New Gear: Surface Pro 4

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This week I had the opportunity to test out one more piece of gear. A Surface pro 4. This is a bit of a strange time to pick up a Surface with the anticipated Surface Pro 5 likely to come out in just a few months either during the holiday season, or in the first quarter of 2017. The Pro 4 has had a number of odd hardware and firmware issues throughout this year which, for the most part, should be sorted out in the next release due to the issues primarily being hardware related. Furthermore, it would seem very likely that the Surface Pro 5 would have the benefit of 1) better storage solutions, 2) better N-trig/Wacom pen software and 3) USB type C to allow for interesting external storage, charging, and display configurations.

Despite all those reasons to wait, the need of the coming semester is upon me. In previous posts I’ve mentioned trying to emulate other professional artists in their workflow. The move toward the surface pro series is largely inspired by the work of Noah Bradley, a nomadic Magic the Gathering artist who uses a surface pro and traditional art while traveling. I went in on the i5 / 120GB / 4GB RAM model. Here are my impressions on the first few days.

Display

The display is wonderful. Very crisp, and I am already really enjoying the 4:3 aspect ratio. The difference really shines when it comes to reading pdfs, or having to work with a word processor and article open beside each other. I’m coming from my previous 2 laptops with a 13 and 15 inch screens, but I find that for me, at about 150% scaling everything is crisp, still readable, and just barely big enough for me to use in tablet mode. Sometimes that’s a stretch though and I’ve had to scale back up to the default 200% scale.

Everyday Work

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For the first day I mostly spent time getting all the creature comfort apps and trying to make sure I had things like R Studio, Zotero and libreoffice up and running with the appropriate plug-ins. In general web browsing with one or two other apps open I am consistently hovering around 70%-80% RAM usage which is to be expected. So far I haven’t found that to have any noticeable impact, but it has forced me to be a little more mindful when opening apps, or to make sure that I kill background processes.

Pen

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The pen has been an odd one to think about. Definitely between OneNote and Evernote, I hope to drastically decrease the amount of paper I have to shift through this year. So far, I haven’t quite felt as confident in the pen as I would have hoped. As you can see in the picture above, sometimes the pen skips, or looses continuity in the lines that it makes. This can make it difficult to just write quickly, especially if I wanted to just pay attention to a lecture and take notes without looking. As of now, I have to hover over the screen to make sure that each letter actually worked out before moving on. This kind of defeats the purpose of having to take good notes if I have to keep such a close look on each word. Additionally, the wintab driver was not responding correctly at the start. The pen did not notice sensitivity and was even worse in Krita. After some searching some found the answer in downloading the trial version of Photoshop. So far this has worked, but it seems up to the fates if the sensitivity wants to work or not. Interestingly, this has turned off the sensitivity for my wacom tablet.

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Such Wacom. Very sensitivity.

Those things aside, when they did all come together and everything was working in Krita, it really was an enjoyable experience to actually draw on screen. Lines were responsive even with smoothing on. I was worried that 4 GB of RAM would be a problem, but so far that hasn’t been the case. I certainly am pushing 80%-90% if I have pinterest open for reference images, and Krita along side, but again, that hasn’t caused unforgivable lag. Interestingly, the trial version of Photoshop has been super responsive and was quite fun to do quick sketches. This is usually how my set up looks for drawing.

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My main frustration with the Surface pen so far has been that it is not well weighted, and the nature of how N-trig tracks. The pen must be in contact with the screen in order to be sensed, which makes light strokes very difficult to make in comparison to my Intuous Pro. It also means that you are already pressing quite hard in order to get to the darker opacities on many default brushes in Krita. It makes it difficult to really gauge where the pressures are and can sometimes creep on you until you are crushing the pen nib against the screen. For the weight, the battery of the pen is located close to the back. This makes it feel like the pen is always on the brink of tipping backwards out of your hand. The smoothness of the pen, while attractive looking, adds to this problem because when you change your grip to keep the pen from leaning back, it’s easy for your fingers to slide around and out of your normal posture. I have spent too much time fidling with the grip of this pen, but I think some electric tape should do the trick.

Battery

The battery life of the Surface Pro series has also been an odd journey. Like many others, I did not find that I was getting the 7-9 hours of battery life that Microsoft claims, but more around 4-5 hours of casual use. While I would certainly love longer battery, for me this is enough time to work in a location without power. The charger is also so much smaller than a general laptop brick so bringing along an extra cord really isn’t a trouble. This is definitely not a gaming device, but might be alright for some older games, or very low settings.

General Conclusion

All in all, I like what I’ve seen so far. Most of the issues are software. If I was using Photoshop there would be no problem. Krita’s next release is coming up in September, so I’m hopeful that perhaps some issues might be resolved. Today I was able to go from sketching at home, jumping into a car and meeting a friend for lunch and continue sketching and working without any difficulties or problems. I really love the form factor, and being able to simply close everything up, snap on the keyboard and head on out. As I narrow down my other art supplies, the Surface Pro definitely has the potential to replace even more tools.

Letting Scribbles Be Scribbles

After a moment of delay, I finally achieved one of the challenges I’ve been reaching for some time: completely finish a sketch book. I have been a serial notebook collector for a while. Always searching for the right notebook for the right situation, and then never quite getting more than half way in any of them. This notebook helped spur a few things. I just happened upon it as others left their overflow items on the curb during the wake of graduation. It was an empty sketch book with nothing else special about it. I finally eased more into the feeling of being alright to just ruin this notebook.
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One of the last pages featuring beavers and ‘ya brah’-eavers

I needed to get back into drawing, and especially back into practicing. More than not, I get stuck in a preparation mode, but a preparation mode with the assumption that my drawings would be worthy of that preparation. Obviously that’s not the case. So I tried something else this time. I gave myself permission to waste this notebook. This one would be a dud. I went in with the understanding that I would likely not create anything exciting or masterful within this notebook. When I went to sit down and pull it out, I no longer felt a need to perform, even for myself. I could just mess around and make scribbles.

Embracing Failure and Developing Interest
What made this notebook slightly different was the perception that it occupied. In a way, it was the container for failure. It made failure the known plan. If something would actually start working, that was something strange, but by making failure the script, the rule even, then I could get out of my own way and get going.

Reducing ways that we get in our own way is important because of how our attention is focused. What that attention settles on, and what we can attune that attention to ultimately determines what we find interesting. The more I pay attention to a subject, the more I can relate, understand, and play with it. Increased knowledge, and capacity for fun both facilitate flow states, a feeling of optimal and complete engagement where our skill closely meets the challenge at hand. Flow states tend to lead to upward spirals and positive associations with the subject making us more likely to pay attention and engage in the future. When we first start paying attention to something though, it rarely jumps out at us, gripping us deeply. Most things in the world start off as just a “Huh. Neat.” So how does something move from “neat” to impassioned interest?

In the beginning, our attention is not focused, and we do not care to focus it. In the background, we are passively directed to pay attention in different directions by what comprises our culture, community, and social identities, and what we think about what we ought to do to maintain those identities. In a sense, this is where culture shock may stem from. When we feel culture shock, it is a shift that forces us to relearn what is important, what to pay attention to and what no longer really matters that much. In this way, culture shock can highlight to us what our own culture is directing our attention towards, and what sorts of interests would or could be acceptable under that cultural lens. This continues down to community to social until we finally arrive at personal thoughts of identity. What kind of person we think we are, and what sort of things would that person be interested in. If we DO start finding something strangely interesting that doesn’t fit this concept we have of ourselves, we need to reflect on how this new interest fits.

This reflection is continual. We look for feedback in how others think we are doing, how we think others are interpreting our interest, and how we feel our efforts are progressing in a meaningful way. If all of these check out and are positive we move on. If we don’t feel that progress feedback, we rely on others in our social arena to focus us back on the subject. Maybe a mom enforcing piano lessons, or a teacher elaborating on a subject, or your friends all playing a particular video game and urging you to play with them. This is how interests develop. First with our social settings guiding us back to that thing, or allowing for that thing to enter our attention long enough for us to develop our own personal relationship with it. This is where failure comes in.

Well Developed Internal Interest
By now, we have spent hours, maybe years, building our own knowledge base and unique relationship with our subject of interest. We don’t need others to remind us to practice anymore. What needs to be done to progress is no longer obvious and the extent that others can offer support and guidance wanes. What takes its place is our own expertise and vision of progress. Support is still crucial, but is needed less and less as we are able to pick ourselves back up and keep working for longer duration of time to get something right. This is earned through numerous failures and mistakes, but also a few successes. A few glimpses at what could be achieved and what is just beyond what is currently possible.

The will to push forward is more reliant on an internal drive at this stage and for that reason internal distractions or self-handicapping is all the more dangerous. As others leave you to develop your interest, they are less likely to keep you at the piano and let you instead do your thing in your time. By now, you know best. And that means you can become your own main obstacle. This is how I felt getting back into sketching, and even as I was working through this last semester of grad school. Not allowing myself to fail well and sometimes outright fear of failure stopped to most important action: actually doing the work. I would prepare and learn and ‘progress’ but not in the direction that I needed to be focusing. On the knowing, not the doing.

Scribbles
“If you do it, then it is done” – Anonymous

The completion of this notebook is a small spark of hope. Failing more, and carving out a place for that failure to live. Keep scribbling and messing up. Even though it feels frustrating failing in better ways is still progressing.

Art: The vehicle to using less

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For the past month, I’ve begunto return to schedules and routines. Following my own advice, I’ve started taken my time layering new things a few at a time, and at embarrassingly low standards to avoid scaring myself off. This is the state of my current workplace. I’ve continued to make things difficult for myself by not refining and letting myself become distracted. Author Peter Walsh suggests in his book It’s All Too Much! invites us to “imagine your ideal house” or what our ideal living situation/room looks like. Once we have done that, look around you and your rooms. Are those items a part of that ideal? If they are not, why are they there? With this in mind, I decided to look towards my art supplies and see what could be done.

 

The art shoe box makes another appearance and inspired me to return to my current art workflow, and gear. First, the actual drawings
DSC07411_lzn DSC07412_lznI had quite a lot of pens and brushes that I have always held onto the idea of using because it would either blow my socks off, or I would be able to use it in a gift to blow someone else’s socks off. My socks are still on, and the pens are still underused. On top of that, they do not fit in with my ideal of travel ready art supplies.

With several friends, I’ve gotten myself involved in a number of projects that have been put on massive hiatus while relearning how to be a grad student. During the slower summer, it has become rather clear that my style has some pretty gaping difficulties.

I had not been practicing well.

I did not have an understanding of values, volume, proportions, or a developed mental schemata for the things that I was hoping to draw or combine or practice. This started when I was getting ready to draw some concept warriors for a village. I considered their background, fictional history and then realized I really wasn’t sure how to really draw armor. I researched. As I got started it seemed it would be so much easier if I could better understand the empty space under the armor. If I wanted to do that, I needed to know how the body worked. If I wanted to know how the body worked, I needed to have a better understanding of ratios and angles, and…

Quickly I realized what I really need to learn to do was learn to actually draw.

What I have been practicing with has mostly been 30 second or 1 minute figure drawings. A model is presented, and once time runs out you move to the next one. I needed to fail often, and get repetition down in a way that I wasn’t able to make myself do. Before drawing practice meant maybe getting around to 5 or 8 faces or hands. I need to fail much, much more than that.

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This is one of the later pages. I’d like to think that there is some improvement and even if there isn’t I definitely feel more confident getting basic poses or shapes in. I had never practiced drawing legs before, let a lone at this speed, and it really changes things up.

What I also am going to start bringing into the mix is masters studies. This is highly recommended by Noah Bradley, one of the youngest artists for Magic the Gathering. Putting in 20 to 30 hours into a drawing in order to precisely copy and see what the master artist is trying to do is completely new to me, especially for that amount of time. On very few occasions have I spent more than 8 hours on a given drawing, and even more than the actual skill, the time requirement is going to be an upwards battle for me.DSC07414

A while back I got a wacom tablet hoping to reduce down my other art supplies. This has been a difficult front for me. On one hand, yes I want to reduce down. Other the other hand, I want to make use of the resources I currently have. I hardly use brush pens, or colored pencils, and a few others so I have donated or given those to friends who will appreciate them more.

The rest fall into a category where I will try my best to use them up and just not replace them once they are depleted. Effectively, I don’t use color much at all. My drawings and what is quick and fun don’t require it. It’s much nicer to play with color and effects digitally, or with water color, not with pens or pencils. With that in mind, below are my safe pens and pencils.

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The main change here is the middle mechanical pencils. I’d like to work on a work flow that is somewhere in between Noah Bradley and David Revoy, the author of Pepper and Carrot. As of now, my hand and mind just work better with traditional materials. I can create and mess up way faster. If something does emerge, it is much easier to get detailed on paper, and then just feed that semi complete work into Krita. Essentially, I would like to move myself to practicing solely with my blue leaded mechanical pencil. If a sketch jumps out at me, then I could do preliminary inking with the other pencils. I currently suck at doing inking and outlining well in digital and this saves me a bit of time. It also all happily fits into a pencil bag so that I can even consider the possibility of doing mobile art things more often.

If I was really serious and honest with myself…DSC07417

And even more serious… This is probably all that I really would need. They are by far the most used pieces out of all of them, and I could still accomplish quite a bit.DSC07423

Why go through all this trouble? Why not just draw stuff and be done with it?

I find especially with artistic ventures it is very easy to get pulled into owning a wide variety of pens and tools to do interesting things. This down sizing of supplies has really been both a way for me to practice streamlining and letting go, as much as it has been finding my own natural tendencies about what type of art I want to be focusing on. Having all these tools makes me feel guilty and shameful when I look at them and know that I could be working to get better at that technique or skill. I need to be honest with myself and recognize that I have not used many of my pens or other things for multiple years. I could do without having the ghosts of my art supplies shame me for the future years to come.

Lies and Falsehoods

“Learning kanji is all about forgetting.”
-Akira Takemoto, Professor of Japanese Language at Whitman University
This is the second time I’ve attempted returning to write this blog in a decent manner. This whole thing began to think about and keep in touch as I wandered around Japan. After forgetting about it for a while I picked it up again to try and really see what I could do if left unattended and if I could start seeing some progress in my pursuits. I gained so much momentum by actually posting and getting my drawing progress out there. It’s still not much better than before, but everything in good time. When I got back from China, I knew I needed to do something.. but what? I had already accidentally taken a massive break, nearly 8 months off.
I wasn’t completely dozing in that time, though. I was able to successfully take what I had learned and apply it to biking and backpacking through several countries in Europe as well as join a juggling festival, live on the side of the road, be homeless in Paris, and learn how to go from nothing to very confident in Lindy hop at a Dance exchange in Dublin. It was working.
Then I finally stayed in the US for a chunk of time. In that chunk I tried to get back into the blog and failed. Nothing caught my attention long enough to write something out. I wasn’t traveling, and it was making me feel like I was on vacation. Everything was there for me and the need to minimize started to become less of one. Then I got accepted into graduate school.
Since last fall, I’ve been studying Positive Psychology. Before, I had been able to self educate myself decently well, but this last year had been a true trial by fire. Getting back into the student mind is one, but getting into the mind of an excelling student is something that has always barely eluded me. This first year was a needed slap of reality. Near the end of my first semester I had a brutal moment of helplessness. Nothing I was doing was possibly at an acceptable standard for myself, or my professors. Moments where I would present and then watch each presenter following me emphasize the massive gap in quality between them and I were common. With the support of friends, family, and faculty I did manage to sort myself out enough to turn things around and finish the first year strong.
Grad school is a hell of a drug, and one that has certainly shaken me in a number of ways. Many are for the better, luckily. I wanted to put in a little more effort into this piece because of my absence. As I’m getting into this again, I’m going to return to posting Sunday Successes as a way to check in on the various things that I’m working on or thinking about. I feel infinitely more confident and able to discuss more of the positive psychology I originally wanted to, and will likely post those as paper ideas and research interests continue to incubate together.
I’m still working on art, but it’s gotten to the point where practice sketches just really aren’t that stimulating to look at. I’ll post a few pictures, but I won’t be uploading the whole thing.

Ten Things I’ve Learned Writing This Blog

I realize this one got away from me, but I wrote this January of 2014, hence the strange year references.

2014:  Building

Since restarting this blog, it’s been very interesting to see what has stuck and what hasn’t. I have neglected a behavior post for so long, let’s take a look at what has and hasn’t worked within this blog’s brief lifetime.

1) Doing something every day is the challenge, not the task itself

Something about practicing everyday is extremely distasteful, even if you kind of like it. What I’ve learned while practicing sketches and drawing (I still am, by the way! Comics are more fun to read though), is that if it’s something you’re kind of good at, that practice time can seem like “Scheduled time to reveal how much I suck”. After my 11th week of drawing, I said that I needed to take time off of drawing and move that towards Chinese. The prospect of re-sucking, even for a little bit was enough for me to get back into what I call perpetual-prepare mode. I love to make lists and prepare for things. With art, this might mean acquiring all the fun tools before you really need them. For Chinese, it was researching material, getting my notebooks, organizing my notebooks, considering when I’d practice…you get the idea. Everything EXCEPT actually practicing. I found that once I start the task, it really isn’t that painful at all, but the anxiety/procrastination up to that point gets ridiculous.

2)  Perspective flips can drastically lower procrastination

The flip side to this is the results. I often have to draw things in class while teaching. Granted, I’ve always been horrible at drawing on a perpendicular plane, let alone with markers, but even there I’m able to see strokes and angles I had been practicing shine through. When I look back at how clumsy I was with photoshop even a just one month ago, I can see the amount of time I’m saving by the way I move around the program. The difficulty in this early phase of learning is to change the perspective from “Holy cow. I can’t even do something as easy as my small goal well. I suck.” To “OH WOW LOOK HOW MUCH I’M LEARNING!” The difference in subject knowledge between a total beginner, and someone who has spent even just 5 hours practicing feels like 1000% . At this point, learning anything is more than doubling your original “nothing” known about the subject.

3) Even medium sized goals can sometimes be too large.

“You got cocky, kid.”

I gave myself the goal of writing 5 small sentences every day, and tried to get up to 30 minutes of mandarin conversation.  I was trying to jump into Chinese and land at pace. This failed spectacularly. Not only did I get trapped in perpetual-preparing mode, but also the sentences I wanted to make were not within my ability, which produced another convenient roadblock to procrastinate behind. By my own rules I could have just written, “I am Sam” 5 times and I would have been done. This gets even more depressing when you think about how long that would take you to do in English. Maybe 1 minute tops if you are clinically sleep deprived. I thought this would be a small, reachable goal, but no. Instead I wrote a blog post to fill the time. And that got me in trouble.

4) Video Games

About the time I wrote pt.1 to get yourself re-motivated, I cautioned against tv, or games since they could domino into more tv and games. That’s when steam sale hit and Batman Origins was on sale. Fast-forward at least 60 stolen hours later, and am only now starting to see the end of the tunnel. I fell into the exact trap I cautioned about. It should be stated that I think there is a place for games in a productive schedule, but you have to keep them strict, and that has to be based on a time increment, and not something arbitrary like, one more level..Ok, finish this quest…this side quest….oooh that looks pretty, I can almost buy it.

(annnnd it’s 3 am)

This has most recently found itself with me blitzing Game of Thrones in 4 days. Time efficient? Hard to say, and probably not.

5) Single living is great except for the not great things

I am loving the bachelor life. I can bunker down in a nice apartment day in and out with no real distractions. This has been wonderful and allows me an amount of freedom I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing before. The downside is the maintenance. I’m also the only one around, which means lucky me always draws the short straw for chores. It baffles me how long I took to clean apartment that couldn’t have been much more than 250square feet take. Especially since I try to keep myself organized for the most part. Right now, this is the main distraction from everything else. As I mentioned before, I’m not entirely convinced that eating out is all that much more expensive than cooking for yourself, especially when I consider exchange rate along with time saved ( I can be drawing/learning Chinese while I wait for food to get to me for take out). It also means I get out of my apartment and be a human being once in a while. Walking is great for exercise, but more importantly, I get to explore. Something I have hilariously done very little of despite being in a foreign country. For shame.

In 2014, I will refine my clean up and get it so that my place can go from trash to class in 30 minutes, or 1 hour if dishes are present.

6) Everything is Awesome When You’re Part of a Team

I recently have been doing some future planning and was reminded how awesome it is to have a few other like minded people on your side. Decisions got made, figures were exchanged, stress melted away…it was beautiful. I like this quote enough to restate it, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, bring friends”.  Simply knowing that being reminded that I have a part to play in a larger scheme (friend group gaining momentum, or achieving a goal) can really nudge me forward. It gives me reason, I can see my worth and agency in the situation, and it is generally benefitting either myself, or someone I like. These friends are also essential for getting you to stick to your shit. If you have a group around you that won’t allow you to cheat on your diet, or they all realize that it’s ok for you to just do 40 airsquats, maybe even teasingly remind you when it’s time, all of that is invaluable. One of the aspects to living with roommates that I enjoyed was just having that other presence made me want to brag and show off how well I was keeping a schedule, or how well I was progressing at something. I wanted to be arrogant, but that’s hard to do when alone, or if you suck. Luckily, having someone around often solves both those problems.

7) Plan for failure, but don’t rationalize it

This is by far the worst thing I’ve done this year. Planning for failure is just good planning. There is strange little irrational thought worm that goes something like “I cheated on my diet, well, guess I’ll eat the rest of these cookies while I’m being a failure. It’ll be make me feel better too”…no, that’s silly! You made a little mistake and then leapt backward on your progress. Instead, realize that you will stumble, stabilize and move forward again. What I’ve found success with is planning for one of my work days to completely crumble, or spent all day doing an errand I really wasn’t counting on. It’s acceptable to have a no draw day if it meant I could get a substantial amount of work and errands done. The thought worm did eventually get to me and this lead to rationalizing smaller, and smaller reasons for why this day should be a no draw day. Because I wasn’t strict with my self and didn’t just draw every day, there ended up being a string of no draw days because I simply forgot. I’d go on a pointless errand with pressure to finish quickly because I didn’t remember to get home and quick draw before crashing. What was hardest was assigning priority. How do you know which is more important to do right now? Another resolution of mine is to read all of the ebooks I brought with me to China. Do I spend a day reading and crushing books, do I draw and make progress there? Or is there something else I should be planning for? Making sure you are strict with your rules is completely necessary. Otherwise, you’ll get tricked the same way I was and have to start back up every few months.

8) Putting things online, even if only a small number of people are ever likely to see them makes you feel responsible to someone for something.

Documenting my progress in a blog form has been extremely helpful in making me feel like I have some duty to you all to get my shit together (thanks social facilitation). I’d like to thank you all for putting up with my ridiculously bad scheduling and late posts. It does help.

9) Sometimes the New Plan is the Old Plan

Too often, I over complicate things. Ironic, I know, for someone taking a stab at a blog themed on minimalism and simplicity. As my college roommate could attest to after watching me play Portal 2 (I’m so, so sorry) I have the magical ability to naturally find the most complicated solution first and unfortunately for game designers I sometimes succeed. This doesn’t work quite as well when translated into the real world. Often times the best plan for getting non life changing things to occur has just been the path of least resistance. This usually requires just asking someone to do something for you if you are confused, or don’t have the tools. People are on the whole decent, and will try to help you out and actually like helping out. After all my ring arounds trying to get an appropriate internationally unlocked smartphone in China, I finally just resorted to asking someone to help me buy one rather than try this international finagling with hand offs, customs, visas, secret handshakes and whatever else.

10) Keep Good People Around, or Find Them

This one comes up last, but it is the most real and important realizations I’ve had recently. You can only travel solo for so long without consequences. If you haven’t been able to pick up from earlier posts, especially concerning this matter, I’m quite introverted. I like being able to set up my own systems and not let others mess them up or change them when I’m not looking if I’ve got a project going. But that really can only go on for so long. I have a history of never really being in one place for long. Growing up, I could be found living for sometimes weeks at a time at any of 9 friend’s houses to save time and gas money driving back and for the to farm house located about 40 miles away. At college I wasn’t much different. I quickly moved into the Japanese Language house on campus which was, maybe not surprisingly, the most isolated of the language houses. After working hard to set it up, I then studied abroad in Japan for a year before coming back to finish senior year, the least social of all college years! Now that I’ve jumped ship again and am a little more than half way through my China adventure, I’m starting to feel the wear and tear of having no real social network. I still keep in touch with all my friends, but that is not the same as knowing that you can go outside and hang out with someone. Especially while you’re a language learner. With no way to accurately search for group meet ups, and no way to talk about them even if I did find them, I am forced to turn to what English speakers I have available to me.
Then, everything changed when I went to Shanghai.
Not only were there the largest group of English speakers I’ve ever seen in an Asian city, but they all seemed to be DOING something. More often than not, those somethings were really interesting. It was electric to remember what it was like to be just around people who were excited about something, and trying to see what they could do about it. I’m used to committing to the long haul for nearly anything, but it took until now to realize that I’ve been doing just that without making sure I had a social net to help support me. Especially when living in a country you don’t speak the language, this is extremely important to remember. Charge up on your hugs before heading off. You will get homesick. It will suck. Make things easy for yourself and drop into a location that will give you as stable a base as possible, and the chance to make friends.

11) Crank it to 11. Lower News/Notifications as much as possible

To date, my most productive days were when I never touched the computer unless to quickly check email, or get some art drawn. As soon as I was completed with those tasks, I’d disconnect from the internet (physically pull the cord) and get whatever else needed to be done. It is amazing how long hours and minutes become when you aren’t filling them with what countries are saying about other countries. If something huge did happen, people will let me know, or it’ll be on the newspapers. Removing reddit, facebook, and even emails for a few days at a time can be very very helpful and very productive. This is still an on going struggle for me, and one I will have to continue working on.

If you’ve gotten all the way to the end, thank you for taking the time to give my thoughts a read over. It means a lot, and I’ll see you next time.