Hey, pay attention

I have a routine with my journaling. Over time, that routine has changed a lot and I’m sure it will evolve farther. Currently, I start a clean A5-sized face of a page for each day. I do not read the previous day’s entry; I’m never trying to continue where I left off in my thinking as I journal. No, the journal is simply a place for me to talk to my future self. Here’s why I did that thing I did. Here’s this really great idea… but I’m letting go of it, and writing it down hoping future-me gets a chuckle at the dumb idea I was wise to drop. Sometimes I record really big wins. Sometimes I record really big losses. A wedding! A birth! A death! But mostly, I’m just capturing how I feel, why I feel, what I think, why I think, … Sometimes I spend hours painstakingly handwriting long texts. Sometimes it’s just 60-seconds and a bulleted list. Vanishingly rare is a sketch. Occasionally a flourish of colored-penciling. There are often inset headings in block letters at the sides as signposts—first instance of this, last instance of that.

It helps me pay attention to my life.

~ Austin Kleon from, https://austinkleon.com/2018/02/20/what-is-the-point-of-keeping-a-diary/

Yes, there’s much paying of attention to my life that happens in the writing.

But the true wizardry is in the years-later rereading.


The good, the bad, and the ugly

I’m deep into NO!vember and of course the biggest reduction in overload is the practice of not adding more things. But I’m finding some snowball effect too: As I see the pile evaporating… as I’m not adding more things… I’m feeling more inspired and motivated to pick off one or two problem things.

One thing I will say about these lists: they are written as a way of fortune and future-telling and anticipating what a technology might do. But you often don’t know the answers to a lot of the questions until you adopt the technology.

~ Austin Kleon from, https://austinkleon.com/2021/08/16/questions-for-technology/

Kleon’s post is a significant collection of things (people who’ve dug into technology, lists of questions as way to evaluate technology, and more) for evaluating technology. But this point he makes at the very end is critical: Sometimes, you just can’t tell until you try it.

I hate that about technology. In fact, I use it as a key test of my own. If I cant’ tell without trying it, then it’s not worth my time trying.


There’s no “Fin!”

In the last 20 years I’ve made three false–starts at sketching. They parallel my personal growth. The first false–start involved me buying books and materials, and spending a lot of time setting things up to create what I thought was the perfect environment. No sketching happened. The second false–start involved my removing what I thought was a barrier; I switched to journaling in pencil (a multi-year side quest I eventually returned from loving ink more deeply) because I thought having the sketching tools before me more often would lead to sketching. The third false-start now happens once every few weeks: I find myself paused, looking at something, really seeing, and I notice an urge to sketch.

I came late to his work: I remember seeing him on TV when I was a kid, but I only really started reading him post-cancer, around 2010 or so, when he was in the middle of his great blogging explosion caused by losing his voice due to his health complications.

~ Austin Kleon from, https://austinkleon.com/2023/04/04/10-years-without-roger-ebert/

The connection is that Roger Ebert did a lot of sketching in addition to a lot of writing.

This time of year, every year, I’m thinking about seasons of life at large, and cycles in our work. I find that it’s fulfilling when I finish some large thing— when the last piece of a large project clicks into place like the final jigsaw piece. What doesn’t work is when I imagine that feeling of fulfillment too soon. I do try to imagine what done looks like before I begin small things—few-hours sized things, days sized things. But for large things, it’s often better if I think of a few possible ways it could eventually be “done” and then simply get to work. It’s best if I remember there’s no tidy “Fin!” like at the end of a movie; There’s only the doing.



It’s amazing what the addition of a single character can do. I’m often striving to say no more often. The month of No!vember shall be a month of practicing saying no.

I’ve been saying “no” to a lot of stuff and spending more time alone, working in the studio. When it comes to invitations, a helpful question I ask myself is, “Would I do it tomorrow?” If not, here’s how to graciously say no to anyone. (More in the “Build a Bliss Station” chapter of my book, Keep Going.)

~ Austin Kleon, from https://newsletters.feedbinusercontent.com/890/8904e328a953025dd059af8f75c7a64b8c8c75c6.html

It’s not clear (granted, I didn’t look very hard) if No!vember is Kleon’s idea. That doesn’t matter to me. His mention is where I first learned it, and so I was 19,050 days old when I learned this. That’s a bit of a shame, and I hope it’s helped you sooner.


How does this even exist?

In fact, now I’m wondering if that’s one way you know something is great? When you say: “How does this even exist?”

~ Austin Kleon from, https://austinkleon.com/2023/04/04/the-making-of-lilo-stitch/

Yes, that’s definitely one way.

In about ten weeks I’m making my annual journey to Boston and neighboring Somerville for a parkour event. Much has changed over the years I’ve been going. It’s moved from Septembers to Junes. The size has waxed and waned. A few of the same people are usually there, and there is an endless banquet of new forever-friends.

If you get into doing this thing, and you start going to play and train with others, you soon have a very unusual problem: The more you run into a particular someone, the more it happens in different places. You start to have this precious view of who this person is separated from where that person normally is. Sometimes you know someone well, but have no idea where you know them from. It’s weird. It’s awesome. How does this even exist?