Let’s do everything!

“Let’s do everything!”

I found those three words spilling unbidden from my mouth the other day when I was talking to my wife, Fiona, and realised that I’d inadvertently summarised my life.  It’s my blessing and my curse.  I want to do it all.

So here’s what I have on right now: first, there’s my family — wife and three sons.  Then my day-job in programming.  I’m working on various other programs in my spare time, including a couple that are nearly ready to release but need a bit more documenting.  In my spare-time palaeontology, I have to get my sauropod neck anatomy talk written up as a manuscript and submitted to a journal, then finally finish the description of “the Archbishop”, an African sauropod in the Natural History Museum in London; then, well, there is a whole stack of other palaeo projects that I want to do.  I have this blog to feed, of course (lots of half-written articles in the to-be-finished queue), plus Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, which is currently in the middle of a series on camel necks and recently obsessed on my ostrich skull, which I now find myself wanting to turn into an illustrated cranial osteology of Struthio, also to be submitted to a journal.  I have plans for a novel that I want to write.  Also, I realised when I went to Oxonmoot the other weekend that I wanted to give a talk on Mortality in Middle-earth and Aman, which quickly mutated into an article that I want to write for Mallorn, the journal of the Tolkien Society.  I lead worship once a month in our church, playing guitar and singing.  Very occasionally, I preach.  Tonight, Fiona played in a local folk club, and it made me realise that I’d like to do that, too.  I’m reading a bunch of books out loud to various subsets of sons.  I’m reading other books for myself, but there are yet others that have been on the To Read list since forever.  Also, I like to watch TV series: Veronica Mars and  Buffy are my favourites, but I’ve recently been watching The West Wing and Ally McBeal.  And, I like to cook, especially sushi.

I’ve been a bit unwell this weekend, so pretty much the only part of all that big list I’ve made any progress with is watching TV.

Why am I telling you all this?  I am not honestly sure, except that it’s on my mind, and this blog is basically here so I have somewhere to say what I’m thinking.  I’m not complaining: I wanted it this way, and if I didn’t I could change it.  It would be with me the work of a moment to junk the Tolkien article, or stop blogging, or decide that just rebuilding my ostrich skull is enough and I don’t have to publish on the subject.  But of course I don’t want to.

Actually, if this article has any actual point, it might be this: we can do anything now.  We live at a time when the resources are there for us to do all kinds of things that we couldn’t do ten or twenty years go.  Want to be a palaeontologist?  Go right ahead!  You can read the blogs, join the mailing lists, get PDFs of the primary literature, write papers and get them published.  Want to dissect an ostrich skull?  Google for ostrich farms in your country, email them and ask whether they’ll send you a head.  (Mine was free, plus £15 to get it couriered to me.)  And of course: want to tell the world what you think?  Start a blog on one of the many free hosting services.

So this is a call to arms.  Go on: do it!  Whatever it is.  Dissect it, write about it, discuss it, publish it, sing about it.  Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do, stop procrastinating, and start doing.  Apart from anything else, it’s the only way to find out whether you’re actually able to.  (If it’s any help, I can tell you that I was quite sure I couldn’t do palaeontology until I proved to myself that I could, and my Ph.D took me completely by surprise.)

And isn’t it exhilarating?  That we can do anything?  That we can make things that our parents couldn’t?  I think that “Let’s do everything!” is going to become my motto.  I might get it translated into Latin and made up into a crest.

These are the days of miracle and wonder.  We have resources, we have information, we have how-to guides, we have connectivity.  In fact, there’s really only one thing we don’t have any more: excuses.

19 responses to “Let’s do everything!

  1. words fail me.

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  3. In my humble first-year latin, I translate your motto as “Omnia Facessāmus”.

  4. I have an excuse – time! I’d like to clone a second me to do all the fun stuff, while the main me earns the money (and sometimes has fun doing it).

  5. You’re dead right, of course, Paul: time is indeed the reason that all those things I listed are things that I am doing, or will do, rather than things that I have done. I wish I was one of those people who only needs four hours’ sleep a night.

  6. I think that’s exactly what I needed to hear right now. So I’ll just start sketching on my own crazy projects and see what happens.

  7. Inspiring and motivational post. I want to do crazy stuff.

  8. So how DO you find the time? For me, I find I barely have time to do my day job and then spend time with my family (and of course sleep, and I am also not one of those people who can sleep 4 hours and feel good).

    I hear about these people I look up to who can balance a job, a family, and still find time to crank out some great free software or whatever other project and I wonder how the heck they do it.

    Are they just more productive in their time than I am? That doesn’t help when its family time, but maybe they can get their work done in record time? I wish I knew.

    I have so many things I’d like to do, but work and family are all I can fit in most of the time. Maybe a little sci-fi but that usually counts as family time..

  9. How do I find the time? I guess it’s all about evenings. I don’t go out all that much — it probably helps living in rural Gloucestershire, where there’s nowhere to go! — and I spend most evenings on the laptop. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that every evening is productive: I do have times when I just seem to read blogs all evening, or just watch old Buffy episodes; but then I also have bursts of focussed enthusiasm where I find myself putting together papers or writing blog entries or whatever it might be.

    If I had to pick just one attribute I’ve been lucky enough to inherit, among those that have contributed to my being able to do what I do, it would be this: that I always seem to sleep well. On nights when I only get six hours’ sleep, that’s usually enough, because it’s deep sleep. When I do get over-tired, a single night of good sleep, or at most two or three, seems to be enough to fix it. This is a huge blessing: Fiona, by contrast, often doesn’t sleep well: she can go to bed three or four hours earlier than me, and awake no more refreshed than I am the next morning. (On the other hand, she has to get up much earlier than I do, too.)

  10. I’ve been wondering about this ever since I read the very first entries in your blog. You have always seemed like some kind of super-human, or living in some mystical time pocket where days magically have 30 hours. I’m still not entirely convinced your specific corner of rural Gloucestershire does not constitute such a pocket – but perhaps you are just better at focusing your time than most people.

    Interestingly, I remember that somehow a day seemed much longer when I was younger (I’m only 26, so that kinda makes me worried about the future :-D). For some reason, it seems I was able to be much more productive in one day. Now most of my time seems to be swallowed by practicalities like transportation or eating dinner or whatever. And when I’m finally able to sit down and focus on something, time seems to fly at a supernatural speed, and before I know it, it’s 2 AM and I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I hoped for.

    But I’m rambling. I guess I just want to say kudos on being able to squeeze so much productivity out of your time. As long as you actually enjoy doing it (and it certainly seems that way), then good for you!

  11. I spend most evenings on the laptop
    Now that’s what I can’t do. After staring at a computer all day if I carry on in the evening it takes me ages to get to sleep.

  12. Thanks, Daniel, for these kind words! The idea that I am better at focussing my time than most people seems pretty laughable to me — I can’t tell you how often an evening goes by and I realise that all I’ve done is read and reply to email, read and comment on blogs, and watch The West Wing episodes. But, yes, there are phases that seem to strike completely at random when I get much more absorbed in doing some specific productive thing, whether it’s academic palatontology, programming, or writing this blog. I wish I could control when that lightning strikes!

  13. The Latin would be, “Omina faciamus!”

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