Infection

Creation is a disease. It is a virus. Once it infects a person it slowly, but surely takes over your entire being.

It is a small, invisible lifeform that moves from cell to cell in your body and takes control. It intoxicates to host and turns all energy towards the act of creating.

Once it takes hold, it is nearly impossible to destroy. Your only hope is to stop it early on. A blog is easy to stop when you’ve only posted a few things. A chapter or two of your novel can be tossed into an unmarked folder on your desktop. The paint and paintbrushes you ordered off of Amazon can sit in the corner “until tomorrow”. The guitar you borrowed from your father can gather dust in the closet after only a night or two of picking. The running shoes that cost $85 can sit by the door every morning if you’ve only run a few miles and you’re “too sore”, “running late”, or it is “too cold”.

But once creation starts to reproduce and get results, there is no stopping it. When you get the habit of writing every day and finish your book, you soon want to start a podcast. When you run daily and realize the rhythm of your feet matches the beat from a song, you want to start playing a musical instrument. When you recognize the patterns in the paintings around the room as mathematical principles you want to write a book about Leonardo DiVinci. Using your mind to make something new makes you wonder what your body is capable of, and vice versa. Creation infects every fiber of your mind, body, and soul and makes you wonder “what if?”. How strong could I be? What can I create with paint or chalk or music or poetry? Exploration of your own potential unlocks creativity that nobody can contain, and success isn’t about outside recognition but the completion of a task, and that motivates you on to the next thing you are curious about.

Creation creates creation.

You better stop now, or else there will be no stopping you.

The Art of Booty

I want to start doing some more artistic stuff, but I’m not sure where to begin. I get random ideas a lot but I never really know if they are possible. I guess I should actually try… So, starting next month I’m going to see if I can make custom wooden coasters. This partly comes from a need of mine, I don’t have coasters and there is a lot of random wood around my house. My plan is to reclaim it and turn them into coasters.

Now, these won’t be just normal coasters, I want to put pictures on them. I realize that isn’t a particularly original idea itself but my hope is to put pictures of my friends… in particular, my friend’s butts. Clearly, this will require some audience participation.

My idea is to set up a website or use some service to anonymously collect submitted pictures of my friend’s butts (or maybe chests and genitals… but butts are kind of funnier to me). The system would prevent even me from knowing who submitted the picture, then I could print it off and attach it to the reclaimed wood that I’ve shaped into a coaster.

So, why would I do this? Well, I think it would be kind of funny to have black and white pictures of butts on the coasters in my house. Also, I like the idea of using my friend’s who have a variety of body types as the models. I could also pay anyone who submits a high-quality image in bitcoin as well, so they could make some cash.

I also think this could become a business. It may not be the next Google but it might bring in a little extra cash for everyone involved. I’m still brainstorming but here are my basic ideas:

  • Basically, sell packs of butt coasters (or chests and genitals) to people, they can either choose from the photos available, submit their own or have random ones sent to them
    • If they choose from the photos available it will cost a little more
    • If they submit their own it can be a one-time thing (with the images destroyed after the coasters are delivered), they can be stored in our database privately for future ordering, or they can be made public so that others can order the prints
    • If they choose random ones it will be cheaper and I would work to send a diverse group of prints from our most popular (or maybe they can filter by gender or other characteristics if that is important).
  • If you want to submit an image you can earn a little extra cash, maybe 10% of any sales from people picking your image (that amount is totally random)
  • There could be seasonal contests and deals like Christmas themed images, etc.
  • Maybe making coasters is thinking too small. If I had the capabilities I could put user submitted butt/chest/genital pics on just about anything (posters, mugs, artistic prints, etc), but maybe that is thinking too big.

So, potential problems that could arise

  1. Too many pictures are submitted, so we will need a filtering process. Maybe limit submissions to only a few from an email address or pictures expire every 30 days
  2. Early entry could be key to popularity instead of actual quality when people who order the images don’t want to surf through thousands of submissions. It is easier just to look at the most popular. I think resetting every 30 days will help with this, but maybe we can also have staff pick some of the “top” choices, or maybe break them into categories such as Black and White, Comical, etc.
  3. We could also have too few images if people are uncomfortable submitting a picture, even if anonymity is guaranteed. Hopefully, this will resolve itself if there is a market for the product. More demand for the product means higher wages for those in the market, which will encourage other people to submit images to get in on that cash.
  4. I’m not really sure how to guarantee anonymity, particularly if I am paying people. Bitcoin is the easiest way for me but very few people use bitcoin, and I’m not sure what the legal issues are with paying people bitcoin. Though, I don’t think there is a high likelihood of someone hacking a small business to expose random people whose email addresses are connected to butt pictures (though it would destroy the business if there is a security leak, anonymity is necessary to gain trust for many people… but maybe some people won’t care about being anonymous, it could be good for some people’s brand)

I guess the key isn’t really what the image is, it is creating an organizational structure that incentivizes submissions from people and provides a product that is desired.

So, that’s what’s on my mind. Next month I’ll probably figure out the anonymous submission details and see if I can gather some images from my network. Hopefully, I’ll be able to figure out the logistical issues involved and see what the price point would be to turn this into a business.

Genetic Determinism

Many times in my life I have used genetics as a sort of determinism to limit my own potential. Certainly, there are things that I am genetically incapable of doing, but that list is much smaller than I usually realize. In a sense, saying I can’t do something because of biology (or society) can be an excuse for not trying, an easy way out of a hard situation. There is also a tendency to compare my abilities and potential to others and assume roles… for example, my brother is the artistic one, which means I’m not artistic.In a family of six kids we all kind of had unofficial roles and passions to help us stand out as individuals.

The areas of my life where I have used genetics as an excuse is varied.

  • I’ll never be comfortable with an open relationship because I’m naturally jealous or monogamous (I certainly overcame this one)
  • I’m naturally “stocky” and I will never have six-pack abs (Working on this now, I wanna get sexy for all the ladies and gents)
  • I’m just not a good artist
  • I’m not creative a person and creativity is something you’re born with (I actually don’t think that is true, I’m beginning to see creativity as a muscle to be exercised instead of a genetic trait like eye color)
  • I’m terrible with foreign languages and will never be fluent in one
  • I’m not musically talented and can’t sing or play an instrument
  • I’m not a good dancer
  • I’m not good at helping people who are mourning
  • I’m not a funny person

I am certainly never going to be the most talented person in any of those areas, but that doesn’t mean I should neglect them outright if they are areas that I truly want to grow in. Instead of using genetics as an excuse I need to be more honest with myself, and that means my weakness in those (and many other) areas generally falls into two categories: improving in them is very difficult or I’m not really interested in improving in those areas.

Roles, identities, and the things I love and hate (or are good or bad at) can provide me with direction and purpose in life, but I shouldn’t mistake them for who I actually am. I am someone who does economic analysis, but I am more than just an economist. I am someone who isn’t good at art, but I am more than just a bad artist. I am a person who enjoys being outside, but I am more than just an outdoorsman.

When I accept something as beyond my control and wrap my identity up in it, I abandon opportunities for improvement. Instead of seeing something as an area in which I can improve with hard work, I just surrender or; instead of seeing something as a subject that I genuinely don’t enjoy or have an interest in or see value in improving I act like a victim, “I would love to draw but I just don’t have the talent.”

Consumption is Key

In my experience, the best way to bust through writer’s block (or any block in creativity) is to consume more and more things. Now, I don’t mean “consume” like “spend money on a bunch of stuff or buy the newest gadget”, I am a minimalist after all. What I mean is, when the brain hits a roadblock it is usually good to explore new intellectual avenues and build some new neural networks. We live in the most amazing time in human history, the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips for free would take a thousand lifetimes to even begin to peruse. That information can help push us past our limits and help us discover new answers to our questions.

Consumption leads to creation. Just like the food we eat turns into fuel for our activities, the experiences we have turn into the things we create. And, like food and exercise, the more diverse and rounded our experiences are, the healthier and stronger the things we create will become. The body needs more than just one type of food and one type of exercise to be great and art needs more than just one perspective and one tool to be great.

Personally, I have a few “go to” services when my brain is stuck. Sometimes those services make intuitive sense. For example, maybe I’ll go to the library and pick up a book about writing (“On Writing” by Stephen King is my favorite) or I’ll check out a course on creative writing at Coursera.com.

Not all of the stuff I consume is based purely on writing, but they help my writing just the same. I’m working on improving my math skills through Khan Academy, which can help with logic and problem solving. I meditate using the Headspace app, which brings me a calmer mind and helps with focus (okay, I technically pay for this app but there are free options). Or maybe I read a book about Buddhism or business or psychology or some science fiction or philosophy or astronomy or pagan rituals to give me a new perspective on the human experience and how to communicate (or take Coursera courses about these things). Also, music and tv can help encourage new mental pathways and perspectives and, of course, video games (though, I find video games and tv/movies are the most dangerous sources of motivation because I can easily form an unhealthy relationship with them). I also enjoy looking into creating things in all the arts…. painting, dancing, cooking, drawing, etc can all make you a better writer because they round you out more as a person, they give you new adventures and perspectives.

There is, as always, a danger that consuming materials will start to become the goal instead of the act of creating. That risk is present with all things, that we will use consumption as an excuse to not create… but nobody ever said thriving in life would be easy. Ease and comfort do not lead to creation.

One Little Comment

I’ve been struggling with my writing for the last few months. I’m not sure exactly what it is, I just haven’t felt like I am creating anything of value. Nothing I write really feels original or insightful. I’ve just been down lately. That changed recently.

While rolling with two of our closest friends I was curled up with one of them and she told me that she really liked my writing. To be honest, I was a bit surprised. This is someone that I respect on all levels and love very much. For her to have a positive comment about something I created really touched me deep. I occasionally get positive comments about my writing, and I love when I do, but something about this one really stood out. I truly believed her and it has inspired me to keep writing, and even take on new projects. I am sure the MDMA was a big part of why I believed her and why the positive feelings have stuck with me (it is an amazing medicine).

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a little paranoia that I was the butt of some unknown joke. There was a thought in the back of my head that my friends were really laughing about me behind my back, that partners were with me because they pitied me, or that people would discover that I am just a giant fraud in some way. It isn’t logical, but it has been there in my mind for a long time (though, it has gotten better since I started the bike ride). Maybe it is a self worth issue. It is something that I’d love to discuss with a therapist someday.

Anyway, I think it is important for us to tell creators that we value what they create. Particularly those that don’t sell what they create. I don’t think we should lie to people, but if you love something that someone does please tell them (and constructive feedback is awesome too). It really could be the difference between them continuing to create and giving up.

Preserve or Experience

I don’t remember most of the moments of this adventure. Even the moments of overwhelming beauty that impacted me to my very soul have faded with times. I might remember slight details or how I felt in that moment, but that is only in the rarest of cases. Nearly every experience I’ve had, no matter how amazing it has been, has been fleeting.

I think it is natural to try and capture these moments in a tangible way, a way that they can be shared with others as well as remind us of our past. Art, particularly photography, seems to help us accomplish this task. As good as technology has become and as talented as some photographers are I don’t know if the representation of a scene will ever replace the experience of seeing it live. Every accomplishment in our lives has a required loss that comes when we move on and maybe all of that is a good thing.

Perhaps there is some value in the temporary nature of our experiences. It may be a pointless task to try and record it in photograph or in our minds. Perhaps trying to record the experience actually takes away from the experience. By trying to make something permanent we miss out on the value it has in our lives. The healing nature of new experiences and the creativity that can flow from accomplishments are overshadowed by our need to preserve. By trying to photograph from the mountaintop we miss out on the moment. Now is all we have, and we shouldn’t sacrifice it in an attempt to save it for the future.

Strength, Passion, and Revenue

I have this desire to be an entrepreneur and an author, but I struggle with finding what areas I can create value in. This is especially true when it comes to writing. I feel like most of what I have to say is unoriginal or so niche as to only be applicable in my own life. Logically, I know this isn’t really true. I have received countless emails thanking me for the things I write about or share on Facebook. I truly believe that by waving my freak flag high I am doing good, but I am still a reluctant flag bearer.

I guess that is where I can have some value in this crazy world. I feel no shame about being who I am and, consequences be damned, I will share that with the world. I think part of it is noble, I am in a position to be open while so many people are not. If my words, views, or actions can inspire hope or comfort for others than I am doing a good thing. Part of it isn’t really that noble, I am just more comfortable living my life out loud, even though it may make some people uncomfortable. Hell, part of me enjoys making people uncomfortable, particularly if they are people from my past who have views that I find abhorrent. I think bigotry and close-mindedness should be uncomfortable. You should be called out if you want to use the threat of jail or damnation to control the actions of others and to force them into the closet. To be honest, I still keep a lot of my views secret, particularly political or economic views because I consider these issues to be complicated and many people in my social circle have unrelenting and militant views… it just isn’t worth the fight or the stress of reading their comments (which, makes me sound like a coward).

I don’t think my willing to openly (and hopefully logically) discuss my life or my views on controversial subjects like zoophilia, sexually open relationships, pedophilia, atheism, anarchism, etc is particularly marketable. People aren’t really going to pay me to talk about those things, at least not pay me in a way that will let me live the life I want. I don’t want a large income, I just need enough coming in to maintain my lifestyle of travel, minimalism, and leisure… so, about $800 per month at this point. My current job more than covers that, but it’d be nice to get an income stream that is automatic and not require monthly work.

So, given that my controversial passions probably won’t pay the bills, I have a couple of more conventional ideas for books about biking that could bring in some cash money:

  • A Guide to Adventure/Lifestyle Cycling for couples, families, and pet owners. It can cover cycling basics like maintenance, finding water/food, stealth camping techniques, finding electricity, maintaining a fitness routine, dog care, equipment we like, and such. It can also have some tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner(s) while travelling.
  • A memoir about my solo cross country bike ride from DC to LA in the summer of 2012. This could also be used as a platform to discuss my life philosophy and lessons I’ve learned. I’ll probably do this regardless just for myself.
  • Children’s books from Higgins perspective as we travel the US (and world?). I’m not sure if these would be better as picture books for very young children or as short stories for Kindergarten age. Actually, I have no fucking clue what age children read what type of book. This would take a little research.

 

I don’t know which of those (if any) are the best option for creating a cash flow for me right now. There is a lot of work involved with each but I actually have spare time almost daily to work on this. I think I need to re-read 4-Hour Work Week and start implementing his strategies, particularly market testing, before moving forward with actual content creation. Though, I can also create these for myself but it’d be nice to prioritize the ones that could create revenue first.

PS: I am also kind of terrified of investing in something that will/may be a failure. It is easy for me to jump off a cliff and roll with it, but to spend my heart and soul into creating something only to be rejected is terrifying. This also has stopped me from exploring other artistic creations that I’m interested in, like music and charcoal drawing. Again, I know this makes me sound like a coward. I have many areas in my life that need work.