I’m sure you know these moments too. Working hard on something but not getting anywhere with it. Through all these years I found three approaches that help me through these moments. Most of the times they work. But sometimes they don’t and I ship average work, feel bad about it and can’t wait to get back and improve it. Anyway, here they are.
Reading Books First of all, I keep a to-read list on Goodreads.com. Whenever I encounter a book that I find interesting, I add it to this list (more than 400 items at the moment). Besides reading I also like to plan. I use Trello for all my planning. I split every year into quarters—periods of three months. Then I write down all the books that I want to read in the upcoming period and create a checklist. With a goal of 40 books per year that’s 10 books per quarter.
The last thing I remember I wanted to be was a “game designer/developer”. I just got my first PC and playing video games was all I did. Then, at some point, I had stopped thinking about what I really wanted to do. I guess the “life auto–pilot” must have kicked in.
Let’s do a quick test. Go to the following website. Take a look around. Spend a minute or two on the site. Even a few if you wish. There is no particular information that you should be looking for no task. Already back? Cool. Now try to answer the following questions based on the information that you were able to get from that website. Don’t worry if you’re not a UX designer or a designer at all. In fact, that’s even better. Write down the answers.
“I don’t trust books like these”, said James. I was surprised by the blunt comment and replied with a short: “Why not?” “I don’t know… There’s something about the title that turns me off”, James replied. “Maybe it’s the cover in general…”, he tried to elaborate. “It looks cheap right?”, Sarah joined the conversation. “How can a book look cheap”, I replied in astonishment. “I don’t know… it looks… self-published?”, she tried to explain. “Self-published? But it’s a book by O’Reilly…”, I interrupted. “I know, but still…”, Sarah didn’t know what else to say. “I kinda like the cover…”, I remarked, “…it even has a big red heart on it”, I chuckled as I finished my thought, picking up the book, taking a closer look and briefly showing it to James and Sarah.
Lots of tabs = chaos
I come from a small town where traffic jams are rare and public transport unneeded. Need to go to school? Take a short walk. Need to go to the supermarket? Take the car. Life was similar in Germany and Luxembourg. Whenever I needed to get somewhere it took me about 20 minutes. Not more.
I think it was about five books per year. It was mandatory. I would read these books in the first few years but when I think of it now, that wasn’t much of a reading. You know when you read something but your thoughts wander off and even though you read it you actually don’t? I found those books boring and by the end of the school I completely stopped reading them. Our teacher was extremely strict about it and she used to scare the shit out of me. But even that wasn’t a good enough reason to read. I remember thinking to myself: “How can people read books? I rather watch a film or play a video game. At least that’s not a complete waste of time, right?”
“I don’t see it”, I muttered in frustration. “How can you not see it? It’s right here: 12…”, my schoolmate claimed comfortably. “I don’t see a 12, I see a 17…”, I replied in a growing frustration.
The machines of the industrial world finally took over the handicrafts. The typography of this industrial age was no longer handcrafted. Mass production and profit became more important. Quantity mattered more than the quality. The books and printed works in general lost a part of its humanity. The typefaces were not produced by craftsmen anymore. It was the machines printing and tying the books together now. The craftsmen had to let go of their craft and became a cog in the process. An extension of the industrial machine.