There are two extremes on this spectrum: people who are externally motivated and those who only need what’s already inside them to get moving on a project. No one is always internally motivated and no person always needs an outside push to get started, but one thing for sure during this quarantine — those who are mostly internally driven do better. It is the same problem that people who are self-employed or who work from home face — not everyone is suited to that life. And for those who are now forced into it, depression looms. For those who can’t spin gold out of thin air or conjure dreamscapes or invent a new life and a new way of living, life becomes so dull that hours drag and days lay heavy while months and years slip away.
Those who are able to make new things — artists and writers, housebuilders and gardeners, twiddlers and toymakers, composers and musicians, leather crafters and basket weavers, computer engineers and software designers, potters and jewelers, mathematicians and scientists, filmmakers and universe builders, gymnasts and mountain climbers…makers of all kinds — are never bored. There is never enough time to do all that’s inside our imaginations. Multiple lifetimes are not enough… I believe this has always been this way. That’s why makers were commonly accused of witchcraft — with just thoughts and practice, some people are capable of building the incredible. And they made it look easy (decades of hard work learning the skills to make magic are invisible when the final result is on show). That’s why people who couldn’t saw spells of magic — abracadabra and voila! Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
It’s true, some people have innate talent — it helps to grow tall if you want to be a renowned basketball player. But I’ve seen plenty of people lose their innate talents through disuse. Talent is but a small component of the maker equation. Inner motivation is almost the whole ball game. Take almost any endeavor and people who succeed are those who are driven to it not by some outside pressures or bosses, but by the inner light of “needing” to work at it. I remember when I used to paint a lot, my mouth would water at the thought of sitting down in front of a blank canvas — I would suck on paintbrushes while I worked. The desire to express my thoughts visually was not just some ideation, it was a physical thing. But the gap between what’s in the mind’s eye and what comes out on paper starts very wide and only narrows with years of practice. I don’t believe anyone has managed to make that gap disappear completely.
So those with inner motivation to work on their passions do well in almost any circumstance. Those who could be so motivated don’t require external entertainment to stave off boredom. Without restaurants (which I do miss a lot), and movies, and theaters, and parties, and bars, and … and … and … some find it difficult to cope. Days feel very long, stretched out into scary oblivion. But for the makers, time flies. There is never enough of it to accomplish everything! Flow describes the state of ecstasy of creation.
With all this said, it’s not like those internally motivated don’t waste time. They do! There is the daily news avalanche to absorb, there are shows to watch, dinners to make, people to talk to, and books to read. If only there was more time!
I wish one of the things that schools taught to our kids is how to turn on that inside light. And so with this slim transition, I would like to remind people of SupermarketScience.com — a site that hosts free science learning materials we created to support parents and their kids during the pandemic, while schools are shut down. We’ve also started to explain how to set up educational family co-ops — small groups of families banded together in quarantine pods to educate and mind their kids while schools are fully or partially closed. I worked like crazy to get things up on that site. I hope it could help…
This month, I’ve also set free one of my novellas — a story about language, really. I keep trying to write a novel about the power of words, but I keep getting sidetracked. I have a short story out “Word Magic” which is a prequel of sorts. And as I’ve started to write the main story, I digressed into a story of a psychotic AI with multiple personalities onboard a colony spaceship. It’s a mystery novella: “Good Girl.” I did manage to include the discussion on language and how different languages change how we see the world. In particular, this story features Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov’s surreal political fiction/romance/comedy “The Master and Margarita.” It is one of my favorite books (and I read and reread it in Russian and English prior to writing this story), but I don’t know how it is possible to read “The Master and Margarita” without the cultural context. I guess it just becomes a different kind of story: a fantasy? A fairytale? A political farce? I think the only reason this subversive work got published in the first place was because the soviet state critics didn’t know what to make of it. So please take a look, have a read, and if you like it, leave a review!
Above are two covers. The one on the left was deemed unsellable…so the right one it is!