Sketchy Development

Genesis 1: A Creative Crisis

In the beginning God crafted some incredible content. And God saw that the content was good, and he posted it on Instagram. He received 20 likes in the first hour. And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

On the second day God said, “Let me create a blog and reach a wider audience.” And it was so. Then God blessed this day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

God was now earning $6000 per month working from home.

Consumption versus Creation

I often look down on the consumers. Consumers consume, YouTube, crappy TV, Facebook, BuzzFeed. I’m disdainful of that laziness. I don’t watch TV. I do real things. I read articles. I read books. But, I’m still just consuming.

Creation is harder. Expressing thoughts and emotions, creating art or music.

Creation has inherent difficulty and typically a barrier to entry. We hear people talk of “feeling creative”, or conversely, unable to find inspiration. Consuming, on the other hand, is easy. We can do it anywhere, paying as much or as little attention to it as we like.

This is not a rant against reading, listening, or observing. They’re critical skills we could all do better. However, I notice in myself a tendency to fall back on consumption for want of something better to do. When this happens I feel like I’m not really paying attention, or that I’ve switched to autopilot.

Examples: drawing, exercise, work

My best example of this is “The Boring Day”. I have that niggling feeling in the back of my mind: “I want to make something”. For me this could be some software, a painting, music, or graphics. I’ll have this feeling but not really know what to do about it. I’ll start to read about creating, then keep on reading. Articles titled, “How to write…”, or “10 easy steps to get writing”, or I’ll browse Instagram for inspiration. You get the idea. Blog content and popular search-engine-optimised websites cater well to these queries.

Skip forward to the evening I decide to draw. What should I draw? I can’t decide. What I’d like to draw will take hours. Occasionally I jump in but frequently I draw some motif instead, something simple I can post fifteen minutes later. I chicken out.

By way of example, here is one of the fifteen minute jobs:

Fast sketch of an Egyptian creature

And something that went past the hour mark:

Sketch of Onibus Coffee in Tokyo

This is not to say the fifteen minute efforts are worthless. They sustain a habit and make it easier to pick up the sketchbook and pen the next day.

The problem is I know I took a shortcut. I can post it on Instagram more quickly and see a few hearts flow in. It’s a fast feedback loop. My observation and drawing skills weren’t significantly challenged. In the first case above, I’m copying an existing image. It is flat, so challenges of perspective don’t apply. Mistakes in proportion don’t particularly matter as they’re caricatures and nobody will notice. The converse is why it’s so difficult to draw people. Our brains are finely tuned to faces, so tiny mistakes are glaringly obvious.

Exercise is similar. I try to do something every day. Some days I get down, do ten push ups, then reluctantly do ten more. I’m pleased to have done something and kept a habit up, but ultimately didn’t tire myself out. I know inside that I gave up.

At work, I take pride in crafting software and solving worthwhile problems. Recently however, we’ve been driven primarily by fast wins. There is ground to take, we have products to help us, and we push ahead from win to win. We have tight feedback loops, and every win is awesome, or game-changing. It’s addictive.

What exactly is the problem?

I’m a little conflicted by all of this. There’s not a great deal to complain of. The short term steps are important. They propel us forward and in sum add up to progress.

The problem is these small pieces aren’t pushing toward a larger goal. My scribbles will remain scribbles but aren’t components of a future masterpiece. The wins at work are great for business but aren’t leading to long term accomplishment. (My exercises, I hope, are keeping up my health).

There is supposed to be a conclusion here but I don’t have a compelling answer. My only resolution is that I can present a solution for every one of these problems I post.


  1. Got here from your Reddit comment on my clickbait article. Great to read about your challenges and strategies too. Avoiding the “fast win” is a great way to put this. Good luck out there, let me know if we can partner on something sometime! (

    • Omar

      Thanks JD. I’ve been browsing your website and enjoyed your articles, particularly the Sunday reset and your hero adventure. I have a couple of friend who I’ll certainly be forwarding this to. One wants to do something to help people with their mental health, and another speaks a lot of late of pursuing the hero side of life.

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