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Notes from Jocelyn K Glei’s Podcast Episode on Creativity & Efficiency

My dad was a carpenter.
Well everyone called him that, but I know him for what he truly was.
A craftsman.
Be it his work with wood, or the little works of art and craft he made for us or his drawings in my book; everything he did, was slow, and measured, and full of deliberation and intention.

Which is why this episode struck such a chord with me.
Jocelyn articulates beautifully, exactly what my father did.
I still remember his slight rankle, followed by this expression of sorrow, whenever I would rush him, tell him this much was good enough.
Thank God, he never listened to me.
He may not be here now, but everything he built, makes it like he is.

It’s a short delightful episode. Go listen.
Definitely worth your time and attention.
Everything below the break are my paraphrased notes.


Creativity and Efficiency, have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
The creative process actively resists efficiency.

Creativity is messy and organic and full of (as it looks from the outside) friction, which is a little bit frustrating, because everything else in our lives keeps getting faster, easier, smoother, more efficient, more frictionless.

We have become more accustomed to a kind of effortless convenience.
Ask and ye shall receive.

So there’s a really interesting tension here.
Between the pace of technology and the pace of creativity.

Work is what we do by the hour. It begins and, if possible, we do it for money. Welding car bodies on an assembly line is work; washing dishes, computing taxes, walking the rounds in a psychiatric ward, picking asparagus–these are work.

Labor, on the other hand, sets its own pace. We may get paid for it, but it’s harder to quantify… Writing a poem, raising a child, developing a new calculus, resolving a neurosis, invention in all forms — these are labors.

Work is an intended activity that is accomplished through the will. A labor can be intended but only to the extent of doing the groundwork, or of not doing things that would clearly prevent the labor. Beyond that, labor has its own schedule.

[…]

There is no technology, no time-saving device that can alter the rhythms of creative labor. When the worth of labor is expressed in terms of exchange value, therefore, creativity is automatically devalued every time there is an advance in the technology of work.

The Gift, Lewis Hyde

As technology makes everything more efficient, we tend to think that creativity should also become more efficient, that there must be a way to do creative work, that’s better, faster, more scalable … but is there?

What’s more important?
Doing all the things?
Or enjoying all the things that you’re doing?

Creativity resists efficiency.
No one can tell you how much time something should take, because creativity is not measurable on a time clock.
It’s not practical or efficient or objectively quantifiable.
What it is, is deeply personal.

No one knows, how long it takes to make anything.
Which means, no one knows what pace your creative process should unfold at, except for you.
And no one knows, what boundaries you need to setup to protect that process, but you.
And no one knows, how much you should obsess about the details, or how far you should go, and when you should say, “This is enough!”‚ but you.

Remarkable creative projects don’t come from efficiency.
If anything, they come from inefficiency.
From doggedly ignoring all the rules, and saying,

“I am going to devote an ungodly amount of time to this thing, that no one else thinks is important, but that I think is important.”

Great creative work comes from slowing down, when every one else is rushing around and saying,

“I’m going to take my time and notice this thing, that everyone else is missing and really sit with it, and contemplate it and craft it to create something remarkable.
Actually, something that’s even more remarkable, because no one else would have taken the time.”

So the next time you feel stuck or rushed or judged for your “inefficiencies”, remember that they’re also your strength.
Because greater comes from working at your own pace.
Remember to take your time.

P.S. Also, remember to subscribe to the mailing list, if you haven’t already! :)


Learning Python

Did I need to read a fifteen hundred page book to learn Python?
At the end of fourteen hundred pages, I can safely assure you, I did not.

If you want to just solve your pressing issues or scratch your itch, or just plain get started with programming (and programming in Python specifically), I’d recommend starting with a simple, fast paced book, like Python for you and me, and then doing tons of practice.1

Mark Lutz, as he closes the book, himself laments that Python has gotten too big to hold in your head. And by doing so, has lost some of the simplicity and the joy and fun and the magic, Python held for the early adopters of the language.

And yet, having said all this, boy, am I glad, I read the book.

This is a master class from a master.

I may not have understood everything. I may have skimmed a chapter or two (Lutz assures me, it’s ok :P), but what this book has done to my mind, the furrows it has ploughed, will be with me forever.

I have been trying to get into the book, multiple times since I bought it.
It took me a long time, before, as Mortimer Adler puts it, I could come to terms with the author.
The only reason I kept coming back, was because, Mark’s earnest teaching voice shines through, and I loved it, even if I did not quite get what he was saying in the beginning.
And the reason I could get through it (and enjoy it) this time, because I decided to follow his advice and follow along on the computer.
To actually type in the code, and see what happens.

Yes, the book is big, yes, the concepts are repeated a couple of times, but as I progressed, I could feel him sweating the small stuff over and over, just so that I could understand things, so that I would not get scared away.

Time and again, the book reassured me, that what was said, was not as complicated or hard as it read on the page.
And that turned out to be true as I kept trying the examples out.

While I still have a long way to go, before I can remotely be called fluent, I know this book will have a been a big reason, I will be.2

This book was last updated, oh, some six years ago, and yet unless Python decides to change radically, I dare say, the principles in here will stand the test of time.

This was a great read and will serve as an awesome reference on my Python journey.
If you are slightly kooky like me, and you want to know, why things are the way they are as you learn to program in Python, get this book.


  1. Which is actually, what I am doing. 

  2. Besides the practice, that is. 

Write More

via Neil Gaiman

chaot1k-daydreams asked: Hey, Mr. Gaiman, sorry to bother you. I just had a couple questions? I’m trying to become a better writer and write more, but I feel like I’m falling out of my own style when I write. I either write too much or too little, over-embellish or make it feel bland, and I’m not quite sure what I’m doing wrong by I feel like it’s both wrong and not what I want to write. I was hoping you might have some advice?

Write more.
It sounds a bit silly but that’s how you eventually find out what you sound like.


French, Week 16

The words to study are getting overwhelming now.
Just hope this is temporary.

Last week’s mnemonic tip is working wonders though.
I am learning and remembering more words faster.

And now I see why the app is not yet giving me lots of sentences.
It wants me to build up a core vocabulary.

And the time I give it is not much.
So it will all come with time.
(The way the words flow, in my head, is a bit easier now)
I just need to be patient and keep at it.