Community Mail, Re: What is Art?/Productivity.

Re: Productivity

Interesting thoughts, David!

I’ve been struggling with metrics for a long time now. Most writers use word count as a metric. Thing is that while I’m a writer, daily word count turned out to be an aweful and discouraging metric. Just because I pound at my keyboard x number of times doesn’t mean that I feel I accomplished anything. X words of crap is still crap. I’d rather write a lot less but be happy with the quality.

So instead I gauge my daily accomplishments with whether or not I feel satisfied with my work. Regardless of time, word count or any other metric, I measure satisfaction. Because satisfaction is triggered by hormones, it is an ‘on/off’ situation: while I’m not satisfied, those hormones don’t trigger and I won’t feel satisfied. Once I’m happy with that day’s work, ‘BANG!’ they’re off and I feel so grateful and pleased with what I’ve done.

Bonus aspect: when I’m satisfied with that day’s work, I often feel eager to do a little more of it.

And those days when I don’t hit my goal? I analyse what went wrong (usually I got distracted by something that broke my pace) and take steps to prevent that from happening again.

The basic principle is the same as with classic metrics and SMART goals, but for me, this is much more gratifying. 🙂

Love to hear what others are using!

All the best,



I just read this after reading your recent missive about following your own creative process. Loved your love about how it’s easier to follow a template than the blank canvas. It’s so true.

Anyway, your piece and this seem like good bookends to one thought: just create.

Hope you find it interesting.


Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

Martha Graham on the Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others

by James Clear
Read this on


Hi David,

I haven’t dropped you a reply before, so “Hi” from the UK. I’m just going to put a few words down after reading your email below.

I’m a writer, working for an eclectic group of clients, creating stories for non-English speaking children worldwide (mainly Asia and South America). I get to write about dragons, unicorns, secret portals, and mushrooms that fly, etc. It’s a job I love! And, I feel so  lucky I planned my escape from corporate life to do this. I take time out to work on my inner game regularly. Otherwise, the need to be constantly creative can be draining and I like to keep fresh. I’m also working on a few other creative projects (exploring Patreon as an option) and my own gritty, contemporary fiction. (I like to keep things real!) Initially, I was drawn to your photography because I look for inspiration from many directions. Thank you for sharing those!

I joined a membership site recently and left soon afterwards. It ‘felt’ phoney. Phoney praise, phoney likes, cliques and, favoritism for a select few, from the founder.  I wanted fresh thinking, lack of ego, and a desire to share and learn.

Your posts are different. They are intelligent, considered and not just make me think, they stretch my thinking, in the right way for me. I have a few days off next week to explore your videos and catch up on a few emails.

There is some great stuff about growth mindset developed by Dr. Carol Dweck. Just an example link below. There’s tons of stuff out there on YT.

I absolutely agree that adaptability of our mind is the way to sustain ourselves moving forwards. I’m hoping that my work sows one seed in a child’s mind about what they can do, not can’t do. I want to create positive energy and challenge limits, in a fun way.  What may be impossible now may soon be possible!

Now, I’m off to write about an insect hospital for a series I need to finish by Monday. It will be fun! I’ve got so many ideas for insect injuries and treatments. 🙂

Who knows the ripple effect of our collective efforts. Keep being real and continue to challenge our thinking.

Best Wishes,



I usually make a To do lists for every day/ week on a small notebook I keep with me. If all the points are checked by the end of the day or week (depending on the task’s timeline), I feel I had a productive session. It’s a nice way to track just how much procrastinate on a give span of time.

Yet, I don’t force myself to follow it to the end. I try to just let go sometimes. I’ve discovered that certain things that are or seen extremely “urgent” usually aren’t so much.



Ha David, love you emails!

I think an implicit distinction you seem to make (that I think is wise) is to have input metric. Metrics for things you put in and have full control over. The hope or theory is that doing these will lead to the desired output. But it can be depressing to measure your succes by the outputs. Since, a lot is out of your control. Of course, you can measure both and have that help you readjust your plan.

I wrote something about this here:

Tijmen Rümke

Re: What is Art?


Wow, this one hits home for me. I’ve actually got a story, that I think you might enjoy, relating to this idea!

In 2016 I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe, specifically Berlin, to study for the Summer. During my time there we were given two ‘free’ weekends, that we could spend traveling abroad or explore the city.

For one of those, I went to Amsterdam with friends and had one of the most profound art experiences I’ve ever had while there. (Side note: Yes, I was in college. No, I was not high at the time.) Of course, Amsterdam has the Van Gogh Museum (amazing) and the Rijksmuseum (also amazing), but it was Stedelijk museum that
changed me as an artist.

There I was able to view, for the first time in my life, the work of Piet Mondrian. Piet is, literally, my favorite artist. So much
so that I plan on getting my first tattoo as a tribute to his work.

I remember standing in front of his work and almost crying. Whether it was tears of joy, or just being overwhelmed by the reality of seeing his work in person, I don’t know. It was this surreal feeling that after years of seeing his work online, in textbooks, or reprinted elsewhere that this was real. Hanging less than a foot in front of my face, was one of my favorite works of art ever.

Whether or not I felt what Mondrian had intended, I felt something.

Since that trip, I’ve always felt more confidence in my art and creativity, I just don’t think I really credited this experience as something that could change you in that way.

Thanks for the read, and helping me put context around my own experience. Sorry for the long read, but I hope you enjoyed it!

Nathaniel H


Hey David!

I kept this as a draft and douted my response. I thought maybe it’d be silly to reply but as a writer, you inspired me to hit reply anyway.

So to keep the pot a-brewin’…

Art seems to level the playing field. While yes there are famous poets, painters, sculptors, photographers… there’s an inborn desire to express and be understood in every being. To belong, or be accepted. To say I am and I was, and we are and we were.

The work of the famed & glorious are worth no more than that of the child who never shares his sketchbook, or the elderly man who carves his time into figurines, the girl who holds a song of trials never heard by another ear… the value to the artist, a passing of time which is worth something. It allows us to achieve a peace, tap into something other than every day, the chaos that doesn’t make sense and leaves us constricted.

It is a language within itself. & roots in multiple directions, without gravity, without time, space. Lines, colors, and motions cutting out a place in matter; engraving a thought, emotion, experience, or moment into physical energy.

Happy thoughts & good vibes!


I wish we could spend more of our time on art rather than transactional work. There’s nothing more rewarding than honing a craft for the sake of it, free of the pressures of meeting someone’s expectations, deadlines or preferences.

Unfortunately, we live in a transactional world. And so here I am writing during a pause from my work while dreaming of the art I don’t make with the life I don’t have.



In your video you say “The results of connection that comes from art are what make it all worth it.” I could´t agree more!!!!

Creative Caffeine emails are always inspiring, thank you. And doing videos on what you write about on these emails is a great idea, I loved it.

Just wanted to connect and say thank you, I thought you should know you really inspire others to embrace even more their creativity and art:)

(from Argentina)

Check out the Creative Caffeine Youtube Channel

If you’re just joining us, this is Creative Caffeine, an ongoing conversation about using our creativity to earn a living without losing our soul. I’m David, conductor of the group and founder of Death to the Stock Photo.Hit reply.
(I occasionally share a roundup of community responses – and if you have a question I’ll try my best to respond)

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