New MacBook Pros

I’m very excited about the announced upcoming event next week with Apple. The rumor is that we’re getting updated MacBook Pros. Earlier this year I sold my 2019, top of the line, 15″ MacBook Pro. I then bought an M1 MacBook Air with upgraded ram.

As a designer I often push the limits of my machines, The M1 has held up to everything like a champ, and in some ways was better than the previous laptop I owned, at a third of the price.

I’ve been amazed at its performance. It’s on par with my previous laptop, and it’s just about the cheapest laptop Apple sells. I can’t wait to see what they announce next week.

Drawing apps

I’m currently at a challenging points with basic sketching and drawing apps for the iPad. I use these apps almost daily for the initial ideation stage of my design work.

Recently I had to purge all of the artwork from Linea Sketch, numbering in the hundreds, and disconnect the the app from iCloud. These were forced measures to try and speed up the time to use the app. Slow software sucks, and that’s the line Linea crossed in the past few years. No, no pun in tended. The solution is imperfect. I have to manually cut out the artwork I’ve done, back it up as .PNGs to my computer, and hope I can find it later. All layers are lost, the fancy time lapse feature is lost. Yes, there’s ways around it, but I was in a hurry.

Given that, I tried switching to Apple Notes. It’s…. possible, or passable. It kind of works; but it’s not a pro app by any means. If Linea could just get a bit faster, and allow for a larger canvas, I’d be a happy customer for years to come. Apple Notes has an infinite canvas, and the drawing tools are okay. However, just try to get the artwork out of Notes and you quickly run into a world of trouble.

The technical details aren’t that interesting for why, although I might write about these at some point. Needless to say, I wonder at some point if I need to design the app I’d like to use.

A good book

Books are amazing.

There’s a feeling that I wish I could describe to folks who don’t enjoy reading. The indescribable joy of picking up a great story and diving headlong into the characters and narrative. The joy of disappearing, of being drawn in, and falling in love with a good tale. Those are priceless.
I’ve had friends over the years who weren’t into books, and as time has gone on I’ve seen a few of them convert to enjoying reading. The difference, each time, has been the need to find a story that worked for them. Not all books are alike, and not all for for me. In fact, most books will never match the type of reading I’m into. And that’s okay. I believe that many people just haven’t found the right books yet.

As life goes on I find that I have less and less time to waste on books that aren’t worthwhile. I no longer force myself to finish a story, to treat it as homework or a school assignment. Instead I pick up books that challenge my curiosity, push my creativity, or draw me in for a break in another world. Books that do that are priceless, and worth their weight in copper.

There’s been a few great fiction and non-fiction stories that have completely taken me in over the years, and I continue to ride the high of that as I search for the next great piece of literature. It feels like an addiction, as I keep starting new books to fall back into their worlds. Every now and then, a few times a year if I’m lucky, I find those worlds again and disappear. It’s such a privilege, and it’s part of the reason I write. I want to create worlds similar to the ones I’ve loved throughout my life.

I remember one time, I’d finished reading The Road. It’s a brutal story, one of survival, love, and hardship. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I can’t say it didn’t impact me. My son was young then, a baby still, and hearing a story of a father trying to save his son amidst a fallen world hit home for me. The story moved me, I felt part of the pages, and wanted the characters to thrive. When I finished I felt completely raw and emotional. At the time I was working in an office, and when I reached the last chapter of the audiobook, I had a strange moment. I pulled out my headphones and looked around at the room. Several others sat with me, all working away. I’d been working too (one of the perks of being a designer), and I felt a disconnect, like I’d been through something in a world apart, and no-one else could realize what I’d experienced. Books do that, and that’s why I’ll always keep looking for more stories, and try to create a few of them myself.

Saving a small part of yourself each day

Growing up I had big dreams about where the world would take me. In some ways I’ve gone further than I ever expected, and in some ways I can’t possibly do all the things I want in a single lifetime. That’s okay. As a father, husband, and primary bread winner for the family, it’s my job to make sure that my loved ones are secure. Sometimes throughout my career that’s meant taking on jobs to pay the bills, and other times I’ve been lucky enough to find a Venn diagram where the thing I like, and the thing that pays money, align.

Regardless of that Venn diagram, I learned two years ago the importance of always having a small thing in my life that is for me, and by me. Even when work is going well, I need to have a part of my day where I go create something that isn’t for my normal job. I’d argue, in fact, that it’s just as critical when the day job is going well, as when things are headed in a downward slope.

Right now, this post, is part of that. On most days I write fiction, disappear into Ulysses on my Mac for a while and knock out a thousand words. Today, however, my attention is spent. I had some awesome things come up at work that pulled my energy into solving work specific problems, and so I feel myself empty and ready to close out the day. However, because of my commitment to myself, I need to give my creative side room to breath and exist.

Some days it means journaling, writing words that I alone will ever see. Some days it’s writing a post for this site, and other days it’s my fictional writing. All of them are valuable though. Each plays a part, and each keeps me to my commitment of getting words on digital ink on a regular basis.

Having that special thing I do is critical. It helps to fuel my creativity in other areas, and encourages discovery and curiosity for something that I care about, separate from any monetary incentive. There is, of course, the potential for money in my writing, but that’s not why I’m doing it. This is a wonderful escape; and opportunity to use the creative side of my brain, and the chance to push and explore things that only I may care about.

Exercise also plays into my life now, for a different reason than before. Now I exercise to give my brain and body a chance to stretch, push myself, and get away from the computer. I run because it fuels my brain and feels amazing. The parallel between exercise and creative work aren’t a coincidence. Taking time for myself, despite all that’s happening around me, helps me to be a better human for those I love. I’m 33 years old, and these lessons have taken me a while to learn. I’m guessing that there are many more lessons that the future will hold.

What I write

At the moment I’m sort of between writing projects. I had a goal of finishing a novel by June 30th. That’s complete, and while there’s some additional work to do, such as the blurb and physical book cover, I accomplished my goal. It feels good to hit that, and to have the book ready to go out this weekend. I’m sort of in this strange middle between books. I’m about to start my seventh novel now, and I’ve had mixed results with starting. Sometimes I dive into the next book on the very next day, other times I’ve taken at least a week or two to get started. It feels like a bit of a hiccup in my process, but I’m embracing and running with it. So, this article today is about writing, and getting something out, even if it’s not directly related to my novel.

I split my writing into four sources right now. First is the novels. I love to write them, and will continue to hone my craft and learn more about the process of creating large stories. It’s a lot of fun, and rewarding.
The second type of writing is journal. Some days I sit down and write 1,000 words intended only for myself. It’s a way of clearing my head, of processing my thoughts, and candidly I consider them a bit of a cheat day. It’s quite easy for me to just hammer away at the keyboard, processing my thoughts in a private medium, and typing as fast as possible.

The third source is my blog. When I’m not feeling like adding to my novel, I’ll use the blog as an escape hatch and add some words there. Somehow these other sources feel wrong, but it’s how I’m approaching the topic. In my current stage of life I limit the priority for writing. I have a full-time job, as well as a lovely family that need me. I set aside approximately 30 minutes each day for writing, and on some days I’m more tired, and just want to get something out. True, that could be in my novel, but it’s where I’m at now. Also, it’s fun to write non-fiction for a change, and add thoughts to my site. I keep a running list of article ideas in my notes app for days like this.

The fourth source of writing is short stories. I’m not sure if the exact count, but there’s probably twenty short stories sitting inside my Ulysses app, waiting to see the world some day. One of them is in progress now, part of the Diminished universe I’m writing.
What I’ve found is a way that works for me, something that’s sustainable. If I’m exhausted, and ready to shut down for the day, I might turn to a short journaling attempt; add some words to the page, and type out at a hundred words a minute, just hammering away to say something, to keep the chain and keep my commitment. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it keeps me going.

All this is working toward a goal. I want to get to a place where my writing matters to a group of people, where I can learn from their feedback and continue to hone my craft.