again & again & again
finding paths to move forward
Ocean Beach on a very hot day this week
It’s been an eventful and exciting past month!
html garden is showing at the DeYoung as part of the DeYoung Open. My poem I picked up a plastic wrapper today is published in Kernel Mag 3 (and I got to give my first-ever live poetry reading for it!). I have another argumentative piece coming out in a publication shortly. And I’ve started working with Raymond on an app for collections, a central piece of my research that I’ve circled around for the past 8 months. We’re going to be exploring how we can create a fast local-first mobile client for gathering and curating collections and sharing that activity with people you care about. We’re planning for the client to be open-source and to plug into new open protocols for structured data. In practice, this means that you can have a single place that collates the data you care about across all your platforms, where the underlying data backing is owned by you. If you already have places that you love for doing this kind of activity (e.g. Are.na), then you can just use this as a configurable client for them. I’m really excited about this work because so many of my explorations around creating more human-first experiences of computing revolve around having this intimate everyday data easily available, whether windows into daily lives, or revisiting the things you care about, or sharing the moments in which you love living. If this is something that sounds interesting to you and you’d like to try it out, reply to this email or pass along a message to me!
html garden in Koret Auditorium
my poem in Kernel Magazine
That’s about all I have to share for the more concrete updates on my research today, but I have more in the works about this practice of “collecting” that we do in our digital spaces and how those materials feel like the fundamental elemental material for relating to each other in new ways in digital spaces.
Instead, for the rest of this letter, I’d like to talk about how my feelings have evolved lately after 8ish months of independent work. I hope this doesn’t sound ungrateful in light of all the achievements that I shared earlier (which I still can’t believe all happened?), but I’ve been feeling weird the past month and found it hard to focus. These achievements are supposed to “prove” what I’ve been doing hasn’t been a whole waste of time. They are supposed to be the extrinsic progress markers I’ve always wanted to make my research and art legible to other people.
So why do I feel so uncomfortable? Is it that I now feel the burden of extrinsic legibility as something I need to justify working on anything? Do I feel like I don’t deserve the recognition I’ve gotten? Do I wish more of the projects “got big” without having to go through the many cycles of failed experiments? (1) maybe a little try as I do to fight it 2) i can’t deny that the thought comes up every now and then 3) yes).
I still get these incredibly nourishing bursts of creativity and momentum, but they fizzle faster than before, and then I find it hard to pull myself to work on the things that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’m gaining a growing backlog of unfinished projects and as the list grows, it becomes harder to kill off my babies and prioritize which to dedicate my time to. The decision fatigue of choosing each day makes it harder to build the momentum for a new project, and the vicious cycle takes hold.
I revisited some old memos where I’ve struggled with being restless and remind myself that I am doing well as long as I’m “practicing a way of being I love” each day. I don’t feel like I’ve been doing that lately, but mostly because of this unyielding pressure I feel to produce work and manifest the works that call to me. I don’t think I really process how long progress takes. I’m not very good at being patient, nor am I very good at being prudent. I want everything that I dream of, and I don’t want to compromise. And even though I know how long a life comprises, I feel like there’s not enough time for all the things that I want to do. I feel antsy with desire and perhaps a bit of a need to prove myself, to show that I am worthy of sticking with what my own heart tells me is important.
But maybe I should be feeling this way. It’s natural that I feel antsy when I’m trying to focus on so many things. Maybe this is part of the work that I so wish to avoid, part of “our struggle to find a way through” as Yohji Yamamoto recounts. Maybe a month of flailing to reorient my focus is a given. There are no free lunches, and so too does being independent (and working on whatever I want) come with the territory of enduring existential dilemmas and wavering motivations to see my questions through. This is not an easy lifestyle, nor is it something that can be forced all the time. Every day I feel like I’m answering my life’s questions. I should feel exhausted, even if all I do in a day is think about that question, even if these questions feel like my life’s calling. Really, all that matters, is that given the choice, I’d still choose it again, despite the history and the circumstances and the obstacles, again, despite all the pain and rejection and loneliness that it brings, again, because I remember the moments when it feels like I’m doing the most important thing I could be doing and “when the group meshes perfectly.” And so after my walk around the neighborhood, I sit back down, and I return to the struggle.
from My Dear Bomb by Yohji Yamamoto (p.s. if someone has access to the full book as an e-book pls help me get access, I haven’t been able to find all of the material)
Thank you for everyone who is reading this, and welcome to all the new folks (now 522 of you!!). If you’d like to support my independent work, I’d appreciate if you shared anything I’ve made that resonates with someone who you think would enjoy it (and I also have a sponsors page if that’s your thing)!