The Essentials Project

About a year and a half ago, I left my job in California and moved my family to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We spent six months in a hotel and then for the last year, we’ve been in a great four bedroom house.

Since we moved here, our son Van was born seven months ago and my son Shane just recently turned 18. Our kids Jack and Olivia are now 9 and 11. We’ve liked living in New Mexico and we’ve met some great people but it seems like it’s time for the wheel to turn.

I think I need to spend a few months devoting myself seriously to writing projects that has been lingering as ideas for too long. I have some screenplay and book projects I’d like to get done.

In order to get them done, I feel I need to hunker down and cut out expenses and distractions. I think I need a writer’s retreat.

Lauren and I have been talking and we’re not 100% sure of where we’re going but we have some ideas. But while we’re figuring out our next bold move, we have built up the residue of ‘stuff’ that comes from living with kids in a big house.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be chronicling my effort to simplify my life and possessions. My goal is build a stronger foundation for my family and our lives.

Right now, it’s about thinking about what is essential and what isn’t. We’re lucky to live in a rich country — these aren’t life and death decisions. But trying to figure out whether we NEED both an XBox and a Wii may seem trivial…unless you’re a 9 year old. Then it can make you cry.

And it’s the same with deciding do we keep this bike or that TV set. I’m not taking a vow of poverty. I do consider things like a smartphone ‘essential’ at this point. I consider NetFlix and a Kindle essential, too. So, I’m lucky especially compared to most of the earth’s population. I know that.

So that’s the challenge and I’ll be talking about it here on the blog. Please jump in comment any time — it’d be nice to have your thoughts and conversation.

When Tools Are Free

The three images below aren’t photographs. The rooms and objects in them don’t actually exist anywhere. They were all creating in a computer graphics package. If you click on the images, you can see them in more detail, too.

Each images was made with different software programs. One piece of softwares costs about $5000, another about $2000 and the third software package is open source and totally free. Look at the images – can you tell which one is which?




Three different artists, three different software programs, three radically different price points. One big barrier to entry. One large barrier to entry. No barrier at all.

$5000, $2000, totally free

Thirty years ago, if you wanted to do computer graphics it would have cost you a million dollars for the computer. At least. Twenty years ago, the price of admission was around $20,000. Today, any computer you buy for $600 at Best Buy would smoke the $1,000,000 or $20,000 hardware options by a factor of at least ten.

What happens when the tools become totally free? What happens when any laptop recording studio is a hundred times more powerful than the gear the Beatles used to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on? What happens when HD camcorders are $150 and your video can be broadcast worldwide, right now?

The art doesn’t get better. There isn’t mor a hundred times more good art floating around, is there? But I don’t think it’s all worse, either. There were plenty of bad albums in 1967, too.

There’s just MORE. A lot more. And it’s not going to stop.

One thing that happens when tools are free; you don’t have THAT excuse anymore. You can’t say, “If only I had the money for that ONE piece of gear….” The tool is available. What are you waiting for? Then it’s a matter of whether you put in your time. Pay your dues. Make it work for you.

So, here we are in 2009 and the tools are out there. Do you really have a story to tell? Do you really have anything to say? Some feeling you want to express, some way you need to connect to other people?

That’s free, too. Now, what are you waiting for?