Time (by )

Tired of lying in the sunshine
Staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long
And there is time to kill today
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun
Pink Floyd - Time

I've always felt rather cursed with the fact that I have an addiction to designing things. It's bad enough knowing that I can easily design something that will take a week to actually do in half an hour, and that I can do that designing while walking or driving or in the shower or lying in bed, while I can only actually do any making when free of distractions... I try to make the best of it, writing the best of my ideas up on this blog when I get time in the hope that some of them will inspire others in some way, as I can't bear the thought of them all being lost. I believe that ideas are cheap, especially for me, so there's no point in hoarding them - I can always come up with more!

However, the past few years have been worse than ever; I've been crucially short of time, so I'm lucky to get a day a month to sit down and make things. I knew that parenthood would take up a lot of my time, but I didn't reckon on pregnancy and childbirth making my wife an invalid, or our house flooding, or all the knock-on effects of these things. I'm running a Cub pack on my own, because nobody else can spare the time to help me; I'm already barely keeping up with the basic requirements of running the pack, and I can't put in any less time without shutting the whole thing down (which would weigh very heavily on my heart, as I love working with those kids, and couldn't bear to let them down). That takes up two or three evenings a week. And I lose a lot of evenings or weekend days helping Sarah build her career, to keep her sane (I don't want her being stuck in a dead-end life of childcare) and to help relieve our financial pressures. I lose three lunch breaks a week to transporting Jean. I'm barely keeping up with keeping the house clean; it gets worse all week and I catch up at the weekend if there is time. And yet most of the things that are taking up my time are the kinds of things I can do while still designing things in my head, so the creative output hasn't slowed that much, even though the time I have to follow up any of the ideas has nearly vanished. There just really isn't much time for me in the week; my one safe escape valve is my weekly visit to Bristol Hackspace on a Thursday after work, where I have two hours.

But then a second problem kicks in: When I do get some time without pressure, I often don't actually want to concentrate on things right away. Over the bank holiday weekend I got about a day to myself (in a few chunks of several hours here and there), and I think I spent at least the first three hours playing Cyber Empires; I only felt up to doing something mindless. After that I got stuck in and did some work on a couple of Ugarit tickets (4363bc7631 and 34e21d597f)... But it's too easy to spend my two hours in Bristol each week just nattering to people!

I've found I'm starting to get self-conscious about it. I'm feeling embarrassed about telling people about the fun ideas I've had, because I know they know I probably won't ever execute them.

There are too many people who go around being smug about the great ideas they have, that they can't implement as they don't have the skill (often, these folks feel that implementation is a mindless task to be given to hired goons). But you can't design something you couldn't imagine every step of the construction of; knowing the limits of the medium is essential to designing something that pushes those limits to their best... It's no better than a child triumphantly saying they have designed the best car ever, that drives at a hundred miles an hour AND flies AND has a laser gun AND has a fridge full of cakes in the boot. That's not a design; it's a requirements document (of sorts).

I don't want people thinking of me like that. Every time I've updated the ARGON web site I've put in more and more perrimistic estimates of my hope of ever implementing it. When I started it, it looked like a tractable project I could slowly work on over several years; now it looks like something I might manage to do in my retirement, at best. That makes me sad. I'm not a person who designs things they can't build (except when I'm doing science-fiction worldbuilding, at least...); I'm a person who just doesn't have the time to build the things they design...

1 Comment

  • By Adam, Fri 6th Jul 2012 @ 12:13 pm

    I'm a Mechanical engineering undergrad at Bath university. I need a good idea or two for my final year project- potentially I will start my own business once I graduate if the idea is good enough. Only problem is I don't know what to do! I make things happen, rather than have ideas. If you have any good ideas for physical systems, email me :). (Obviously you will receive a share of profits!)

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