🦊 Quick Brown Fox #24

Hey friends,

I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. I’ve been feeling pretty tired this week, and struggled to motivate myself to write. It’s hard to stay productive week after week while sheltering in place. The pandemic feels endless and its psychological toll is significant. I’ve come to expect having a ‘down week’ every so often.

Ironically, the fact that I enjoy writing makes it worse. I start to over-analyze my feelings and think, “Shouldn’t I be enjoying this? Creative work is supposed be fun!” Then I have two problems: I’m feeling demotivated and I’m feeling guilty about feeling demotivated. This spiral is the handiwork of my internal expectations. My judgements about how I’m ‘supposed to feel’ only make me feel worse.

It’s not the first time I’ve fallen down this particular rabbit-hole. I remember thinking about this before, and a little searching uncovered a thread I shared on it last year:

Sometimes you just need to listen to your past self 😅 Also, as luck would have it, Leo Babauta published a great post on showing up even when you’re not feeling it:

Most of us have an expectation that we should feel in the mood to do something. We should be excited, rested, focused. And when we do it, it should be easy, comfortable, fun, pleasurable. Something like that.

That results, predictably, in running from the things that feel hard, overwhelming, uncomfortable. It means that when we’re not feeling it, we are going to run to distractions and comforts. Nothing wrong with this, but it usually creates a life we’re not happy with.

When we do the thing we don’t want to do, it is often uncomfortable or difficult. We feel like we’re forcing ourselves to do something we really don’t want to do, which can feel coercive.

No wonder we avoid it! Who wants to feel coerced?

But that comes from our belief that we should only do things when we’re feeling in the mood, and that things should be easy, comfortable and fun. That means we can never do anything hard.

What if we could open to doing hard things, and maybe even loving them?

We can’t always control our emotions and feelings. Occasionally, we’re going to feel lethargic, depressed or tired. We won’t be able to flip our emotions like a coin and ensure we’re always in a good mood while working. Sometimes, we just have to endure.

There is a flip side to this: we must look out for patterns. If we find internal resistance every single time we try to do something, then that’s probably a signal we should listen to.

But most of the time, it’s our own expectations of how we’re ‘supposed to feel’ that are dictating our experience. Managing our own expectations is a crucial part of managing ourselves.


Identity & Authenticity

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting realization: Being a South Asian immigrant is a major part of my identity, yet it hasn’t permeated at all into my writing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a creative choice, and one I hadn’t fully realized I was making.

Thus far, I haven’t really felt inspired to write about anything from that avenue of my life. Without the inspiration, it would feel inauthentic to force it. At the same time, it feels inauthentic in a different way to exclude it entirely. There’s a confusing tension that I’m not sure how to reconcile (or whether it’s something I even need to reconcile.)

I ran into these drawings by Rakshanda which articulate this tension beautifully:

I’m really thankful to her for putting words (and drawings) to my struggle. There’s something so powerful about seeing someone define a struggle you never fully grasped. I suspect that I subconsciously excluded those parts of me to fit a certain narrative.

There’s a lot to unpack and explore here. Ideally, the different sides of me would be allowed to manifest themselves naturally. It felt good just to talk about it in this newsletter. Acknowledging the dissonance is progress in and of itself.


Playground

I ran into this incredible animation last week:

It blew me away. The energy and sheer power of movement is mesmerizing. There’s so much to learn from every frame. (Is it just me, or can you hear this silent animation?) I was inspired to try and make a quick animation of a bouncing ball smashing into the ground. I liked the effect in Krij’s animation where the background color changes to emphasize the impact.

So far I’ve been animating with the Looom app (also did an animation of our favorite fox!) This time, I wanted to try animating with Procreate, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. My goal was to make something quick and dirty, and familiarize myself with Procreate animation tools. After a couple hours of toying around, here’s what I came up with:

There’s definitely some power here! I feel like this is too jarring on the eyes though. There’s a ton I could do to address that issue — add some more ‘followup’ (e.g. explosion clouds that fade), adjust the color transitions to be less harsh, add a second bounce, etc… But I decided to stop and share it as is. The animation may not be fully ‘done’, but I’m done with it. I learned a bunch about Procreate animation and am excited to keep playing with it.

I’m proud of myself for sharing this publicly even though I’m not super happy with it. Bounce along, little ball… Gotta make room for the next one!


Critiquing My Own Website

I made a bunch of updates to my website salman.io and decided to share my process. In this video, I critique my site and explain the thinking and trade-offs behind the changes. I also share a few tips on optimizing your front page.


Quick Links

  • Ways to check in without asking ‘How are you doing?’ — At this point, I don’t think anyone knows how to answer that question anymore. So let’s just avoid asking it.

  • New York 1911 in Color — Incredible 4K restoration of a short film from New York in 1911 restored using AI colorization techniques. Watching this makes 1911 seem more recent.

  • Premonition by Toby Shorin — Fascinating analysis on how the pandemic has and will change our societies and cultures: “Which of my beliefs remain unchanged? What assumptions will remain in place? What trends will be accelerated, which delayed, and which stopped entirely? What do I care about that has become newly relevant, and what no longer matters?


Until next time,

—Salman