Nate Dickson Thinks...

Small Thoughts for a Quiet World.

Start a daily journal habit. But if you miss a few days, just write about today, don't punish yourself by trying to fill in the blanks.

This goes for just about any daily habit. Keeping track of “streaks” is a good thing, and often motivational. But if we lose sight of what we're trying to accomplish and focus on the “streak” we can start to de-motivate ourselves.

Now that I'm out of school I am trying to lose the “I need to get straight As” mindset. A “perfect attendance record” isn't as important as the improvements I make when I work on things. “Write every day” is a good way to be a writer, but there's not a score card for writing every day. The important part is the writing, not the days. If I miss a day, all that is really lost is the opportunity I had to improve that day, nothing is taken away from my ability to improve today. Punishing myself for “screwing up” or “missing days” is counter-productive and needlessly costly.

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I Am An Optimist.

By Choice. It's not easy. It's actually really very hard right now to be an optimist. But I have chosen to be one, because I believe that optimism is the best route to effecting actual change for the better.

I Am Excited.

I get excited about things. When I am interested in something I will dive deep into it. If it's a product I will learn all about how it's made and who makes it and why. I can tell you far too much about the founders of Apple and Microsoft because I got deep into their histories. I read Linus Torvald's Autobiography. Twice. I know the names of the founders of Field Notes, and what they do outside of making small pocket notebooks.

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Some days I am a writer. A creator of worlds, a light in a darkened world, shining the beam of truth to teach and lead those around me to a higher level. #hyperbole

Some days I hate words.

Some days are both.

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When I was a junior in high school I was in two classes with my favorite teacher ever. I was in her advanced English class and on the Literary Magazine staff. She was a great teacher, one that shaped my life ever since. I don't know what she saw in my writing, but I'm grateful she saw something. She encouraged me, offered actual critiques, advice, and treated me like I was actually onto something when I wrote. It's safe to say she's the reason I'm still writing.

At the end of my junior year I was sitting in her classroom working on finishing up our notes for the literary magazine that year. I had already agreed to come back and be “Head” editor the following year, so I wanted to leave myself a few reminders.

As I was working she came over to the desk where I was working and said “Nate...this is probably a good book for you to read.” and placed a trade paperback on my desk, then left the room. She seemed a little nervous, I guess because giving gifts to one student instead of any others might seem somewhat preferential.

The book was Red Sky At Morning by Richard Bradford.

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I read somewhere recently that Terry Pratchett had a goal to write four hundred words a day. Anyone who is familiar with Sir Terry's body of work knows that he must have written far more than that most days. You don't create the Discworld and Good Omens and all his other projects without putting in a fair amount of time and effort daily.

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Let's say it one more time for the overachievers up in the front: “Quality over Quantity” is for consumption not creation. When you are choosing what to bring into your life it makes sense to be choosy. When you are working on your output you need to just keep producing. Writing 200 words a day is a far better practice than fretting over a thousand words for a week. “Thinking about writing” doesn't make you a better writer. Writing does. The only way to write the things you're really proud of is to write a whole lot of other stuff as well.

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Me, Last Night: oh, This is a good idea that I just had. I should out of bed and write it down. I’ll probably forget it if I don’t.

Me, This Morning: So, I remember I had a good idea, no idea what it was. Cool. Very cool.

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I'm an introvert. like, a serious introvert. One of my employees asked recently if he could get a subsidy from our organization to pay for him to work in a rented office space instead of working from home. All I could think was, “WHY????”. For me working from home is the dream, it's a thing I never imagined would happen. I can't imagine paying good money to have to work in an office; I would pay a portion of my paycheck every month to avoid going back to an office.

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It's spring in my part of the world, which means itchy eyes and sinuses. Working from home means I'm not in an office with industrial strength air purification, so I have to make it work on a personal level and budget. Here's what I've found that works:

  • Vacuum frequently. At least twice a week
  • Keep the window closed, obviously.
  • Wash every fabric thing in the room and change pillow cases on my nap pillow frequently. (what? Naps are good for productivity!)
  • Use an air purifier
  • Keep the door closed

And...it helps.

Just in case this helps anyone else.

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I've been thinking about the overstimulation of our reward centers. Not in those words exactly, but considering how we behave these days, as a species.

It's very easy to be entertained or distracted at all times. In older days, a term for a person who was addicted to substances was “Dissipated,” and I think it's very accurate. When we allow our attention to be taken at all times like this, we allow ourselves, our energy to be spread too thin, to be quite literally dissipated across all our interests. When water is dissipated, it has less ability to exert force. A focused stream can cut metal, a slowly seeping puddle takes much longer to effect any change.

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