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Consume less, create more (tjcx.me)
668 points by tomjcleveland on Aug 23, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 182 comments

These are not the only two options. There's a third activity most of us seem to have forgotten - to simply be.

For me, the very act of everyday living has become very enjoyable and fulfilling in recent years. Doing the dishes, cooking, gardening, sweeping the floor, putting out the trash. Those are not "chores", that's what life's made of. Some of it creative, some not, but the difference is you're simply present in the moment and in the world.

Maintenance is either the one thing everyone forgets in these conversations, or it’s the one thing everyone says no one will want to do.

If there were a return to pride in and appreciation of a job well done, there would be no shortage of people willing to do the work, in my mind. The reason most people are so unwilling to do these things is because they feel like it is beneath them, and that doing them is a demonstration of their low status.

>If there were a return to pride in and appreciation of a job well done, there would be no shortage of people willing to do the work, in my mind. The reason most people are so unwilling to do these things is because they feel like it is beneath them, and that doing them is a demonstration of their low status.

The whole modern economy is based on having them feel low status...

People content with their jobs and lives don't consume as much. The whole 1.2 trillion dollar advertising industry (plus tons of non-measured counterparts, e.g. lifestyle articles in magazines, movies etc) is based on promoting unattainable lifestyles as exciting to sell products they associate with them.

> The reason most people are so unwilling to do these things is because they feel like it is beneath them, and that doing them is a demonstration of their low status.

Maybe some people. Not others.

N=1. I absolutely don't think maintenance is "low status". I just consider it a waste of human time and resources that interferes with deriving utility and enjoyment from things, but is strictly necessary. It's something to be minimized, both in terms of doing no more than strictly necessary and finding technological solutions to reduce maintenance burdens of products/systems. But when it has to be done it has to be done, I have no problems with it.

It has nothing to do with status. Most maintenance work isn't done in front of people, and not doing it at all signals much lower status than doing it. Rich people may do less of it themselves because they can afford to pay someone else to do maintenance tasks.

Maybe it's how you grew up or where you grew up, but I know some 1%-ers, who are rich but not SF/NYC rich, that take much pride in their lawn, garden, and having a tidy home. And they very much enjoy being the ones that take care of it. As much as my dad loves to bitch about his lawn that takes 4 hours to mow, he loves doing yardwork. I think it's actually relaxing for him and gives him a sense of accomplishment he doesn't get from sitting behind a desk all day.

>The reason most people are so unwilling to do these things is because they feel like it is beneath them, and that doing them is a demonstration of their low status. >Maybe some people. Not others.*

Well, parent already said "most people", not all.

(But even if they haven't said "most", one should assume they allow for exceptions in any general statement in a casual conversation. Unless of course they used the universal quantifier and insisted on "absolutely everybody, no exceptions whatsoever". But I digress).

>It has nothing to do with status. Most maintenance work isn't done in front of people

It doesn't have to be to be associated with low status though. It's merely enough that it's considered as stopping one from doing the things they think would raise their status (what they "should be doing" that's not beneath them).

> Well, parent already said "most people", not all.

What I meant is, while I can't read minds, "most people" disagrees with the ad-hoc statistical sample of "people I know". What I perceive is people differing in the amount of resistance they have towards doing unwanted things that still need to be done, but I maybe once saw it being considered a status issue.

> It's merely enough that it's considered as stopping one from doing the things they think would raise their status (what they "should be doing" that's not beneath them).

Do people really think this way? "This task is beneath me", "that other task is not beneath me"?

I consider chores to be stopping me from doing things "I should be doing", but it has nothing to do with status; it's just about having better things to do with the time. I hate chores as much now as I hated them in the days I had trouble making ends meet; the only difference is that nowadays I can afford reducing some of them (e.g. I have a dishwasher now, and I can afford a little bit extra to buy something that's easier to clean than the cheapest option). Rich people are able to outsource more.

Maybe the picture is backwards? Outsourcing chores is a status signal in the sense that your ability to reduce maintenance burden is correlated to your wealth. That doesn't mean people hate maintenance because of status - what makes this a good status signal in the first place is that chores are a waste of life.

>I consider chores to be stopping me from doing things "I should be doing", but it has nothing to do with status; it's just about having better things to do with the time.

I think the difference in our opinion is that I see those two phrasings as being more or less the same. "better things to do with the time" I understanding as not very different from "those are beneath me, I'm here for a higher calling".

As opposed to enjoying e.g. cooking and tending the house, and not considering them a waste of time.

Kind of like people tend to look down on garbage men and cleaning persons, even though their work is essential.

Still don't see that much of a similarity. "I don't like doing X" != "X is beneath me", it just means I don't like doing X. So e.g. I don't like cooking because I'm bad at it so it doesn't give me much enjoyment (chicken and egg, I know). And I don't like cleaning the house because I consider it to be a waste of life that's necessary only because we don't have self-cleaning technology. I'm not even sure what the frame of mind looks like that allows one to enjoy household chores.

> Kind of like people tend to look down on garbage men and cleaning persons, even though their work is essential.

Ok, I've seen people thinking like this; I actively changed the mind of or filtered out people like this from my social circle. It's a proxy for looking down on poor / less successful people. Still, these are jobs associated with less well-off precisely because the tasks are unpleasant, and everyone who can avoid them, will.

(Then again, maybe it's self-reinforcing at this point, and the factor that poor people do these jobs makes for an extra incentive to avoid doing the same, even if one is poor too.)

I assume many people view menial tasks as below them, and it also seems to differ in degree culturally. I'm from the US, and on a recent trip to Japan I noticed a stark difference in the pride and responsibility the average citizen showed in taking good care of even small spaces. It appeared to be an appreciation for the aesthetics of life, no matter the scale. This isn't valued in the same way in America, where anything that isn't the top feels like it's not worth one's time.

Yep. I felt the same way in Japan. There appeared to be dignity in certain kinds of work in a way that there is not in the United States, and in most cases this yielded superior results of that work.

They do so many foods better than the people who invented them.

The problem with maintenance is that you are trying to keep the status quo, and not really improving things permanently. That is the main reason for me that I don't enjoy that work as much, because next week all your effort will be gone again.

On a long enough timespan, all of our work will be gone anyway.

All your effort put into, say, eating healthily is not really gone though, is it?

True. But if you have kids, all your effort cleaning the kitchen will be gone in a few hours.

I'm not convinced, I think not doing the dishes, not taking out the trash, not sweeping the floor is a demonstration of a low status. That is if you can't afford to pay someone and you still don't do it. People with a clean home have a higher status.

That's beside the point though.

You might be considered very low status if you "can't afford to pay someone and you still don't do it", and slightly less low status if you do them yourself.

One is lowly and dirty-ass, the other is lowly-and-clean.

But not lofty and successful as "I'm all about creating, I have staff to do those things, can't be bothered as my time is precious".

To the more well off/elites etc, someone who "can't afford to pay someone" and does those things themselves is still low status. They are not going to get impressed with someone cleaning the house themselves...

There are many social hierarchies. To the plurality of my own, those that pay someone else to clean up after them and to feed them are of lower moral character and thus lower status.

You can be high status and poor, or high status and rich, but the former is easier to achieve. This probably stems from a “it is easier to thread a camel through a needle than for a rich man to find grace” kind of mentality, but also relates to values of self-sufficiency. Nevermind that everyone goes to the grocery and only maintains small vegetable gardens.

As someone who likes to make money, I am in a subculture of my immediate social network.

> Doing the dishes, cooking, gardening, sweeping the floor, putting out the trash. Those are not "chores", that's what life's made of.

I mean, I do my chores everyday too but I'd muuuuch rather be playing guitar or reading a book. Don't take any pleasure in cleaning the plates.

Yeah, but in the end your environment is now much cleaner. Is not there a feeling of pleasure because of this? So while you may not have a pleasure in the process, you may derive pleasure from the outcome or result.

Great point. Sometimes I have found that I can be so caught up in the goals or some future desired state that i forget to enjoy the journey.I have to consciously and continuously remind myself of this.

Interestingly some believe this focus on goals vs just being, is a function of our schooling system. Kids who grow up without formal schooling , function more in “being” orientation vs “doing” orientation.

Personally I Design my life to balance between being and doing. I use a model [0] to map out the important things to me, and review it regularly.


before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

I am pretty sure the meaning of that saying is that the structure of your life will not be fundamentally different after enlightenment, not that there is some virtue in performing routine chores

Now that I'm more secure in my career, I find that I do more home/garden maintenance tasks myself rather than frantically trying to find someone to pay do them for me, at a time that works with my frantic schedule.

Tiling my kitchen over two weekends was less inconvenient than finding a tile layer who was willing to a) do the job on a day I had home office and b) show me the layout ahead of time so I could make sure they would do it exactly the way I wanted it done. It's also relaxing to do something hard that has nothing to do with my company's DevOps toolchain, where consequences for mistakes only affect me, my husband and our house.

Now off to re-plant my front yard with an annual (one-season) clover so it, too, can recover it full productivity after a frantic period of overwork. Sure, I could have spent this Sunday learning enough about Spring to help troubleshoot it, but that's what I have colleagues and existing real work projects for.

Hey ciconia, I wanted to email you to tell you this, but there's no contact info in your `about`. So I'll make this public.

I rarely remember the HN articles I read, much less the comments, but today I found myself blaming myself on not doing productive things in my time. Out of memory came this manifesto and this comment of yours, especially the first paragraph. This is something I agree with very deeply, and yet forget about this all too easily: just being has value in and of itself.

I want you to know that your words have made a difference, have helped me remember something that's important to me, and I'm grateful for that.

I try practicing what I wrote about. Somedays it goes really well, some days not so much. Being truly aware and present requires not so much learning new habits as discarding with old ones.

I'm glad to have sparked something positive in someone else :-)

Speaking as someone who enjoys cooking, gardening, and yes even washing up, I should be a Zen master right? But I'm not, so there must be something else going on here.

I guess it's a combination of both work and play being more consumptive/prescriptive. There's no space to put your own stamp on things.

The obvious counter to this is all the what would have been factory workers (in the west) that now seem to have more freedom. To which I would guess that essays complaining about lack of creativity tend to be written by the well off, where as the less well of have other concerns.

I feel it's also something about the ease you can do things with and your deeper feelings about them.

When something is easy to do well because all the supplies are easy to reach, in good order and condition (the joy of a new sponge for dishes!) and there is not too much of it and you don't have to climb around other messes it's nice.

We become used to suboptimal situations so quickly, and the bad feelings of stuffiness and annoyance are buried below more immediate issues.

Taking an hour or two and identify/remove the pain points can improve the task experience greatly.

> Doing the dishes, cooking, gardening, sweeping the floor, putting out the trash. Those are not "chores", that's what life's made of.

If that's life I may just as well kill myself.

I feel the same. There's nothing that makes you feel your life is pointless as much as doing chores. Recurring, unending, and unpleasant, all they amount to is treading water.

I can't imagine a state of mind where one could find meaning of life in this. It feels a bit similar to finding meaning in death, which I personally consider a large-scale case of Stockholm syndrome.

You're assuming that these are unpleasant to everyone?

I don't find washing the dishes, mopping floors, etc unpleasant at all. It's a welcome break. Moreso when it's your _own_ floor, and you take pride in the environment you live in.

Washing the car, for example, I find a good way to connect with the fruits of my labour, a level of respect for the things I own.

Sure, doing it 8 hours a day every day for a full time job with no other sense of purpose would be soul destroying, that's not what most people are talking about I think.

It's interesting, though, because based on those I know, there's sort of a pattern here.

Some people want everything to be a service - take out food, rental apartment, Uber, etc etc. Some want to feel some measure of self-sufficiency. And there's not really much room inbetween, it seems.

> You're assuming that these are unpleasant to everyone?

I guess? The concept of them not being unpleasant is... alien to me.

> And there's not really much room inbetween, it seems.

I consider myself to be in between. I'm a strong advocate of products over services, because services come with undesirable things like relationships with third parties, subscriptions (vs. one-time payments), and terms of service that restrict what you can do with things. I prefer ownership, but I also strive to minimize any and all maintenance burden related to that ownership, because I consider it a negative aspect.

Could this be a nomenclature issue? Like, I'm defining "unpleasant" to mean really horrible, something actively negative, like e.g. cleaning up vomit might be, whereas you just mean "not that interesting / fun"?

I tend to find that my attitude towards these sorts of tasks varies depending on how stressed I am. A 60-hour workweek and a commute makes anything like that feel horrible. A more balanced life and it's the opposite, I like cleaning, I've taken the world around me and improved it.

It seems to me that you must have a line somewhere - like gardening for example, is that a maintenance task, or is that different because it's not actually necessary? Decorating the interior of a house?

Changing the skin of a window manager? :P

Just something to think about.

> Like, I'm defining "unpleasant" to mean really horrible, something actively negative, like e.g. cleaning up vomit might be, whereas you just mean "not that interesting / fun"?

I mean something in between. Not necessarily causing revulsion or mental pain, but still less preferable than doing nothing at all.

> I tend to find that my attitude towards these sorts of tasks varies depending on how stressed I am.

That's definitely true for me too.

> It seems to me that you must have a line somewhere - like gardening for example, is that a maintenance task, or is that different because it's not actually necessary? Decorating the interior of a house?

Depends. I'd definitely prefer for the garden to maintain itself by magic instead of having to micromanage it, and having no other option, I'd probably turn gardening into a set of half-baked electronics hobby projects. Decorating the house? That's a one-off task, a means to an end. Still, while I'd happily decorate the thing in CAD software[0], I'd happily pay someone to assemble and put the new stuff according to instructions. I've assembled and moved enough furniture in my life for that to become boring.

(A somewhat related example that's current for me: Kerbal Space Program. Your first couple dozen orbital insertions, your first couple dozen manual orbital intercepts and dockings, are all super fun. But after a while it gets so repetitive that you wish for a way to automate it. When your goals shift from "let's land on the Mun for the first time" to "I want to send 250-ton spaceship to Duna for long-term planetary studies", you start realizing that doing a dozen launches to assemble it in orbit is a chore, and you don't want to spend the hours required to do it.)

Maybe it's the "mastery" thing? There's this well-known "Frustration/Boredom" chart floating around the Internet, see e.g. [1]. Most maintenance tasks don't require too much skill for good enough results, so with near-zero challenge, repetitive nature, and goal being mostly treading water, it's just one big grind. People probably have different thresholds of tolerance for that.

Another issue is whether this is even self-directed. Living with other people means that you may be asked to do maintenance tasks way before you yourself think they're needed. In these cases, I find the work doubly frustrating.


[0] - which I recently did, to accommodate our newborn.

[1] - https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Flow-state-frustration-a...

I agree with the feeling, and I want to add a few things to try to help both sides understand.

I don't think it's appropriate to say that "life is made of". Admittedly, "life is full of", and if you can enjoy those menial tasks, reach that "zen" level as some say, that's great. In that case it's true that your "life is made of", and if you can enjoy it, much better for you. The less you need to live happy, the easier it's to achieve that happiness.

And in fact, most of us could learn a bit of that. Accept that we have to deal with those things, and at least try to not torture ourselves with it, enjoy it as much as possible (even if in some cases it doesn't seem to amount to much).

All that being said, I think it's also easy to lose perspective when you manage to achieve a certain degree of happiness or comfortability through that kind of routine, or when you deeply believe in that idea. In particular, I believe that's a state that not everyone can reach, and I doubt it's a matter of being trained enough or trying hard enough. Some people just have a natural need to create, or explore, or need to actively fight and try to change the world they live in, or whatever. Sometimes, that comes from inside, in the same way as hunger, or your need to sleep.

This probably sounds hyperbolic. For most people, it probably is. But this is the kind of issue that you can only really understand if you personally live it, because it is a psychological need, and that's very hard to communicate to others who don't feel the same way.

In conclusion: I absolutely believe those who say that they find meaning in a life like this. I actually think that most people can find meaning in a life like this, and I believe the social factor is the most relevant for most people's happiness. But I also believe there's a lot of people who can't find meaning in a life like this, as much as they try, because they have other needs, and trying to supress them it's not only unreasonable, but a nice attempt at torture. I can understand the people that says that they would rather kill themselves. Hopefully this adds a bit more context.

It’s short anyway. Imagine the amount of time before your birth and after your death. In two-three generations no one will remember you. Maybe they will remember your name (if you do something important), but they will not remember you. Whatever you think is important, it is not much more important than doing dishes, cooking, gardening... it’s all irrelevant.

I 100% agree, and I think that most people today need more guidance to achieve this than a snapshot of the target state.

Always interested in hearing unusual answers as to how we might approach this challenge.

> These are not the only two options. There's a third activity most of us seem to have forgotten - to simply be.

And that is the conclusion the writer should have arrived at, from their own arguments:

> all media is created to be consumed.

> I had to start creating.

> (…)

> What’s evil is passive consumption, in all its forms.

If all consumption is evil and all creation is meant to be consumed, then by creating we generate evil. The logical conclusion isn’t to create more than we consume, but to do neither.

Perhaps one should create, but not with the goal of consumption. Focus on the act of creation, not the object.

I agree, we need to learn how to simply be instead of worrying about how to achieve or get something done.

Exactly ! I am also starting to question this time dichotomy : work time, play time. As long as you are doing something it’s okay. Of course I don’t consider swiping through an infinite scroll as doing something. There I wrote a comment.

Thank you for saying this.

The creative part comes when you keep on doing the job and then you'll creative part kicks in. Dr robust automation to quickly place the dishes. That's what life's made og, IMHO.

I envy you. I’ve been trying to hack my brain into a mode similar to what you described for years without success. Just wanted to ask how you did it?

Aren't those chores creating order?

Be a Stoic.

> These are not the only two options. There's a third activity most of us seem to have forgotten - to simply be.

Unfortunately, "simply being" if you live in the first world and especially the US is consuming.

Worth noting that this is the blog's first post. I like the tone, the humor, and the sheer nerve of writing something like this. It's inspirational without being preachy.

It's also highly actionable. Here's how to apply it right now. Close your browser and all other applications. Open a text editor (or a can of paint or whatever). Reflect on something, anything. Then give yourself permission to make the worst possible version of something you like consuming. Write one sentence (or make one stroke), then another, and another. Eventually, rework the mess you've created.

Having forced myself to do this on several occasions, I can say it becomes addictive after a few days. And tiring. Which is why I also know it's easy to relapse on an off day. Finding a way to keep motivated independent of external praise is critical.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can enforce discipline in myself to accomplish specific tasks similar to OPs. I agree that that external praise can be a game changer but man of the habits you want to develop are trivial and not worth bringing up but can have a huge impact. For example, instead of being creative, maybe you want to floss consistently or walk 10k steps. Both of those habits are just as important as creating but writing a blog post about it isn’t as sexy, nor is bringing it up in conversation.

I’ve been thinking about creating systems that help keep me going in the right direction even though I know I’m going to have an off day because discipline is so fleeting.

Tiny habits (free course for a week) + never skip 2 days.

Discipline equals Freedom, no doubt

Creating stuff will definitely give you more of a sense of self-worth and satisfaction than just consuming things will.

On the flip side, I create stuff all day at work, and sometimes when I come home I just want to relax.

There is room for both. If all people did was consume, then the world would be a boring place with nothing new. If all people did was create, then you would have a massive glut of stuff that nobody actually appreciated.

I feel like video games are kind of in that space right now. There are just so many video games coming out every day/week/month, and they all rehash the same tropes. It's rare to find something really unique and "new". Sometimes I like to go back to an old game that I haven't played in a long time and just get caught up in it. Consumption doesn't always have to be of the latest and greatest thing.

Yeah, I've have the same feeling about games lately. I took a break for a couple years in college and then junior year came back and started playing a lot of Halo 3 and Reach multiplayer. That was fun and got me back into video games as a 'serious' hobby: one that I was invested in exploring on a broad level. But ten years later I find myself getting bored with new games so easily. Maybe it's just getting more involved with adult stuff, but I have friends who are also avid gamers and I like having that as a shared interest/jumping off point. Still, I find myself craving truly novel narratives and mechanics and they're in thin supply. I'm reminded of Sturgeon's Law and the burgeoning market of Indy/low effort game-making.

This was all a prelude to tell you that a couple months ago I picked up "Outer Wilds" and it sparked my imagination in a real way. It really felt like I had finally found a game that did space exploration 'right' and it ended up taking a place in my top-5 games of all time. It was truly a beautiful, crafted experience that kept me coming back for more. It was also not too long, not too short. Probably about 30-40 hours provided a comprehensive playthrough and I didn't feel like the game let you 'miss things', which I personally dislike. I wouldn't want to read a choose-your-own-adventure novel for the same reason.

Sucks that you said that you don't like the idea of missing things, because some of the best narrative games in recent years, in my opinion, had bits that you could miss. Like Detroit: Become Human, which shows you how each chapter could have branched and what path you ended up taking, or Neir Automata, where you beat the game once and you've seen maybe 30% of the content in the game, because subsequent playthroughs are from other perspectives. Or Life is Strange, which has similarly complex branches like Detroit Become Human does, and the main character can rewind time and try different approaches. Or Persona 5, where it doesn't give you enough time to max out each NPC's social link, so you will miss some side stories the first time through the game, and there's bad or alternative endings you can trigger depending on what you do.

If you're into non-narrative games at all, then there's some games with novel mechanics coming out. Two of my favorites recently are Into The Breach, which is a tactics game where you know exactly how the enemies will attack, and your goal is to use your mechs to move, stop, block, or kill the bug threatening the attack so that it attacks somewhere else or doesn't finish the attack, where it turns it into a thinky puzzle.

Or Baba is You, a puzzle game which is just full of 'holy crap I didn't realize you could DO that!' moments, where you push words around to form sentences which govern the rules and mechanisms for the level, which you have to manipulate in order to solve the level.

And if you haven't tried The Witness yet, Jonathan Blow spent 7 years dreaming up every possible way in which you could possibly change-up a 'draw a line through a maze' puzzle, and the deeper you get into that game, the more crazy things you'll discover that he came up with (I would have never come up with half the crap he did, and it gets reaaaally creative). There's several 'Holy crap I didn't know you could DO that,' moments in that game too. But it's not a narrative game, not really. More of a hint of a narrative.

Yeah, the problem is that most games fail to have compelling enough mechanics to warrant replays. If things are "missable" it kinda feels like a f*ck you from the developer, or at the very least like they didn't try hard enough to have a cohesive narrative (too many hangers-on narrative ideas). Depends on the game of course. But for instance, with Nier (haven't played it, not my favorite stylistically), if you really haven't encountered 70% of the content with one playthrough, I wouldn't consider that a true playthrough.

The Witness blew me away too. At the time I played it (release), I felt the same way about it as Outer Wilds. Baba is you was recommended by a friend recently, and I'd definitely like to give that a shot at some point. I'm pretty hawkish about style, and I tend to strongly dislike tactics type games, as well as RTS. A lot of newer RPGs turn me off too, especially ones using the ATB concept (FF7 is one of my all time favs as well, but I have almost no interest in trying the new one; I reaaaally wanna vote with my dollars for new IP).

80 Days felt surprisingly novel to me because of the way it’s narrative felt so “complete” on first 3 hour play-through, knowing that I was seeing only a small fraction of the game. I’m not sure I’d get the same joy out of replays, but the joy was really in having a standard storybook experience with solid writing combined with self-determination and time pressure.

It made the world seem so rich and full BECAUSE I knew I was only seeing a very small fraction of the possible content. If I played it again and got the same story, I suspect I’d be surprised and disappointed, which is why I can never play it again!

Edit: it may have felt so novel to me because I spend most video game time in tactical games, or puzzles, and this was somehow both of those things and neither of those things.

I've replayed 80 days a few times. As long as you choose different paths, the game will tell you a pretty different story (at least for those three times I replayed it). I even died before making it all the way around the world once.

Nier is pretty fun mechanically (although it has some annoyances). You even play differently to a certain extent in susequent playthroughs. Since most people say you have to play the game three times in order to experience enough of the story, you could just treat each playthrough as completing a really long chapter in the story. But regardless, it might not be your type of thing still.

I had somehow missed The Outer Wilds (I think I kept mixing it up with Obsidian's The Outer Worlds, still not yet released), but I've started noticing people talk about it lately. If you're putting it up there with The Witness, then I need to check it out.

Even if you normally hate tactics games, I would recommend watching a video or two on Into The Breach. I do like Tactics games, but I no longer have time for a proper one. I tried playing Wargroove, spent an hour on a mission and failed it, to have to start it all over again, and I went... "Yeah...guess I'm not playing this game again for awhile." It left a sour taste in my mouth.

But Into the Breach is different. It's a roguelike, so failing is okay, you just make your survival situation tougher for yourself and might not "beat it" that playthrough. And each map has a strict turn limit to accomplish your objective, usually only like 5 turns max, so each level takes about 5-10 minutes, usually. And again, knowing exactly how the enemies will attack during your turn really changes the feel of it, and it feels less like a tactics game and more like a puzzle game using tactics mechanics. Like the difference between playing Chess or solving a Chess Problem. That example might not make it sound that sexy, but it's really addictive.

Also I heard that FF7 remake is more action oriented, and doesn't really have an ATB bar this time around. Maybe you'll like it more than you think.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, Subnautica is the last game I’ve played that truly felt wondrous to play and hooked into my brain in a major way. Highly recommend, one of my favorite games of all time I’d say. (Up there with Undertale and Super Metroid)

Subnautica has been on my wishlist since before release but as it got more fleshed out, I just never went and picked it up. I think I may have been put off by the base building element or something, and I definitely had a bad taste in my mouth about exploration after No Man's Sky. Can you give me any more insight into the gameplay that would change my mind?

Unlike most base building/crafting/exploration games, Subnautica doesn’t rely on procedural generation. It has an actual plot, and all of the environments showcase the sort of creativity and artistic choices that we simply don’t know how to teach to a computer.

Sure, I'm aware that it's not procedural, but maybe I was overly pessimistic about the world building within. I think after fallout 4 I've steered a little further away from RPGs with base building. It didn't really feel like those games were focusing enough on what I found interesting mechanic/narrative wise, but were rather taking a scattershot "give the player everything" approach to drive sales. Maybe I'll give SN another look.

...also I think Rocket League consumed my gaming time for a solid year which didn't help me work down my list.

Base building in SN is somewhat a side show. You build yourself a home on an alien world because you need one, but most of the interesting things happen outside of it.

I second the recommendation. Subnautica is hands-off one of the best games I played.

One area that's ripe and unexplored, imo, is creation of social infrastructure around playing video games, especially team games.

A family has rules, a company has rules, even HN has rules. Some rules are an unnecessary drag, but others are vital and essential to stoping a race to the bottom. Having those rules allows for much greater net freedom.

What is the difference between what you're talking about and Steam?

Simple: If I fire up DotA 2, I have a 75% chance of utterly despising my tean, and them me.

"Everything+Kitchen sink" games like MOBAs, Overwatch, etc, are caught between two masters: 1) the desire to give players lots of options, and 2) the tendency of players to abuse their teammates for how they use those options.

The solution is not to be found on that spectrum---DotA did this a while ago with DotA+ (lol, "+") restricting possible team compositions, and Overwatch did as well (also forced team compositions).

What really needs to happen is players need to start innovating socially, creating trust-based groups that can reap the best of both worlds.

This would require proactivity, but, hey, this is the thread for it.

That's a guild. Many games have them, and some guilds span multiple games. Try playing an MMO, that's where they are easiest to find. You can also find them around some multiplayer shooters.

Yes, producing is hard.

No, quantity is not the same as quality. Some people write 5,000 books in a lifetime. Wittgenstein wrote two. The second refuted most of the first.

Much modern consumer technology is aggressively anti-generative. I'm wrestling with a crap tablet and OS and a browser that's crashed a half-dozen times today, taking down the 50 or so items I'd had lined up to read (I've yet to embrace the "consome less" element).

I spend a lot of time fighting to create and acquire the time and space and materials and tools I require to create, often battling with uncomprehending others in this. "Why do you need books / computer / light / space / food / housing / clothing." I only wish I were kidding.

Facile works can be created with relatively low barriers surmounted. More substantive ... takes a bit more. I'm not remotely pretending to be another Ludwig, but reading him and others like him, I've formed a pretty strong view of the quality-quantity curve and how that works out. If even just a 1,600 word blog essay takes a month to compose, a more ambitious project might just require a bit beyond that.

And yes, getting into the creative habit, and seeing what works and doesn't (cold starts on blank pages have their place, but so doe boxes and stacks of index cards and books), and not being afraid to start over or take time.

Hahahaha if you were in my brain you would understand easily why you made me laugh a lot. I'll still try to explain it to you. I mostly agree with most of your paragraphs.

Wittgenstein wrote two. If I understand correctly, you imply that Wittgenstein books (including the tractactus) are of great quality (meaning ≈ of great intellectual value)

Actually very few persons understand the tractactus philosophicus. Let me contextualize: Much of "modern" philosophy is totally bullshitesque, no empirism, no intellectual rigor / epistemology, add to this complex subjects studied by people with no knowledge about them and bullshit artists (which is a real skill for selling your books). In parralel of the unification of science happening in the 20th century, a few philosophers actually remembered that philosophy is the love(Phil) of truth (soph) (which indeed is antithetic to BS and to multiple incompatible theories). Those philosophers founded analytical philosophy that had intellectual rigor and even made advance in epistemology, study of paradoxes, of logics, and tools like truth tables (used for e.g hardware logic gates nowadays). They had big results in the foundation of mathematics (especially set theory, e.g the Foundational axiom from zFc) and so they got authority in philosophy in general, even getting recognized by fake philosophers aka bullshit artists.

Wittgenstein was an analytical philosopher along with Russell. I've read most of the tractactus, at first I espected to learn many things from a book from such an intellectually rigorous man. And what a book! The tractactus "aims" to answer all philosophical problems...

I was quickly disappointed at the beginning, descovering that tractactus pages were full of nonsense, of words equivocations, of sophisms/fallacies, of BS art. But by reading more and more I discovered that the tractactus was not an absurd nonsense, it is an hilarious satire of bullshit artists. It is not even questionable, all the book is full of memes, of trolling. E.g invalid, ridiculously filled truth tables (and he was an expert at truth tables) The end of the book is totally clear once you understand that and end beautifully saying that what you do not understand, you must not talk about.

What's even funnier is that most of the philosophical community did not and even today do not understand this is an obvious satire, and think this is one of the greatest books ever. (btw this really fascinate me this kind of people that have this fascinating and horrifying cognitive ability: They read totally nonsensical texts (that use figure of speech melted with sophisms), they do not understand that they do not understand, and then call the author a genius, an "intellectual"(post modernism would perfectly fit such a category))

Wittgenstein wrote two. The second refuted most of the first. You are aware that it is refuted by himself, then how can you call it a high quality book? This make no sense ^^ Btw Wittgenstein had no added value in the philosophical world he has been totally useless and if he never had existed, state of the art philosophy would be unchanged.

> the Foundational axiom from zFc

The capitalization there suggests that the F in ZFC stands for "Foundation". It doesn't; it stands for (Abraham) Fraenkel, one of its creators.

I don't see any sign that, e.g., Russell understood the Tractatus as a satire. He was pretty good at spotting bullshit and if he took it seriously I would consider that strong evidence against your interpretation.

> Much of "modern" philosophy is totally bullshitesque, no empirism, no intellectual rigor / epistemology, add to this complex subjects studied by people with no knowledge about them and bullshit artists (which is a real skill for selling your books). In parralel of the unification of science happening in the 20th century, a few philosophers actually remembered that philosophy is the love(Phil) of truth (soph) (which indeed is antithetic to BS and to multiple incompatible theories).

This really isn't the case. Analytical philosophy today remains extremely strong on rigor. What many philosophers think they study is how to apprehend the world in a sustainable way. There isn't much focus on cutting-edge empirical facts, since the focus is to develop a framework robust to new possible empirical developments, and there was never a focus on empirical facts throughout the history of the tradition.

> They read totally nonsensical texts (that use figure of speech melted with sophisms), they do not understand that they do not understand, and then call the author a genius, an "intellectual"(post modernism would perfectly fit such a category))

Philosophers don't really care much for such a writing style today. Academic philosophers read past authors for their philosophical content and tolerate the prose because what they seem to say is valuable. Write a philosophy paper like that today and nobody will read you (if you're a student, your professor will fail you), since today's philosophers value the clarity of an argument and don't care much for talking over each other with ambiguous language.

Today's philosophers also don't really naively imbibe the thought of past great figures of philosophy. They are great since they pioneered a very useful mode of thought robust enough to survive the ages, though needing modifications.

Sophy means wisdom, not truth. Verus and ver are the latin root words for truth. They are quite different, especially in the way you are attempting to use the definition to make a point. FWIW.

lol what a rant.

I like to think it's less about patterns of consumption, and more about what we consume.

One of my favourite quotes:

“I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

To me, that suggests a number of things. For one, consuming information is undervalued by the author of the blog. It's fundamental to us.

Secondly, while you like broccoli and drink milk, I might well be allergic to milk and hate broccoli (I don't, just musing)... So one should be slow to judge. That said, I've never used Netflix. I could be missing out.

And finally, you wouldn't eat a 4 course meal on you commute, and you would definitely have some trouble making one on a bus or train ride too.

Thank you for this quote.

I am going through a book (The Nicomachean Ethics) trying to really understand every sentence in it, and its meaning. Going back and forth, taking notes. More like studying it than reading it, I guess.

It's taking me a long time, almost a year.

I was wondering if I remember the previous chapters, and I sort of do so. But I worry that by the time I have finished it, I will not be able to summarize the chapters well.

I guess it's not necessary. There are many things I have picked up from it; it has lead to many interesting discussions with my friends, and so on. That should be enough.

Consider pre-reading it first. If a book is hard, if it’s over you head, try going through the whole book w/o stopping on things you don’t understand (don’t fixate). In this way you’ll grasp the major points, ideas and themes. Only then read it carefully — you’ll understand better and get more out of the book.

It’s similar to progressive JPEG rendering. Your first pass is pre-processing resulting in fuzzy understanding of the whole that you then refine in the subsequent pass(es). Progressive way is more natural and effective.

I highly recommend reading Adler’s “How to Read a Book” [1]. This exactly the guide you want to read if you want to know how to learn well from books.

1. https://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Book-Classic-Intelligent/dp/...

Thank you for the suggestion, I will give it a try.

I love that quote, but in my experience there are diminishing returns.

I peaked (according to Goodreads) in 2012 when I read 75 books (including many large tomes! Godel Escher Bach, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Catch-22, Hyperion, Brothers Karamazov, Thinking Fast and Slow). But after all that, I felt like a hollow/vain effort. I felt like I spent TOO much time in books, time not investing in relationships or skills.

Now I read ~25 a year, and that seems like a sweet spot (though I still feel like I spend too much time on reddit/HN heh).

Anyways the OP article resonated with me. I've been taking the bus for the first time in my life this year and am wanting to start writing while on it.

I know Georg Christoph Lichtenberg wrote something similar, in the 18th Century: - https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/868998-i-forget-most-of-wha...

I like the "you are what you eat" sentiment and agree about judging (I used to hate broccoli, now I tolerate it) but analogies being what they are:

> And finally, you wouldn't eat a 4 course meal on you commute, and you would definitely have some trouble making one on a bus or train ride too.

You wouldn't eat a 4 course meal on a bus, but it's not 4 courses and flavor and textures that "make you", it's the calories and nutrients. I can absolutely eat a 2/3 of a day's worth of food on a bus no problem, and I can absolutely make this food on a bus too. Think Soylent-like shakes.

(The equivalent of making Soylent shakes on a longer commute is a netbook with SSH connection to my home desktop, running terminal Emacs frame. Don't do that always, though - I learned to use travel time to rest and think.)

It may be counter-intuitive, but I feel that without some level of consumption, what you create will be highly derivative—drawing of things you have internalized long ago, but have forgotten whereabouts they were acquired.

(you can see this in philosophical/moral discussions with people who have never questioned the source of their values)

Some consumption is probably necessary for creativity. You need to bring some things outside the world into yourself, or your ideas will feel made-up and phony.

Also, many a artist will admit a lot of what some would call "copying" in the art world is common - but it's more akin to reacting to something from a peer and then putting a unique twisted outlook on it; and this almost creates a 'conversation' even if the author isn't intending that.

All art is a conversation between the artist and the viewer. I'm fairly certain that's a phrase I've heard before. If your goal is to just spew your ideas out a megaphone without any thought as to how it would be received then quality doesn't matter as your need for expression is fulfilled in the act. When you're trying to convey an idea that you think matters, that you feel is important, then you spend a lot more time in getting it as close to right as you can. This is because you're looking for a response, whether that's in words, action, or reaction. I think your comment is spot on.

I was never an avid a reader as I was during the years when I fancied myself a writer. I went straight for the densest tomes and scrutinized them carefully. I can say as much about any creative pursuit I've taken on, it enriches the experience of consuming similar things. I'm not actively engaged with writing now, and am ashamed to admit that I have a hard time getting through books. I end up blorping around on HN instead.

Some consumption is probably necessary for creativity. You need to bring some things outside the world into yourself, or your ideas will feel made-up and phony.

I make art, usually abstract or surrealist art. One of the things I try to tell others is to get out of their head. Learn things, read books, and so on. It is all definitely tied to creativity. After all, the more ideas one has to pull from the more creative folks can be.

If all you have is romance novels and stories - or religious material, or any other one subject for that matter - your output is probably going to reflect these things.

In all reality, in physical art and music, direct copies are often learning experiences. It isn't much different than taking a toaster apart and putting it back together again, really, or taking it apart to build one you design. Putting any twist on the art does what you say, though.

The author is not saying don't ever consume again. Just consume less. In particular, the mindless parts of consumption. If you are an economist, I assume reading The Economist is part of gathering tools for your creative ventures.

True that, but, really, wouldn't 1:1 ratio of consuming to creating be sufficient consumption?

Very strongly disagree with the idea that consuming art is not in itself a generative process. Reading (or many other forms of consumption), if done attentively require practise. There is a world of difference between anxious, distracted twitter scrolling and a good reader.

All a book gives you is letters on a page, the rest of the exercise is left to the brain of the reader. Reading is a difficult and enormously complex process, and by no means less of an active or creative activity than writing. Becoming a skilled and mindful reader takes a lot of time. Learning how to engage with the creations of others also means widening ones own personality.

I think this post falls into the trap of 'productiveness', which thinks of creative activity only in terms of to what degree something can be exposed to others, ironically for consumption.

I am inclined to agree with the sentiment of your post as I also enjoy reading. At the same time however, I'm not sure I could provide a summary of the themes from The Grapes of Wrath as the author suggests even though I've read that book in the last 10 years.

What exactly do you mean by being an attentive reader and how do you go about training this skill? I read a lot and feel like I understand most of what I'm reading but it doesn't seem like most of it sticks for more than a year or two (if that).

I think I'd go with Nabokov's advice who said:

"Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader."

Exploring many different books is fine, but I think what really pays of is sticking with the books that are particularly meaningful to you and exploring them over and over again, taking notes, finding people to discuss them with, mulling them over, and so on.

I also do read quite a lot but on occassion I will always go back to the 5-7 books that are special to me, as a result I know a lot of them by heart even if I haven't picked them up in years.

Massively disagree that reading a book and reddit are comparable. I guess if you only read trash novels you can close the gap, but there is great value to reading a quality book or a periodical like the Economist.

Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how very educated people who would never read a tabloid paper or watch a stupid reality TV show will happily retweet lowest common denominator memes or outrage twitter. Because it’s so new, and because everything is intermingled, those people sleepwalk into consuming trash culture. It’s like a well trained athlete has been tricked into living off fast food.

I love it! I am a super creative person and I spend a lot of time doing what the article suggests. I quit facebook and all other social media two years ago, though I still spend a lot of time scrolling through reddit. At any rate I also write, maintain a few websites, design and build 3D printed robots, and make youtube videos. The author really nails it that you can be creating every day. Today I installed a GPU in my desktop and set up tensorflow to train an image segmentation algorithm I got from github. A couple months ago I ordered a 64x64 LED panel on aliexpress for $26 (search for "hub75") and the appropriate adafruit raspberry pi shield, then took all that stuff on vacation so when I was in a cabin in vermont I could configure the raspberry pi with the appropriate libraries to drive the thing. That was super fun! Earlier this year I took time off between jobs and built a massive four post bed out of redwood. The corner posts are 6" square and 7 feet tall and its all sanded and oiled and it looks phenomenal.

The author discovered something really valuable - even when you've got nothing but your phone you can create. And personally I find creating things way more rewarding. If you've ever thought about logging off of Netflix and social media, I definitely recommend it!

And humbly, if you want to see what I've been working on, see here:




looked thru your site, seems pretty neat. I think accumulating and designing tools is one of the hardest parts to creating physically, as opposed to cranking out thoughts.

Flutter seems like a cool platform!

Thank you! Flutter is cool in theory, but in practice many backers never got their hardware. I still use Flutter almost every day for remote control of my robots, but it never got to be what I had hoped it would become.

I do feel that I get more out of spending 30 minutes reading a book than I do out of 30 minutes browsing Twitter. Despite how addictive it is (and thus how much some part of me apparently enjoys it), I think I prefer pretty much any activity on my list of possible activities over puttering around with my phone: taking photographs, cleaning dishes, composing music, putting away laundry, writing software, pulling weeds, sleeping...

Seriously, I get more value out of effectively anything else over browsing trivial stuff on my phone.

Why then is it so easy to keep doing it?

I think it's hard to bump your brain up out of the ground state of doing nothing into the state of doing something. You have to decide what to do, marshal your focus, get up off the couch, and do it.

Browsing the web on your phone takes zero effort and it also effectively distracts you from the question of whether you should be doing something more worthwhile. It's a cognitive trap. It gives you the just five more minutes excuse, forever and ever.

Fear of missing out, I think.

And the fact that social media generally speaking is engineered to grab our attention and keep it for as long as possible – because personalized ads. When I identified my own FOMO a few years back I deleted most of my social media apps on my phone (except Fediverse-apps which have no algorithms, only good old chronological feeds).

I'm reading more books now :)

I don't think it's FOMO as much as those products are designed to release temporary happy chemicals with the least amount of effort. Let's be honest, it is much easier to get drunk, eat junk food all the time, browse reddit than it is to eat ur veggies, moderate alcohol, exercise, study etc... For most people, their mind always gravitates towards immediate hedonistic pleasures, this is just the way most people are built (myself included).

I guess the algorithms and the UX design is just tailored to tap into the very human fear of missing out. And the fact that we are creatures of habit.

> Why then is it so easy to keep doing it?

Because there's a strong dopamine rush triggered by the thought of seeing those twitter feeds, and your brain is particularly starved for dopamine at the time (maybe you're tired, bored etc). That triggering is the result of the same activity reinforced hundreds of time, so a strong neuronal association has been made between twitter and the reward. Stop using twitter (or whatever maladaptive addictive behavior you'd want to eliminate) for a few months, and those associations will fade.

If you are engaged in a meaningful conversation for instance, you won't feel such a strong urge to check twitter.

It's hard for me to quit twitter because no matter how low quality the average tweet is, there are always diamonds in the rough -- perfectly composed little knowledge bombs.

If you happen to open the app at the right time Twitter can be very high signal/noise.

I keep coming back because of the thought that maybe I'll open it and be introduced to a compelling thought that would have otherwise been buried in 20 pages of cruft

I find it hard to believe that something deeply insightful can be compressed into 140 characters, or even a collection of tweets. I've read tweet-chains from twitter pundits, and though these longer form tweets do have insight, it's still more like getting an elevator pitch from a smart person than actually getting a deep understanding of the reasoning that leads to said opinions.

Basically, my feeling from using twitter is that it is a venue for expressing opinions in clever/snarky ways, and reading other people's clever/snarky opinions and feeling amused. But I might be very wrong, or following the wrong people. Do you have any examples of tweets that are highly information-dense and making insightful points?

All fair points. I've found that radically limiting the people I follow has had a huge impact on the quality of my feed (and it's still not great).

More often than not a tweet provides me with an introduction to a new topic / idea that I can then further explore off the site.

I struggled to come up with good tweets on the spot -- here's my best shot:





Naval's does feel particularly like an elevator pitch though

Thanks for sharing these. It's funny, I had exactly that series by Naval in mind earlier. I think the database tweet is really useful (reminds me of a lecture slide).

People love to repeat "time you enjoy wasting is not time wasted," but I'd change it to "time that's fulfilling to waste is not time wasted" because fulfillment looks at things on the long time scale.

It better captures why wasting so much time on, say, Twitter actually is time wasted: it's not likely to be as fulfilling as just about any other way you could've spent that time. Only narrowly beating out spending that time in a drug-induced euphoric stupor.

Why? As in why is creating at a higher level than consuming? Couldn’t we just “create” at our day jobs and consume at leisure time? Isn’t consuming transferring some of the value we captured elsewhere to some creators?

I give everyone here the permission to consume guilt free (if that make it better).

> Couldn’t we just “create” at our day jobs and consume at leisure time?

In a perfect world, maybe. But in real life, dayjobs are not particularly efficient at motivating and capturing the creative output of people. Most of them aren't even about creating at all (e.g. a store clerk isn't creating anything except "market value"), and the subset that is usually gives very little creative freedom. Jobs aren't selected to match the person, they're usually selected as least miserable option available and motivated primarily by desire to not starve.

One is actually more satisfying than the other. If you have personal experience to the contrary I'd like to hear it.

That is just shit we keep telling ourselves. You might even point to me studies, but those are just reflection of what we have conditioned ourselves to believe. Frankly this is how we end up with 70 hr work week or pressured into trying to build that app that no one needs or wants. Because reading a book or running around with your kid being silly is not “productive”.

Ideally you wouldn't have to be creating something you don't care about at your day job at 40-60/h/w, but instead could spend all your creative time on something you really care about, and doing it to benefit you and your peers instead of primarily just shareholders, and the rest of your time reading a good book, and being silly with your kid.

However in the modern world, those things are mostly pushed aside, and instead most people in the modern world spend most of their waking hours as hamsters in a wheel.

Then there's the middleground where you try to do both. That's where most people burn out.

To be fair creating something that has to resemble someone else's vision feels very different from creating something that you envision yourself.

Finding balance is important and apart from that I guess not everyone likes creating stuff equally.

(Edit: grammar lol)

I found reading your comment satisfying, in my personal experience. Why should anyone create anything if consuming it is undersatisfying?

So, to max it out, one should possibly consume while creating?

That's great news. I often consume while making art!

On a more serious note, though, these simply aren't the same thing and they both have their places in life. Who am I to say that laughing at a youtube reading off reddit comments isn't as satisfying as making art? It is hard to tell because these sorts of things fill different slots.

I'll add that the fluff I consume (alongside the more serious learning stuff) honestly helps the creating bit. I get ideas I might not get on my own if I simply created. This is really part of the reason why folks say drugs help their creativity: It makes connections they might not have made otherwise (and why LSD has helped us in sciences among other things). The more ideas and knowledge one has - even low quality ones - the more one has to draw from to create with.

A couple of thoughts, in the spirit of this essay:

There's different levels of consumption. If it's a decent book, someone, usually a few someones, have revised and rewritten parts of a thought, in an attempt to refine the thought, boil it down, expand on it, etc. Your average Kanye tweet probably is, at best, a shot from the hip, blindfolded.

Creation doesn't have to be a linear process. I spend a lot of commute time thinking about my projects. Sometimes this ends up in furious sketches and overly verbose notes, but more often than not, it consists of me awkwardly staring at the floor and missing my stop. I put in earbuds w/o noise to drown out the din and discourage the scourge of public transportation, conversation with strangers.

Creative output does not need to be public. I'm sure there's the next great american novel locked up in a Microsoft word doc somewhere, and that's sad, but OK. Realistically, I only get to see what others put out, so if you want to be noticed, keep flinging shit at the wall like it's never going out of style. Even if it's a single blogpost on a personal site, someone will see it, and that makes it all totally worth it.

Offtopic, but assuming the poster is the author of the article:

1. I love the font you chose for your blog and the fancy styling of the first letter of each section. For the first 1 minute I was just staring at the L at the beginning appreciating it. I'm a huge fan of serif fonts in general and regret that sans-serif is used so much more widely. Generally a very clean, good-looking theme.

2. You might want to link to your rss feed in a <link> tag in the html head. I discovered it by knowing where Hugo usually puts it, but others may not have as much luck.

1. Thanks! The font is actually just Times New Roman! I like serif fonts but wanted to use a common system font.

2. Great tip! Just added it.

I made some art from an idea I had this morning that would have remained unimplemented if I hadn't read your writing. Send me your address (email in profile) and I'll snail-mail it to you.

What Hugo theme are you using, if any? Would you mind letting us see the source code?

This is a delight for so many reasons.

Most of my online time is via a cheap smartphone. There are limits to what I can do on it, but a lot of my blog writing happens on that phone. A lot of what passes for a social life for me happens on that phone via the twitter app or other online platforms. A lot of research happens on that phone.

The Palm Pilot was so named because it was the computer power of an airplane in the palm of your hand. I bet most smartphones today outclass it by a wide margin, yet we think they are good for shitposting on Facebook, not for Real Work.

But they are good for real work. There's an insane amount of actually productive stuff you can do on a smartphone today from almost anywhere.

I also enjoyed the style of the article -- the self-deprecating humor, the somewhat biting wit. It's a thing I used to do a lot more of and I guess I long to move back more in that direction so as to give more life to my writing.

This really hits home with some thoughts I've had lately. But I'm caught in a trap. Do I go after my dreams (numerical computing), do something useful (continue working with the non-profit I help out with), or continue being a sellout by working and learning things relevant to my employer? Splitting my time does not seem efficient, but consuming less and creating more would mean I'm at least working towards several goals slowly than not at all.

I don't think most people are capable of being creative all the time, but the key is to find some creative pursuit you enjoy and make sure you make time to pursue it. If that means doing it on a schedule, so be it. (that's what it means for me)

I write fiction "for fun", and sometimes it feels like work, but if I gave it up I'd drink every night and binge every weekend because my job is totally devoid of meaning. Hanging out with my partner is the only other thing I really care about, and frankly we like drinking together a little bit too much.

By the way, any late career change suggestions for a software engineer who's got some money saved up and is sick of tech? Because, fuck.

because my job is totally devoid of meaning

There's a self deception. Meaning isn't out there in the world, meaning is in people's heads. There's no meaning but that which we make for ourselves. It isn't your job which is devoid of meaning, but your interpretation of your job compared to your interpretation of other jobs.

That is to say, your suffering doesn't come from the outside, it comes from the inside.

What do you think I meant, when I said that? Do you think I believe in a font of cosmic meaning that flows out through some human pursuits but not others, and my job is in the latter set?

I'll tell you: that's not it.

I think you said exactly that. That some jobs inherently have meaning, that yours doesn't. Stating that you would become a drunk to cope with the lack of meaning in your job says that you don't believe the meaning is in your head and changeable, but that it's in the job and unchangeable.

You say "any late career change suggestions for a software engineer who's got some money saved up and is sick of tech?" as if the sickness is in the job, because of the job, and not in you and your reaction to it.

I'm sorry, but I don't believe every possible human activity is equally amenable to "finding meaning" in. You're welcome to believe that, but I don't, and your dogged attachment to a particular interpretation of my words that justifies the dispensation of this nugget of sophomoric wisdom isn't interesting. You aren't saying anything that a reasonably intelligent person in my position hasn't already considered a thousand times from a thousand different angles.


By the way, any late career change suggestions for a software engineer who's got some money saved up and is sick of tech? Because, fuck.

The person I seek advice from said radical departures without plans are high risk. Your fan interest in korean baking techniques of the 1750s era are unlikely to scale to a dayjob.

But, If you have a passion which gives evidence of up-scaling potential, its still worth exploring.

He also said if you treat a long working life as an oil tanker of momentum, the easiest course changes are the small slow ones: reversing course on a a full speed tanker takes kilometers. Reversing course on a career takes years. Moving it marginally, by some small but achievable amount, is both simpler and safer.

So, how about exploring a move from the engineering side to some other side, but still exploiting software? or, ceasing software, but staying inside the discipline of engineering? Or applying your software engineering praxis, to some other field which you have less skill in, but strong interest?

Those Korean 1760 bakers need some AWESOME code, to make the yeast work in a modern hot oven...

Yeah, the risks inherent in a radical departure without a plan are more or less why I'm hanging around.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I really do love programming, and I have to imagine there are ways to exploit that skill that are a bit less soul crushing even if the money isn't quite as good. E.g. Korean baking. I should get off my ass and go looking.

> By the way, any late career change suggestions for a software engineer who's got some money saved up and is sick of tech? Because, fuck.

My current ideas (for myself) so far:

1. Move to another office. Same job, but different environment, different people, different weather too.

2. Go part time. Three days out of five. I think I can do this in my current job.

3. Go to a college to teach CS classes. Scary, but possibly more exciting.

I wrote a bit about my journey from tech to fiction that may be helpful perspective: https://www.jamesyu.org/blog/my-journey-from-frame-maker-to-...

I've been thinking about this too much recently. Only a month ago did I realize that all the reading on HN I've done over the years hasn't given me much to think about or remember beyond the span of a day. None of it has made me any smarter, because I wasn't approaching it with that goal. All I really desired when I instinctively typed the "n" in the omnibar and pressed Enter was wanting to be amused and nothing more.

Yet I wouldn't be honest if I said I didn't enjoy the time I spent, at least in the moment. It's just that "enjoyment" shuts down personal growth for me. I've since realized I was using the "time enjoyed is not wasted" adage as an excuse to not think critically and make honest attempts at internalizing new knowledge. As someone else mentioned the better word to use instead of "enjoyed" would be "fulfilled" because it takes into account the long term.

I've found that I've become too good at subverting ways of not stressing out about figuring out one's lifestyle and using them to get complacent, when if I chose to think just the slightest bit more carefully I would realize I wasn't actually working towards what I wanted. For that matter I didn't even know what I wanted for a long time, because I never bothered to ask.

If you search hard enough there will always be someone who will tell you you're doing just fine.

In addition to a lack of creativity I can't remember much of what I've consumed. I don't use Facebook or Twitter so my usual assumption was that by consuming things that take continuous effort and resources to make, like television shows, I was spending my time more wisely. That wasn't really true if I made no effort to remember or understand what I had seen. To me it might as well be that I had never seen any of it in the first place and the time was lost.

I've decided that some things are worth remembering and the only way I can remember anything for sure is by writing it down, so any time I consume I try to reflect on it and write a few paragraphs about the general plot, themes or personal takeaways. Even when I forget it later I can look back on my notes and know I made an effort to understand something. I know now that if I don't bother to do this I won't have anything interesting to talk about if it comes up in conversation except "I liked it," which has become one of the most painful responses for me to give.

And this is just about consumption, not creative output. Suddenly I want to try to understand more things I consume but I also want to make room for trying to explore my own ideas. It's overwhelming and with a traditional day job it becomes soul-crushingly stressful.

You have nailed it!

A lot of us are suffering from the above same mindset but because we don't even put forth the time to step back and reflect, we don't realize that we are simply running in place without advancing towards our goal (if we are even aware of our goal).

Bertrand Russell in his book "The Conquest of Happiness" says;

My purpose is to suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, it appears inescapable.

Our current Society and Technology have made matters exponentially worse. "Consumption/Distraction" have become the norm and we have to fight the Environment mighty hard to focus and sustain "Creativity/Concentration". Technology might mask our mental degeneration for a while but sooner or later Society will have to pay the price.

Having spent the last few months away from technology to take care of my head, I find myself pacing around the living room waiting for a spark to return. This does not bother me in the least bit. I am someone who craves alone time. That means no music, no podcasts, no computer, no noise, no people. I am quite happy with a book and a writing pad. I want to be left alone to have a certain kind of inward experience.

As a side note, I have always felt that the point of reading is not to remember everything you have read, it is more to shape the way you think. And we might remember more of what we read if we would stop reading about other people's reading and productivity habits, and just keep to ourselves. But I digress.

Sometimes people ask what it is I am working on, or what it is I do by myself all of the time. The answer, of course, is not a whole lot. Ours is a society that celebrates participation and creativity, yet I feel no pressure to create for the sake of creating, or to share for the sake of sharing. And I do not feel guilty or lazy for not "producing" anything of note. If there is a hell, it is full of groups of people doing group activities, and I am required to participate and create and talk about whatever it is we are doing for eternity. What a nightmare.

To be sure, I have written plenty. But what I am driving at is that a lot of the writing or "creative work" I do is for my eyes only. Sometimes I think about sharing an essay, but I have to pause to ask myself if I want to share because I have something to say, or if I want to share because I am seeking validation. Most of the time, the desire to create comes not from some quiet space inside of me, but from the side of me that wants to be seen and heard. I find that the quality of my writing, or any creative work, is far better when it comes from the right mental state, rather than from an abstract sense of urgency that I should be creating something, anything.

On another note, having thought about this for awhile now, the deep need for solitude is part of who I am, but also a compensatory reaction to being connected all of the time. Whether we realize it or not, we spend the better half of our days in a sympathetic state. This has consequences, I think, that are different for everyone. Eventually, you have to deal with the residue of living and working at a pace that is often not of your own making. Sometimes you have to get your bearings before the creative spark comes back. That can take longer than expected.

In closing, it is worth paying attention to the kind of creativity that comes from helping a friend or lover make something better. Even though the project is not of your own making, being able to add a touch of your creative insight is intellectually rewarding in a unique way.

>I have always felt that the point of reading is not to remember everything you have read, it is more to shape the way you think.

I can't agree with this more. As a kid I used to read a huge amount - my sister and I would swoop into the local library, check out twentyish books, and read them all by the return period of three weeks. Averaging a book a day, and I remember virtually nothing of it. I've recently gotten back into reading books, and after a couple weeks I still won't remember much detail about any particular book I read. But I'm still very aware of the experiences that they shared with me and the way reading them made me feel.

A conversation with a friend recently spurred me to post an old thing that I wrote online. And I felt the same way, wondering if I was seeking some validation this way. But the experience I wrote about was incredibly influential on my life, and I think on the off chance that anyone reads it, it's valuable just to share that perspective. It's true that we're connected all the time, though I think a lot of the time people are too self-conscious to share things that are really personal, that might change the way others think. And so I would like to contribute towards that.

Many who used to have a PC now have just a smartphone but the problem is that phones are modeled to be consumption devices, not for production. Even pro/highend mobile devices lack the ability to compete head-to-head with an actual laptop/macbook because the underlying OS is limited in scope by design.

TL;DR: you were never meant to do work on a phone, just watch stuff

> Smartphones, I’ve decided, are not evil. This entire essay was composed on an iPhone.

Maybe it wouldn't have taken a whole month if you had written it on a laptop.

Or used a pencil and notebook

Kudos to the author on getting a blog post out! It’s something I haven’t done in years.

I also used to believe I need to “consume less, create more”...

Since then, it’s become more like “if you want to, then consume meaningfully, take time to digest it, sleep on it, get your mind off it for a while, go consume more, take a break, create something, be bad at it, and create again, and maybe eventually you’ll be good at it”.

Some books that shaped my thought process were:

Where Good Ideas Come From - Steven Johnson Why We Sleep - Matthew Walker

Also, blog posts about meditation, interviews with prolific movie writer/directors, and that Ira Glass video.

The problem isn't so much consumption vs creation in itself. It is the overabundance and the complete lack of quality of both the created and the consumed.

Put a high bar on both what you consume and what you create.

Strongly disagree with this sentiment. Which 'dimension' are you exactly putting a 'high bar' on? How does one measure 'quality'? How do you know the 'quality' of what you consume until you consume it (reviews? how do you trust the reviewer? also a 'high bar'?)?

I strongly believe that you need to consume and produce a wide variety of content before you can even form a consistent notion of what you consider 'quality'.

I've been blogging low-key for 7 years now, and there are many pieces I feel embarrassed about today, and sometimes that are even downright wrong.

But a habit of writing reduces the friction and helps in the thought process. Some of the tech talks I have given, open source packages, and even one side income source bringing about $2,000/mo are all branched out blog post ideas. For me, what is worth most is to identify an idea worth writing about, and I couldn't agree more with the author.

Their site is also super fast and minimal, I love it.

I had a similar thought process a few days ago and wrote a post on the same. I was looking to see where the balance lied, ie between producing and consuming as there needs to be consumers for every product.

A bit of self promotion - my article is here https://medium.com/@criticalmind/creation-vs-consumption-8e7...

If you have high standards, it's difficult to create something.

This brings to mind something Ira Glass said about "the gap":

> Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.


This comment is at the bottom while I find this is actually a valid point. I've often experienced this.

I can't believe someone just downvoted me, WOW! This is why I barely login to comment on HN.

It's always easier to critique than create.

To the author's point, yes I remember the main themes/movements in the Steinbeck books I have read. I remember them for the Dostoevsky and Tolstoy I have read. I remember them for most good books I have read, even if the reading happened in high school, or 10+ years ago. Good books are almost like a lived-experience. Yes, they are not as "creative" as sketching, or writing an essay, but reading can also require creativity on the part of the reader.

That part of the essay could be turned back on the essay itself.

Creating things and publicaly sharing what I create is the single greatest way to reduce my anxiety. There is literally a step function decrease in anxiety every time I do it.

I think it makes sense if you consider anxiety (simplistically) as "unpleasant disproportionate worry about the future", and then creating something as reducing uncertainty about the future.

> How much can you really remember from all of those New York Times op-eds you’ve read? Could you summarize the major themes of Grapes of Wrath?

There’s consuming for the sake of entertainment and consuming for the sake of learning. Before you can create anything worth creating, you first need to learn. You need to master your domain, understand its rules (which ones to obey, which ones to ignore), and develop pattern recognition that will make your creation authentic and meaningful.

You don’t consume Grapes of Wrath in order to recite its themes. You consume it (and many other good works) to master storytelling and to gain the language and techniques that will enable you to communicate the human condition cogently.

Without deep exposure to great works your creation potential is limited, no matter how much you create. Historically, people spent years in apprenticeships and other forms of learning before they could venture out on their own. If you consume the right stuff, then you’ll shorten the amount of time you need to wait before you are able to produce something worth producing.

I Loved your article, I translated it to spanish for some friends that can not read english at all. I don't know if translating something counts as "creating", sometimes you need to change stuff in order to make sense in the new language but most of the time you don't need to think on new ideas, just different ways to express something.

Nevertheless, I do it because it helps me to relax, forget about the day-day problems, practice english and as result to make it accesible for my friends / family. It also helps me (or obligates) to understand the article deeper which makes those more memorable.

That (on my mind) helps me to consume / create at certain point in a more balanced way, as I need to spend more time on an article which makes it more valuable for me to pick responsibly the right one and not just live on the scroll-scroll-scroll-like-scroll cicle of most of social media.

>>"Corín Tellado was a Spanish author who wrote over 5,000 books in her 81-year lifespan. That’s over sixty books a year, assuming she came out of the womb fully literate. She claimed she could write a book in two days, and I’m inclined to believe her."

Crazy. I was going to mention that her time would have been better spent writing 1 good book rather than 5000 that (I assume because I have never heard of her name before) were mediocre. Quality over Quantity.

Then I thought, perhaps writing brought her joy regardless of how well received the final book is, so she spent her time well by making herself happy doing what she loved. Be happy in your work.

Then I though, jesus 60 books a year, that sounds like she was manically driven to write almost non-stop for her entire life, which is awful. Work will set you free.

Nice first post for a new blog. I like the blog theme as well.

How can I create my own blog with such a clean and minimal theme?

Although I recommend WordPress to most people in my Technical Blogging book, I also discuss Hugo which is what OP used here. Technically you could get any blogging engine to produce a blog that looks like that, but if you're after the minimalistic look, Hugo is really not a bad way to go.

Thanks for the reply. I have tried Hugo earlier but found it confusing due to so many locations for template files (_default/? baseof.html? single.html? list.html? hard to remember all this stuff). What would be a good alternative tool where I can just place a few template files in a single location and it would be sufficient?

I have also looked at Jekyll but it is Ruby-based. I know Python. If the tool is Python-based then it would help me because it would allow me to customize its functionality or make it do some niche things that the tool does not support by writing some Python code. I have looked at Pelican too but customizing it seemed daunting to a beginner like me.

So I guess I am looking for a something simple, written in Python and easily customizable. Any suggestions?

I decided to go with Pelican for my blog, http://nil.wallyjones.com. If you are comfortable with a little HTML and CSS then you can whip up a simple minimal theme in a fairly short period of time. Honestly, I don’t even consider mine finished and tend to add to it as I write posts (which isn’t very often). If you have any questions about getting pelican up and running, let me know. You can also check out my theme, https://github.com/imwally/niltheme, as a reference for a staring point.

You might want to look into Hyde: http://hyde.github.io. It's essentially a Jekyll for Python (though it evolved to something more than just a clone).

Awesome. Thank you for the suggestion. I will take a look at it.

An interesting exercise. OP is still creating something for consumption, though. This is an old argument:

SOCRATES: You know, Phaedrus, writing shares a strange feature with painting. The offsprings of painting stand there as if they are alive, but if anyone asks them anything, they remain most solemnly silent. The same is true of written words. You’d think they were speaking as if they had some understanding, but if you question anything that has been said because you want to learn more, it continues to signify just that very same thing forever. When it has once been written down, every discourse roams about everywhere, reaching indiscriminately those with understanding no less than those who have no business with it, and it doesn’t know to whom it should speak and to whom it should not. And when it is faulted and attacked unfairly, it always needs its father’s support; alone, it can neither defend itself nor come to its own support. -- Plato. c.399-347 BCE. “Phaedrus.” Pp. 551-552 in Complete Works

tldr: Debate, discourse.

Interesting to see reference to Phaedrus when so much of what’s being discussed in this thread takes me right back to thinking about Robert Pirsig.

I was thinking about this exact same thing. I consume so much like read, watching etc but don’t spend same amount on creating. Even in office I create but spend more time in meetings and other stuff than actually coddling. I find that creating anything random gives me more satisfaction so I have taken up on more creative activities like cooking, coding at home, design etc. I am driving this from the point of view of creation vs consumption and not so much as hobbies.

Isn't that essentially what the Instagram etc. generation is deliberately doing? It goes to such extremes that their whole lives are planned around creating content for other people to consume. It's not a life I'd like to live. My thoughts and activities aren't worth less because I don't finish, polish and publish them. The best feelings cannot even be expressed using the simple audiovisual channels we have...

Digital content makers produce, they don't create. Mobile media are inherently limiting and limited media. There used to be a digital art which operates at the borders of what is technically possible and is thus inherently creative. It has increasingly become crowded out by the digital equivalents of ikea posters

I like your style. If you haven't written before you should keep doing it as I can see that this is your first post. I agree with the overall sentiment as well. Although I'm driving to work I spend a lot of time with creative activities and they greatly enhance my life.

There’s also raising children. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned this notion yet. In my experience, there’s nothing more creative and productive and totally satisfying than bringing a child into the world and nurturing them to adulthood :)

This has been my thought for a while now. I have reasonably pared down on news and social media. However, I have tried to create regularly at least 4 or 5 times now but it hasn’t stuck. Well written essay and good motivation.

Consume less, create more (or produce more)...and if everyone would adhere to this we'd have another 1929 crisis. Remember those pictures of milk thrown out in the field in order to keep its price up? Yeah, that is what happened back then. Too much production and not enough consumption. Neither "consume lee, create more" nor "consume more, create less" are good. One leads to economic crisis, the other leads to famine. The sweet spot is 50/50, create exactly as much as is consumed. Currently we have achieved this, but with the caveat of West being the consumer and East the producer, hence the current trade war.

The sweet spot is 50/50, create exactly as much as is consumed.

How do you apply that to something which is not used up as it is consumed, like a book, film, blog post, song, etc.?

books, movies, music and blog posts are information. Information is consumed when assimilated. That's why you have every decade more profit from movies, people are hungry for more information/entertainment. That's why you have relative bad songs that break into billions views vs old songs that are very good and barely have millions view - people are hungry for more information/entertainment. That's why relative bad books like Twilight get screen time and make billions vs Alexandre Dumas who is public IP and yet no new movies based on his books are made - people are hungry for more information/entertainment. And blog posts, ohh, I read several (The old new thing, Schneier, etc) and you know what I always say about those? They post too few - I am hungry for more.

Information is consumed when assimilated.

It isn't; everyone could watch the same film on the internet, it's not limited in supply, it's not dependent on printing or shipping or factory production line. Once there's enough film for everyone to watch for a lifetime - say 1M hours to cover 24/7 watching for 100 years, what need is there for more film?

What you describe is that people are hungry for novelty. Not more, or better, just newer. Yet there's enough books and films and songs already in existence that we could spend a lifetime exploring and not run out.

How do you balance the claimed 50/50 production/consumption when there's already enough media for everyone's consumption for a lifetime, in libraries, today?

There is enough porn to watch on PornHub for 70 years only at letter "A". Tell me why porn still makes money then?

You missed my point entirely.

Yes I don’t understand your point entirely. And I asked you to explain further.

There is enough porn to watch on PornHub for 70 years only

So you agree with me that media is not consumed, used up, when watched?

So where does the 50/50 production/consumption ratio you stated come from when consumption uses 0?

> Modern technology

Modern technology isn't just phones. Get a PC, a desk and a proper chair. Instantly you ve become more creative because there is more to do than swiping up.

"This psychopath was sketching" Hahaha

I like the Homepage of his website.

Serious question - would you consider exercise consumption or creation?

Creation of health.

Unless you're actively consuming something like watching tv or reading a book while you do it.

When it comes to more passive consumption like listening to music while you exercise for background noise, I would still argue it's at least neutral. But if you're listening to an audiobook or podcast (something new to you), then it feels consumption again.

Not OP.

It depends. If you're trying to get to a particular shape, it could be seen as creation - getting creative with your body. But if it's just maintenance exercise, than this IMO belongs to the third category of things - it's a chore. A maintenance task. The work you have to do to stand still. Something that I personally strive to minimize.

Being and transforming

Bookmarked the blog post so I can consume it tomorrow.

Thank you for this. It is so simple, yet so true.

Be a producer, not "a consumer".

Some people are perfectly happy consuming and producing nothing. And the inverse. Not everyone can be a producer; it is hard work. Anyone can be a consumer.

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