Usually, we're busy looking outward to see how creative, intelligent and often famous people work. But once a year, we turn that lens inward. Today, it's my turn. I like to pretend not a whole lot has changed over the years, but while many things stay the same, plenty of things are different (in my case that appears to mostly be location). So, while my apps and what-not have remained mostly static, my mindset on life and work has certainly altered over the years.
Location: Los Angeles Current Gig: Writer One word that best describes how you work: Chartreuse Current mobile device: iPhone 6s Current computer: 2009 27" iMac, 2013 13" MacBook Air
What apps, software or tools can't you live without?
As I've mentioned before, while I toy around with all kinds of apps, I always fall back to plain text for writing and to-dos. So, really, a notepad is all I need. My go-to distraction/social network of choice is Instagram, I'm a big fan of Ulysses for longer writing, and Pocket combined with Longform handle all my on-the-go reading needs. Otherwise, my Kindle Paperwhite goes with me everywhere.
To be honest though, I really don't use a ton of apps and I try to keep my phone as unappealing to look at as possible.
What's your workspace setup like?
There's a small, weird nook in my place that I'm pretty sure used to house a wet bar back in the '60s and now operates as my little office. The desk is hand built but is a bit more weathered after my move from Seattle to Los Angeles. Which is to say, it's pretty much held together by wood glue now. It's fine as long as nobody tries to move it.
On the desk is a pair of Audyssey Lower East Side Media Speakers, Audio Technica noise cancelling headphones, a Blue Yeti USB mic and a 3DS. Behind the iMac is a TwelveSouth Backpack with my MacBook. Various notebooks, sketch pads and cutting boards sit inside the desk. The chair's a Herman Miller Aeron.
While I spend a lot of time at my desk, it's not my only workspace. I also have a small garage where I can tinker on bikes, build odd little things and get my hands dirty with a variety of other projects. The bike repair stand is from Feedback Sports and it's been great. I'm also a fan of disposable gloves so I don't get my dainty computer-job hands too dirty.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
I know when and when not to look for time-saving shortcuts or hacks. Oftentimes, I've felt like a life hack or shortcut wasn't really much more than "do something half-assed" or "over-engineer a solution to life's simple problems." Really, like, 80 per cent of the time you're probably doing things fine. The hard part is deciding what of that other 20 per cent is actually worth improving on.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I use Simplenote for all my to-dos. Bells and whistles, notifications and reminders and whatever else has never really done it for me.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
I mentioned this last year, but my Bonavita Coffee Maker still helps me get in gear every single morning, without fail. It is also the only coffee maker I've ever owned where guests consistently ask me for the name of it after I make them a cup of coffee. Despite what that sounds like, I'm not a salesperson for Bonavita, I just really like this coffee maker. Since I'm in Los Angeles now, I'm usually drinking coffee from Intelligencia or Blue Bottle.
Aside from that, probably my bicycle. After years and years of riding used bikes of varying quality, I finally bit the bullet, followed some Lifehacker advice, and got myself a fancy new bike from Alchemy Bikes in Denver, Colorado. It has made riding the pothole-destroyed, ill-kempt streets of Los Angeles much more fun.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
I'm not easily distracted. Which is weird, considering that's supposedly the trademark of my technology-addled-ADHD-no-social-etiquette generation. Unfortunately though, I don't actually know why I'm not easily distracted. I'd venture a guess it's because I don't keep many distractions around me and I don't use notifications for anything except the extremely important stuff. I don't know if it's actually possible to be "better" at not being distracted, but sometimes I feel like I'm the only one not reaching for my phone all the time.
What do you listen to while you work?
I've been listening to and adding to the same, massive, mostly instrumental playlist for several years (shuffled, of course). It's currently at 2031 songs totalling about 159 hours. If I'm not writing, I listen to podcasts. Current favourites include: Idle Thumbs, Home: Stories from L.A., Hidden Brain, Freakonomics, the Allusionist and Lore.
What are you currently reading?
I'm pretty much always reading, so this changes pretty quickly, but at this exact moment, I'm reading Eka Kurniawan's Beauty Is a Wound, which feels a lot like an Indonesian version of One Hundred Years of Solitude (in a good way). I also love the occasional graphic novel. This past weekend I plowed through Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine, and Two Brothers by Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon.
How do you recharge?
Cycling. I bounce between morning rides and afternoon bike rides, typically through Griffith Park during the week. On weekends, I prefer to get as far away from a computer as possible into Angeles National Forest. It's a lot of mountains, it often hurts a lot, and it's extremely fun.
Beyond that, after years of fighting it, I've finally come around to actually enjoying cooking. I look forward to those 20-60 minutes at the end of the day, where I don't have a screen in front of me and I can quietly listen to podcasts while toiling away on the stove.
What's your sleep routine like?
I'm already an early bird, but my place in Los Angeles has massive windows that wake me up with the sunrise regardless of how much I try to bury my head in the pillow. So, I'm up between 6am-7am, which means I tend to pass out between 10pm-12pm. I'll almost always read before bed.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
I think I mention Haruki Murakami pretty much every year I've done this. I'll also add Hidetaka Miyazaki into the mix, because Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and Bloodborne are all such incredible experiences that I'd love to know more about the main brain behind them.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
I had a professor once who told me to "Always seek to broaden your influences." At the time, I didn't think much about it, but over the years, it's really hit home for me. I see a lot of friends who pigeonhole themselves with work or even with hobbies. They consume everything from a media property or medium and don't really look elsewhere. There's a lot of great stuff out in the world and it's easier to find then ever. Do/read/watch/play/listen to something you wouldn't normally and when you edge out of that comfort zone you'll always walk away a little happier.