What Kind Of Risk Do You Take When You Try Something New?

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Saturday, 7.18pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold. – Joseph Parry

This is a bit of a reflective post – after a month of trying something different and wondering if I should stop – probably really thinking that I should stop. Or at least, do things a little differently.

At the start of the year I decided that I would try and spend more time drawing, working on getting my skill at making images up a little – given that it has barely improved in the last few years. It seemed to make sense to put images drawn on paper on my blog as a way to force that practice every day. For a month or so I’ve been sketching and taking photographs and scanning and fixing and uploading pictures and editing and cropping and getting them ready. And then I’ve been getting on with the writing.

I asked a question earlier this month as to whether the slowest way was really the fastest way. I was reading Lynda Barry who says this – she found it hard to write on a computer because it was so easy to delete the words and when she started writing with a brush, painting one letter after another, the words just flowed out and they were good. I tried to apply this to my drawings, slowing down and taking time and then doing the rest of the work to see if this might prove true for me as well. And I now have an answer.

The slowest way is the slowest way. I’m sorry, but there’s no way around that. It just takes longer to sketch with a blue pencil on paper, go over that with ink, scan it into the computer, trace the bitmap to get the dark lines and remove the background and then colour it in and get it ready for a post. That takes a very long time and I just don’t have that amount of time when I need to create a post in a set amount of time and then go and get dinner and help put the kids to bed.

The quality of the slow stuff may be better – but it’s not for the routine work of the everyday – for the thinking that helps to move things on. The slow is for when you need to reflect and create something that pulls everything else together. There are definitely cases when working slowly is the right thing to do for the situation you are in but for a daily blog post cadence it’s too slow, there are too many steps and too many points of failure – which means that more often than not you fail to get your product out of the door. And failing to ship is simply a fail.

The other thing that taking my eye off the fast way of doing things has done is that my old, trusty tools are gathering dust in the corner and when you don’t use them every day something goes wrong – you start to lose the feel you had for them. They no longer fit your hand, they feel a bit strange. The body of a digital stylus is unfamiliar and cumbersome after getting used to a pencil and pen again.

I suppose the point really is that the slow way is the slow way and the fast way is the fast way and what makes the difference is how you travel. Lynda Barry uses the delete key a lot. I hardly do. Her pencil makes sure and quick marks. Mine hesitates and trembles and makes weak scratches. Her way is fast for her and my way is fast for me. But I had to try her way to find out that my way is the one that works for me.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for analog tools in my world. I’m the kind of person who has to get all the kit and try it out to test and break the process before I make up my mind. And the analog stuff does help in certain situations when the slow approach adds real value and I will try and use it when it is appropriate.

What this month has also done, I think, is clarify what I want to look at from a research point of view in this space. I read a paper by Colin Eden, written in 1988 on Cognitive Mapping, which describes the experiences I’ve been having over the last couple of years when it comes to trying to get better at thinking and sense-making in complex environments. Simple formulaic solutions are easy to sell but reality is harder to wrap your mind around. Or easier sometimes – it depends on whether you can let go of the idea that you need to make it complicated.

I’ll explain this later – I’m probably going to be thinking about it for the next six years or so.

So, back to the plan for writing.

I feel like I’ve broken my process a bit and it might take a bit of time to get back on the right track – but you know, there’s no hurry. It’s about the journey after all.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

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