You look up at the graduation caps raining down on you.
You’re done with high school. Remember that feeling? What are you going to do with the summer before you start college?
I started reading John McPhee’s Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process. I bought it a few months ago but didn’t read it. Tim Ferriss mentioned it in his episode with Jason Fried so I started reading it.
I have a list of ideas for different things I want to make. Lots of people do.
McPhee has a list of things he’s actually made.
So how do you pick an idea to work on? McPhee suggests it might be a good idea to consider your younger self.
For nonfiction projects, ideas are everywhere. They just go by in a ceaseless stream. Since you may take a month, or ten months, or several years to turn one idea into a piece of writing, what governs the choice? I once made a list of all the pieces I had written in maybe twenty or thirty years, and then put a check mark beside each one whose subject related to things I had been interested in before I went to college. I checked off more than ninety per cent.
The excerpt is about writing, but that look at your younger self is good to do to compare to your current day to day activities. What did you like doing your senior year in high school? What did you do the summer after graduating? That span provides good hints for (1) what you’re good at (2) what you really enjoy for leisure.
You go through a very serious college application process. Then you get in somewhere. A year later you’re wearing a gown at a very regal graduation ceremony. It’s enough to fool you into thinking that leaving high school means you’re entering the real world as an adult.
Anyway, it’s a good enough illusion that the summer before college takes on a different shape than previous summers. How’d you spend your time?
Before going to college, a shocking amount of my free time probably went toward Counter-Strike. I was blogging regularly and tweaking my site here and there. I had enough of an interest in photography that my older brother bought the first Canon Rebel Digital SLR for me for graduation.
I still make things online (lets call it blogging), I have a job tweaking other sites here and there. I still take photos.
I should probably play more video games.
Anyway, take some time to think about what you did with free time when you had fewer responsibilities. If those interests just sort of drifted away, think about why. You might decide to work those back into your life.
And speaking of process, check out this video where Jason talks through his process as he writes an article. (And check out the rest of Basecamp’s YouTube channel Getting Real if you want to check out the nuts and bolts of web development and how a product team actually works.)