mostly edited, structured pieces of writing (in the process of migrating from Medium)

A year of making anything I want

the ideas, the process, the why and the fine print

As part of a year in experimentation, I am going to work on a bunch of ideas that have been incubating in my head. I will be writing separate posts for them, but this is a rough list:

  • A peer to peer learning platform for self-directed learners: this is an idea I have been wanting to work on for more than a year now, mainly to scratch my own itch.
  • Light: a little resource contemplating the stories we tell about mental health. I launched a mvp last week, and will be working more on it.
  • Civic-minded projects related to Singapore: I have already released a small seed of and have more in the pipeline.
  • an interactive story of my own life: our memories are faulty, how can we use the data we have to express a narrative as accurate as possible?
  • storytelling experiments: can we evolve the ways we tell stories online?
  • more writing: maybe I’ll finally have the courage to publish my emo poetry in some form, I will also have more time to write more complex essays with a wider variety of themes.
  • serendipitous collaborations: opening myself to possibilities that were formerly closed to me because I had a full-time commitment.

This may look like I’m working on too many things, but I believe the dimensions each brings will contribute to the others. They may actually be part of the same idea. Some work needs to be background processed, so having a loose list to work on will keep my own momentum going.

The process

I am a designer foremost and a competent prototyper at best, so I will be mostly sharing rough iterations instead of actual production-worthy work.Putting something out there is better than wishing they could have been. In the spirit of experimentation, I will aim for progressive momentum over polish.

open-sourcing and designing in public

For some ideas, I will attempt to document the process publicly and open-source them. That will be an experiment on its own, to see if open-sourcing ideas and design will have their own course of evolution. They say ideas are cheap but most people seek to protect them anyway, so I want to do something counter-intuitive, and philosophically I believe collaborative sharing is the right way forward.

embracing chaos, ambiguity and non-linearity

The creative process is often simply giving the time and space to let seemingly disparate dots connect. That means having the patience to sit it out when dots doesn’t make sense or seem wrong. Sometimes we have to keep working on the wrong dots for the right ones to come along. The dots may not arrive in a chronological or linear order.

meta experiment inception

There’s a lot I have to learn in order to express the ideas in my head. I’ve always been a self-directed learner, so I will be documenting the non-linear learning paths I have to take in order to bring these experiments come to life. In turn, this process will inform the decisions I will be making in one of the experiments — the peer to peer learning platform for self-directed learners.

The why

Over the past few years I have accumulated these ideas in my head, naively believing I would work on them as side projects. For better or worse, I allowed my full-time work to consume me, so there wasn’t much creative energy left for me to work on anything else.

There is a subtle, but perhaps more pervasive stress that comes from being unable to express an idea that has been stuck in our minds:

When you have something to say, to express, any submission becomes unbearable in the long run.
– Picasso

The first episode of Chef’s Table depicts a chef who wanted to quit, but his wife astutely observed,

“he would be surrendering, surrendering to a battle that would continue within him.”

I started to feel like I was fighting a long, drawn-out battle within me. I loved the jobs I had, but there is something profoundly different about creating something constrained by external demands versus something that is internally driven:

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant — there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing” — Georgia O’Keeffe

I create, because I want to create

I want to work on these ideas because I want to. I am not going to place any judgment on how valuable they are or if they are worth doing at all. Most creators are fuelled by the innate urge to just simply create, but modern life has its own way of making us create according to the price tags the outcomes carry.

a little act of rebellion

I am tired of the whole model that only 1000x ideas or ideas that can render mass profit is worth funding, and by extension only ideas for profit are worth doing, so this is my little act of rebellion. To me, even the act of wanting to share little ideas freely has intangible value in itself.

having creative courage

Last year I had the opportunity to work on an experiment, and the process changed me:

The process was an exercise in trust and flow. It was the most exhilarating thing I had ever worked on, because I was in some deep, transcendent conversation with it in order to make it. It didn’t feel I was making it, but I was merely a conduit to it coming alive through my fingers…I want to make things, and it didn’t matter if people loved what I made, I just want to make them because I love making them.

I realized that in the process of creating something, I am creating myself too.It seems almost alchemical, that with each thing I have the courage to make, I am changing my internal wiring permanently, because I will never be the same person again after going through each process of expressing a part of myself and the world into a conscious form.

all a giant experiment

I am simply curious to see what is the result of making these experiments even if they all turn out terrible or unfinished. How much can I accomplish in one year? How will it change me?

The fine print

risks and failure

I am still recovering from burnout, while I believe this process will be healing for me, there is still a risk that I will not be able to work for long periods in-between. As it is, I have to take frequent breaks.

I swing between extremes of zen (it is all about being in the now) and anxiety (what am I going to do with no income) so the completion of this year will hinge upon how successfully I am able to navigate my insecurities. I have set aside enough for one year of prudent expenses, but life may bring unexpected surprises.

Manifesting an idea and trying to evolve it requires trust in the process and that trust often reflects the trust in the self. I cannot be sure that I have that trust in myself for periods consistent enough to chalk up a meaningful body of work, but I will at least try, and perhaps the best way to build trust is having to demand and rely on it.

moving forward

This past year has been trying for me on many fronts. But it made me realize how much I take my creative energy for granted, that I may wake up one day unable to create. That thought scares the shit out of me. Some days I cannot think or look at the screen because of chronic pain. I am not going to leave it to chance or hope that I will eventually recover, so I would rather do the things I want to do now, rather than later. Later may never come for me.