Novelty is one of the main drivers that keeps me going. One of the challenges of 2020 is that with a global pandemic afoot, folks have not been able to venture outside and follow their usual routines. The sustained and prolonged inability to go to an office workplace, interact with colleagues, and just have a change of scenery and pace has been enormously unhealthy. I consider human beings as generalized differential engines. We understand everything only as a series of contrasts. As Huxley wrote years ago in Brave New World: “There is no black without white and no night without day.” This is actually one reason I started this personal daily writing project back in August– it is a salubrious way of marking time. Every day, I write on a new subject which forces my mind to stretch itself in new directions, toward new horizons. The human brain like any other muscle in your body: If unused for long periods of time, the brain will atrophy and devolve into grey mush.
Additionally, novelty is a motivation all its own when it comes to the creative arts. During his session this past Saturday at Muskogee, Lev Grossman was asked, “What makes a good story?” His answer really stuck with me as he cited a scene from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925). Woolf wrote about a high-society woman (Dalloway) on the bench and even after the woman went to sleep, Woolf just kept on writing the scene. Grossman said he’d never seen writing like that and it just absolutely blew his mind.
This idea, “Do what has not already been done before.” is another reason I write and code. I enjoy thinking up projects that I’ve never seen before but feel should exist. This ability to take a figment of one’s imagination and reify it into the material world is essentially magic. For me at least, the act of creation is what it means to be alive. As long as we are continuously growing, always learning something new, and following our interests and curiosities wherever they may lead us, then there is always a reason to live. The world is too big and our puny human lives are too short to waste any more time than we already do.