Saying No and Yes―Bill Murray Interview

SR: A lot of folks worry that if they aren’t available or don’t say yes, they’ll stop getting asked.

BM: If you keep saying yes, they’ll stop asking you, too. That’s a much more likely event. I think we’re all sort of imprisoned by — or at least bound to — the choices we make, and I think everyone in the acting business wants to make the right choices. You want to say no at the right time and you want to say yes more sparingly. I came out of the old Second City in Chicago. Chicago actors are more hard-nosed. They’re tough on themselves and their fellow actors. They’re self-demanding. Saying no was very important. Integrity is probably too grand a word, but if you’re not the voice of Mr. Kool-Aid, then you’re still free. You’re not roped in.

This reminds me a little bit of a book called essentialism which talks about saying no to things. It doesn’t quite match up, as Murray sways into type casting, but the impetus is similar.

http://esquire.com/entertainment/interviews/a14156/bill-murray-interview-0612/

I can’t recommend strongly enough that you take the time to read the entirety of APPLE INC.’S REPLY TO GOVERNMENT’S OPPOSITION TO APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO VACATE ORDER COMPELLING APPLE INC. TO ASSIST AGENTS IN SEARCH. Some gems below:

The government attempts to rewrite history by portraying the [All Writs] Act as an all-powerful magic wand rather than the limited procedural tool it is. […] Thus, according to the government, short of kidnapping or breaking an express law, the courts can order private parties to do virtually anything the Justice Department and FBI can dream up. The Founders would be appalled.
This case arises in a difficult context after a terrible tragedy. But it is in just such highly-charged and emotional cases that the courts must zealously guard civil liberties and the rule of law and reject government overreaching.
Indeed, it is telling that the government fails even to confront the hypotheticals posed to it (e.g., compelling a pharmaceutical company to manufacture lethal injection drugs, Dkt. 16 (“Mot.”) at 26), or explain how there is any conceivable daylight between GovtOS today, and LocationTrackingOS and EavesdropOS tomorrow.
The government also implicitly threatens that if Apple does not acquiesce, the government will seek to compel Apple to turn over its source code and private electronic signature. Opp. 22 n.9. The catastrophic security implications of that threat only highlight the government’s fundamental misunderstanding or reckless disregard of the technology at issue and the security risks implicated by its suggestion.

The government’s position has sweeping implications. Under the government’s view, the state could force an artist to paint a poster, a singer to perform a song, or an author to write a book, so long as its purpose was to achieve some permissible end, whether increasing military enrollment or promoting public health. […] The First Amendment does not permit such a wholesale derogation of Americans’ right not to speak.

workspaces, systems, and old technology

I’ve been thinking about process lately. Okay, I’ve honestly been thinking about process for years. I’ve figured out pieces of my own process over the years through trial and error, reading about other processes, and dumb luck. What I’m most interested in now is how to increase the likelihood of using my own process to the extent that it is identified at the present moment.

It seems that the best way to improve the use of my own best―at the moment―process will be removing the barriers that hinder continuing or discourage even starting. I’ve identified the primary barrier as the mess of a work area I’ve used through the birth of two children and a PhD1. It’s a tick above freezing in the winter and a constant mess. Home sweet home. The image above is a real shot of my desk without any pre-photo cleaning (promise). What is missing is the disarray around and beneath and before the desk. I grow anxious just walking into the space.

What is surprising is how much and how little work I’ve put into the arrangement seen above. The 2×4’s serve the dual-purpose of raising the monitor to eye-level and providing a handy space for the keyboard to reside when desk- space is at a premium. Unfortunately I rarely use that latter, pre-planned feature. The keyboard is central to my workflow even when using the Wacom tablet to create or edit pixels and vectors. The hard drive to the right of the under-used notebooks is meant for backups but mostly holds older copies of things I already have newer live copies of (or, worse still, holds unnecessary copies of copies).

It turns out that I’m a little afraid to even go through the work of cleaning off the hard drive for fear of getting lost in what has become a truly ubiquitous time-capsule of everything (instead of just what was deemed to be most important). Fear, in fact, motivates much of my trepidation approaching the cleaning of the desk and the surrounding areas. But fear of what?

time

Time is what I most fear losing. The reframe is simple: I lose time anyway. I wish just saying that you lose time anyway was more motivating. Alas, the human mind is not always rational. Such is life. I find it difficult to get certain things done for fear of losing the time spent getting them done. I might have done something more productive than the thing I’m confident would help most in the future. Again, brains are weird. My poor brain doesn’t want to lose time (that it will “lose” anyway).

I know this is imprudent. That’s the whole reason I’m writing about it. I’m spending unnecessary time on something less productive to fully explore how productive just doing things can be when you just start. And this is a key factor I’ve discovered over the years about myself―

I’m more productive when I’m less efficient.

This sounds either unbelievably stupid or oddly profound. I wish it was wrong. I wish that I could endlessly be driven by efficiency improvements iterated over a lifetime. No matter―the slow way is the productive and efficient way for me. And slow involves some uncomfortable (for me) friends―mainly paper.

paper

I desperately want to like all digital technologies, but I like what I like despite all efforts so far. Paper is the main friend that I’m embarrassed to profit from greatly. Paper―despite what I and many others think―is a technology. It’s hard to think of it as such since it’s not battery-powered. This lack of battery is a feature, not a bug. Recognizing the technology aspect of paper is an important reframe for me as it places paper on the same level as other more interesting and distracting technologies. And this is the core struggle because I’ve known forever that paper makes me more productive (while seemingly less efficient). I hate taking the non-digital step in an ultimately digital process. The problem is that if I don’t take the non-digital paper step I don’t get anything done.

Here’s a drawing I did on an index card a while ago.

wpid-img_20151019_233417.jpg
original drawing on index card.

Listen, I wish I was a better artist but I take that drawing and scan it.

original scan of drawing on index card.
original scan of drawing on index card.

Then I vectorize the image I’ve scanned.

stones-vector
vectorized.

And then I color it and place it back on an index-card-shaped white rectangle floating above the void.

colored in and floating
colored in and floating

That’s a process that I’m using now. I’m trying to own it as the process I use and not focus on the myriad ways I could get lost trying to improve the speed of the process. It’s like that xkcd comic about time―is it worth it to automate?

xkcd―is it worth the time?

For now my answer is no.

  1. if you’re interested you can read my dissertation here

to be productive—start with heart

Where is the heart? Often we describe it as being on the canvas, in the lilt of a voice, or left on the stage. But where is our own heart?

whatever

We attribute superhuman qualities to creative people. We construct chasms between their accomplishments and our abilities. We manufacture fear, uncertainty, and doubt about our own efforts while marveling at the perfection of those we admire from afar. Our proximity to our own work reveals what we refuse to believe is true for others―that the work is messy, hard, and confusing.

Worse, we often focus on external factors to explain our own lack of effort or non-extant works. We focus on tips, tricks, tools, and hacks and in so doing allow these mental diversions to distract us from our goals. We do this even though we know that we have the tools to start working right now. The effort to begin would be minimal or unnecessary—yet we still delay.

We know we’re stalling for a reason but we can’t quite articulate it (even to ourselves). If only we stopped the introspection and started any action. What would happen then? We know that the point is to start, to focus, to strive, to capture, to evaluate, and to share. Why is this so difficult?

start with heart

Start with heart. Start caring deeply about the things you seek to create. A great deal of effort is required to bring something new into being. Spend time focusing on the things you love. Then focus that love and craft it into something that tries―but ultimately fails—to capture that specific and  incommunicable love. The beauty is in the striving.

Heart can be the objective of your work and the fire that provokes your motivation to capture it.

heart-redthe work

I have a goal of starting with heart. It may not be easy. It may feel impossible. It may be silly to others. No matter. I will love what I do. I will start with heart.