R.A. Wilson once wrote an important question:
ARE YOU YOUR HARDWARE,
OR YOUR SOFTWARE?
Now if you can’t answer this question in a snap of a second you’ve got a problem. If you can answer the question however you will know exactly how to DO things. My recent articles were written to give you a hint. I wrote them to make a grounding for this article.
This article is a book worthy subject. It is about how to THINK and DO things properly.
If you think about that, those are actually the only 2 things you do in your life. So this is about life.
Let’s talk about something important and real now. Or what seems to be real but isn’t. Conscious effort. This is a long post but it is definitely worth reading, if you’re a freelancer, independent game maker or anyone creating work on your own, years of my own experience and wisdom right below here.
“Will power!” retorted Arkad. “What nonsense. Do you
think will power gives a man the strength to lift a burden
the camel cannot carry, or to draw a load the oxen cannot
budge? Will power is but the unflinching purpose to carry a
task you set for yourself to fulfillment. ” – Richest man in babylon
Hmmm how do I get to this. I wanted to write a long essay about how fucked up of a thing to do it is. Conscious effort. And conclude with proof of how bad it is. But I think I’ll just be straightforward.
Conscious effort is an illusion.
Any kind of forcing yourself to do something. Will powering. Trying hard.
If you’re programming and you think you have to complete something now you use your will power to control yourself. Or you’re late with a project and you’re beating yourself to finish it. Or trying to concentrate when everything is totally distracting you. You want to do it, but you just can’t!
The thing is what you’re trying to do when that happens doesn’t work. Never did, never will.
But we believe it works. We have imprinted habits of doing it. I understand why it doesn’t work but still I fall trap to it sometimes. For example yesterday I was trying to fix a bug. It took me 2 hours but the actual fixing once I got it took 2 seconds. Did that ever happen to you? If I didn’t force myself to do it, I would sleep with it and the next day I would just automatically fix it just in 2 seconds. Efficient creation doesn’t come from trying.
CREATION IS NATURAL
I claim that creating is natural for the human being. It is ingrained in the DNA, just as fear of tigers. It is a characteristic of our species (like curiosity is for cats).
I remember when I was 4 I saw a piano and immediately thought how could I make music with it. So I started hammering on the keys and watched if anyone considered what I was doing as music. People when they heard me playing were immediately astonished, I saw tears in their eyes, they said they never heard anything such beautiful in their entire lives. OK… maybe not, it was just cacophony, the point is I had a desire for this.
The same with computer games, it was probably at the same age. I believe I had it even earlier in me, this is just the age where I can recall memories. Immediately after playing my first games I thought how do they do this? Why is this so much fun? I want to do this myself…
…and if you look at the history of our civilization, it’s all about creating. Creating something out of nothing. Transforming darkness into light. 10000 years ago there were just plains, deserts and jungles. But soon we started making stone monuments, pyramids, irrigation, giant canals, cities, buildings, skyscrapers. This is an architectural example, but we can apply this to everything like art, literature, mathematics, philosophy. We take nothing, or NO thing and we make some THING. It is the driving force of our species. It’s all part of the grand design (if something like that exists).
There is this enormous POWER and POTENTIAL. The ability to create monumental architecture, timeless literature, everlasting theories and breathless music. And suddenly you come here and you think that by using your tiny little conscious effort you can do everything. Even worse! You think you MUST do this in order to DO anything! You fear that if you don’t use conscious effort nothing will ever get done! How fucked up is that?! Do you think Hannibal used will power to get across the alps? Do you think Leonardo da Vinci felt any kind of effort when he was painting Mona Lisa or drawing any of his countless inventions? Do you think Led Zeppelin each day got up at 8’o clock, sat at a desk and tried hard to create Stairway to Heaven? Jimmy Page spanking Robert Plant with his fiddlestick and forcing him to work? Or were they just stoned?
As I mentioned in the comments in the post It’s a joke what is holding you to the idea that it is you that makes all decisions and does stuff is fear. Fear doesn’t let you go of this concept. Because you believe your life will go chaos and you’ll die if you stop the effort.
There is no need in trying hard. If you could let go of that fear for one moment you would quickly gain eternal proof that you don’t have to control everything. Things just happen. Things just pop up in your head. Oftentimes you just feel the urge to work. Other times you just don’t feel like doing anything. That is when the fear crawls into you “will I ever get this done?”, “I’m not working, this is bad”.
The fact is when I feel lazy I get the most brilliant ideas and I regain even more energy than I had before. So I work more then.
Paradoxically I get more done by doing less!
Is there any conscious effort in NOT putting your hand in the fire and frying it toast?
Is there any conscious effort in NOT taking a bottle of poison and drinking it?
That makes sense yes?
Do you believe that if people dropped control over themselves they would become reckless savages? Killing everyone, with no morality whatsoever?
When you’re passing somebody on the street, is there any conscious effort and control in you NOT killing that person? Or robbing him/her?
I don’t have any instinct to kill anybody or to rob anyone. I get along with people nicely without effort! Is it just religion that fills us with these concepts? And tells us we’re bad from beginning and we need to go to church and pray – “Oh Lord! Please don’t let me kill everyone today!”. You see where I’m getting with this?
Is there any effort in breathing until you think about it?
When you drop the idea of conscious effort you just follow your feelings, slow down and trust yourself.
I do everything like this. For example this blog. Not a single post on this site was made by me forcing myself to do it. I just write something when I have something to say. Sometimes I have something to say but I don’t have the feeling to write, and I don’t. Yet I make a new blog post every third day or so. It just happens. How many blogs do you see out there were the owner every 5 months writes something like “I’m writing this just to tell you I’m not dead…”. Well, there was no passion in it from the beginning, so every 5 months he makes a conscious effort to write something, and even then nothing comes out of it. Let your – self just do whatever it wants to do. I’m writing this post because I was walking up the stairs thinking about free will and why wouldn’t I drink a bottle of poison (not that I’m suicidal, just theoretically), and I just felt I need to write it down, so I did. So I write new blog posts all the time and in the meantime I also don’t use any conscious effort not to kill people and nobody dies!
I don’t see this working in the corporate/industrial/school world where somebody is evaluating you (worlds which are not natural for humans). Actually I think it is because of those recent inventions people learned to consciously control, and “effort” their lives. They become their own boss in their own head.
I don’t think a farmer has to motivate himself to do things. He just does them, because it is natural, it’s how things are, he gets up, he milks the cow, he slashes the pig. City people look at that and think how hard his life is. I don’t see anything simpler than a life like that. And that is exactly what a life of a freelancer should look like. If you’re making games or anything else by your own, remember that conscious effort is your enemy. It is a completely bad concept. You don’t have a boss for a reason. So don’t become your own boss!
I don’t have more space to write about the genesis of this concept, although it is interesting how we got habituated to think like this. A lot of it has to do with parenting and education. People just transfer bad thinking habits from generation to generation without ever questioning whether what they are thinking is useful or not. Also there is a lot more to know about the practical part of this article, how do you not use effort in the first place and how do you let go of the fear that is telling you nothing will get done, in other words how do you make sure things will get done? I’ll get to that soon in my next post called The metaprogrammer. For now, start questioning your beliefs about conscious effort.
“Its only fools they make these rules
Don’t try so hard.”
Queen; Don’t try so hard (1991)