Monthly Archives: May 2014

Ten years

On this day, ten years ago, I published the very first post on The Watchmaker Project. At the time, I wasn’t even using the URL, just a temporary Blogger address, but I wanted to join my voice with those discussing and guiding the web design community via blog articles and comment threads in every corner of the virtual world.

The internet, and web design and development, looked very different back then. There were very few content farms, churning out articles at the rate of several per hour. There was no Mashable, no TechCrunch, and no Smashing Magazine. A List Apart documented groundbreaking new techniques and thoughtful articles, and 9rules was the first blog network that had arisen as the acceptable face of the 90s ‘webring’, but other than that, everything was being generated by individuals writing on their own blogs, and commenting on each others’ sites.

It was great.

Within the first week of blogging, I was thrilled to receive comments from luminaries like Jon Hicks and Andrei Herasimchuk, and I soon felt as if I was part of an important community: those who cared about the web and wanted to take an active part in its future. I eventually got involved in initiatives like the biannual CSS Reboot, and later became a volunteer editor at Digital Web Magazine, eventually becoming its Editor In Chief in 2008.

These days, blogging seems so much less important than it did back then. One doesn’t need to share advice on how to achieve a particular effect or work around a nasty bug, because there are a thousand answers on Stack Overflow (or CodePen.io, or GitHub) already. Long gone are the days when everyone had specific Position Is Everything pages bookmarked. Now Google has all the answers.

Still, this will be the 426th post on this site. That’s an average of almost one per week, for ten years; a (theoretically) permanent reminder of a quarter of my life. And you know what? I don’t even care if nobody is reading any more. As Zeldman said:

Envious habits

In a propitious piece of timing, considering last week’s post on forming new habits, I read an article on Medium tonight about ‘The Myth of Creative Inspiration‘, written by habit-transformation guru James Clear. In it, he says:

The work of top creatives isn’t dependent upon motivation or inspiration, but rather it follows a consistent pattern and routine. It’s the mastering of daily habits that leads to creative success, not some mythical spark of genius.

So perhaps I’ve been going about this writing habit all wrong — it’s not enough to tell yourself you will find time to do something, you need to incorporate it into your daily routine. Clear uses an excellent metaphor to make his point:

Creative work is no different than training in the gym. You can’t selectively choose your best moments and only work on the days when you have great ideas. The only way to unveil the great ideas inside of you is to go through a volume of workput in your repetitions, and show up over and over again.

He’s got a point. I’m finding it much easier to stick to a workout schedule when it is the first thing I do when I get up; if I deviate from that schedule, it’s much harder to find the time to fit it in later in the day.

Another interesting article, also on Medium: ‘How to Feel Successful and Not at All Inadequate in One Easy Step‘ is about the deleterious effect that envy can have on your ambitions. I suspect it is something that is particularly rife within the web design community, a combination of our need to over-share everything we do and the ‘rockstar’ culture that grew up around some of the pioneers and early adopters in the industry during the early 2000s. At one point, it seemed that all you needed to do to achieve book deals and worldwide acclaim (and, later, tens of thousands of Twitter followers) was to come up with some new way of floating elements, or build a simple yet beautiful web app and charge people for something they already had for free. Everyone else was trying to emulate the success of the chosen few. I was guilty of it myself, publishing at least a couple of attempts at sparking a new development trend, and announcing then quietly canning a web app or three.

I think perhaps it’s harder to let go of what seems an achievable dream. Once you leave your early twenties, only the most deluded still harbour dreams of becoming a rock star; but having that one great idea for an app, or discovering a new and more efficient way to do your job, is possible at any age. But, like anything worth doing, you have to work at it – again, the advice of James Clear is, well, clear:

…if you’re serious about creating something compelling, you need to stop waiting for motivation and inspiration to strike you and simply set a schedule for doing work on a consistent basis.