Rein in your productivity

Copperplate calligraphy comes with strict rules – light upstrokes, heavy downstrokes, measured movements. You repeat the same strokes over and over so they become muscle memory.

All to achieve one thing. Perfection.

For years, I had taken everything I knew about copperplate and applied it to brush pen calligraphy. And then it occurred to me you could break every single one of those rules with a brush pen.

Exulted by what I had discovered, I began practicing nonstop. I sketched and inked furiously, ignoring the dull ache that had formed in the middle and ring fingers of my right hand hours later.

I have carpal tunnel syndrome, a souvenir from engineering school. If you use your hands a lot, you run the risk of getting CTS. Repetitive motions like typing and drawing can compress the nerves running through the wrist. I do stretches every other morning and wear a splint whenever my wrist acts up.

At my best, life goes on ostensibly well.

At my worst, I showed up to Object Oriented Programming in C++ with both wrists in splints, much to the horror of my classmates.

I knew better, but I kept going even as the telltale pain made its way up my elbow. Close to midnight, it felt like someone had strung metal wires from my fingertips through my arm up to right shoulder. My hand was shaking. I could barely draw a straight line if I wanted to, let alone draw the alphabet.

I couldn’t even glorify the fact that I had produced quality work because I was five hours overdue for a break. It will take a fortnight of rest before life can go on ostensibly well again.

Rein in your productivity. There’s excitement over making things, and then there’s pushing yourself too hard. Doing a week’s worth of work in one night is not only unsustainable. It stops you from producing your best.

What I should have done was taken breaks when before my hand began to hurt. Called it a night and tucked away my sketches somewhere safe. Returning to them a few days later with a fresh set of eyes would allow me to judge my work with the objectivity it deserves.

All to express one thing. Creativity.