We Are What We Repeatedly Do

It's tough to overstate the importance of creativity to me. When life is a slog, creativity always seems to make it bearable. After being creative I'm virtually always in a better mood and my mindset is better; I'm centered, focused, and to some extent in the driver's seat in life in general.

Don't get me wrong, that's kindof a self-fulfilling prophesy, since it's really hard to be creative when you feel like shit, but it really is true that just the act of creativity is itself therapeutic.

Which might get you thinking, dear reader of this chronically neglected blog, "why don't you do it more?"


You see, that's a question I've been asking myself lately. I had a couple of things in the works, but by and large I hadn't done anything worth talking about in a long time, easily a few months.

Then along comes Lent. If you aren't Christian, Lent is the 40 days before easter, and it's traditional to do some activity to better yourself during this period. Some people pray, some people give up sweets, or cursing, or some other "discipline". My family is relatively traditional, so I was going to get the question "what are you doing for lent?" and it got me asking what I could do to better myself. I mean I guess I could do with losing weight...do I curse too much?...I've already read the bible a decent amount in my life...What do I wan

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

That quote's often attributed to Aristotle, but according to some dude on Medium who writes about marketing, it was just from a guy who wrote a book about Aristotle (Will Durant), which is lame. Marketing people ruin everything.

Anyway, I thought I could do with some more creative output. I had the idea of doing some form of creative work every day as my lenten discipline. This is a bit of a postmortem of that experience.

The Log

There's always a honeymoon period, and this endeavor's was enough to get me to learn a new skill. I have a 3d printer which I've never actually figured out how to model parts for, so I figured I should learn. The first thing I did was learn onshape, and model a little bowl for my sister's pet parakeets to eat out of.

an image of a bowl with a rim for the bird feet to grip

It's nothing special, but it's a simple first project, and it has a little rim of the perfect size purpose-built for their tiny bird feet to grip, which is nifty.

Day 2? a blog post, which you'll see at some point...

an image of a blog post which is unreleased

Day 3? Nothing. You see, it was now Friday, which is typically a day where I'm relatively busy. I leave my house after work to go to my parent's, where I tend to hang out until pretty late. To be honest, I forgot about it.

Day 4? Uh...Well, today I didn't feel like it.

Day 5 was Sunday, and it's often traditional to waive your lenten discipline on Sunday (day of rest and everything), so I didn't do it.

Day 6 I was back on the horse. My sister, probably purposefully trying to get me to keep going, posted a picture of the kids she's caring for playing with something I 3d printed in the past - a little stamp meant for cookies or playdough or other such mushy things kids like. So I made the start of more stamps, this time intending to put letters on them in a future day...

a CAD model of a bunch of stamps with nothing on their faces

...and Day 7 was that day.

a CAD model of the stamps from above with letters on them now

Then a long silence. I had a rough week, and that weekend into the next week...nothing. I found that when tired, I often can't think of something creative to work on.

Finally, after a couple of days...

a joke drawing of a cow made into a can

A very stupid drawing making fun of these. It was dumb, but it was a drawing (they say that's creative stuff), and it was something.

The next day I drew up a headphone holder specially setup for my desk.

a CAD model of a headphone holder which mounts on the side of a desk

The next day, a very niche 3d printed stand to hold up my bed frame. I've heard many say this is where 3d printers shine. No one other than me (and arguably not me either...this will likely break and not work) will get use out of this, but it serves it's purpose for me, and the 3d printer made it happen.

a CAD model of a bed frame stand which looks like a pedestal

At this point, I also made a point of writing down my ideas for creative things I can work on, but sorted in order of how much energy I need to have to work on them. As I'll find out later, this turned out to be a huge boon. If I'm not too interested in effort at all and not energetic enough to do super in depth computer science, I can still have something to work on.

The next, custom board game tokens (which are circles, so I don't have a picture of them).

At this point I had my foot squarely into the door and didn't find it as hard to do this every day, and I started a new multi day project.

I have a discord bot which I wrote...god...like 2 years ago now, and it's been languishing in a "working but not very interesting or useful" state ever since, which is also why you haven't heard about it yet. I started in on a plugin for the bot which will add quests. Once a day, you can use the !quest command to receive one of a random selection of quests you can do in real life, for instance, drinking water, posting links for someone, or petting your dog/cat. Turn in your quest to receive XP...which doesn't do anything, but who needs that in the age of gacha games.

a picture of a discord conversation between me and the bot

I did this for 5 days, then released it to the ol' group chat, and much to my surprise, but delight, they all loved it!

It did need some changes though, so I worked on that for a while:

a picture of a discord message containing patch notes a picture of a discord message containing patch notes

I also had some additional 3d printing work in there:

a picture of a discord message containing an explanation for what I worked on a picture of a discord message containing an explanation for what I worked on

And then, followed by a bit of a lull caused mostly by me taking poor care of myself, it was easter.


Well, my success rate was only a little over half of the days I should have done it, but I got a number of things out of the endeavor:

  • Knowledge of how to use OnShape (I recommend it by the way. It's free and in my opinion easier to use than fusion360)
  • The knowledge that I can pull off creativity on days when I don't feel like it, but it has to be something relatively low impact.
  • The knowledge that I don't like making choices when I'm low energy. A list of low impact creative work means I can just pick something off the list, which helps alot.
  • The knowledge that doing this regularly makes it easier to do, requiring a lower energy threshold to get started.
  • A new bot plugin my friends like.
  • 5 home cooked part designs to 3d print.

And an important lesson: really, I just need a push to do more creative work. Yeah, I know it's tough to be creative after a full day of work, but it's worth it. Even small stuff brings fulfillment. Months long projects with a giant release at the end are nice and all, but when you work a 9 to 5 it can be hard to work on them. Luckily, because of necessity, I've now tried the little stuff, and it works too!

It works well enough that I plan to continue doing it, in fact. Probably less, like 4 days a week instead of 6, but I will continue, which means maybe you'll get more stuff to read about on here...I don't know if you should bet on it, but we'll see.