not nothing nothing – I can take pictures, and 95% of the time that works.

But I need a new camera. I’ve been thinking for a year now about what I want, and I made my decision about 6 months ago, but didn’t feel like I needed to actually make the purchase quite yet. (This is a great budget tip: don’t spend money. Saves you tons of money, trust me!) And the there were earthquakes and nuclear disasters and floods and tsunamis in Japan and Thailand and I think pretty much everywhere that cameras are made. So the camera I want and am now (finally!) ready to actually push the “purchase” button on…isn’t available. Anywhere.

So that will have to wait. And in the meantime, I’m not getting the rest of the equipment I need to play with the flash stuff (and I’m not talking super elaborate – just enough to be able to get the flash off the camera) because there’s just no point until I have a full-working camera.

But in listening to Merlin talk about getting started, and that we need to stop organizing our index cards and perfecting our productivity system, and to just get out there and do our stuff…I realized exactly why I have found all the lighting books I’ve been collecting so damn frustrating. None of them are worth a damn if I’m not actually doing.

So anyway, here’s 1400 random words. I’m going to try to make the clackity noise regularly, maybe even daily. I thought about doing the 750words.com thing, but the statistics they automatically produce wig me out. I don’t like it. And the morning writing thing? Not for me. The only thoughts in my head in the morning are “feed cats, brush teeth, wash face, put in contacts, put lunch in pannier, check weather, get dressed, ride to work.” I just don’t have a lot of mental chatter going on in the morning. And then I ride, and that’s the best flushing mechanism I’ve ever run across for getting rid of mental chatter! So there’s just nothing there for me with the 750words deal.

But the clackity noise…I can try that. Not sure why I’m posting it anywhere, other than that I’m pretty confident that no one reads this blog, and I have to put it somewhere, right?


So there you are. 1570 incoherent words! Enjoy.