The Painting I Am Not Painting

1. Real Life Is For March

What do you do with a bonus day?

Is it business as usual, or a reason to focus?

I watched as most of the people I grew up with began to treat New Years as a fake and made up holiday, that had no value to be celebrated.

We celebrated 2020, because that was a big enough milestone to get people excited, but the idea of assigning meaning to a stretch of time, really didn’t enliven many of the people around me.

I loved it though.

I really liked caring about what the next year would bring. I liked the focus.

It’s arbitrary reason for focus, but the focus is real.

Steve Pavlina was the person who first got me thinking about yearly focus. His method was instead of setting out an end-goal to reach in the next year, pick a subject you wish you would spend more time on, and when you don’t know which way to go in the following year, use that chosen subject as your tie-breaker.


Pick something that you want to be better, and prioritize it.

Don’t obsess over it, just focus.

But I’ve mostly given up the practice.

Life has been so difficult to navigate, that I don’t even find having a yearly focus to be that beneficial anymore. It would get bogged down in the peculiarities of life, and pushed aside, and ultimately wasn’t strong enough, same as a New Year’s resolution.

What about a bonus day though?

Instead of trying to wrangle an entire year, the characters of the television show 30 Rock, celebrate Leap Day every four years when it appears.

They wear blue and yellow, and take chances that they never would let themselves dare if it were a regular day.

I don’t know anyone in the real world who takes Leap Day seriously as a concept, but within the fantasy of the tv story, it creates a lightness that for me, right now, is sorely needed.

I’d like a Leap Day. I like the idea of a bonus day that isn’t part of the calendar the rest of the years, something that can help me reset my momentum.

I’d probably do something fun. Something bonus.

And while this year has no Leap Day, the point of the thought exercise is to help me realize what it would look like to let go of the momentum I have, so I can see better: the momentum I want.

2. Hyperbolic Time Chamber

You go into the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, and fight.

It’s a thing in Dragon Ball Z.

That’s another tv show.

The purpose is to let a character acquire a year’s worth of skill, in the course of a day.

If you have a bonus day, that’s not very high-stakes, perhaps that’s like finding and extra twenty bucks you didn’t know you had, and on that day, you let yourself spend frivolously; get yourself something easy and nice, without having to think so much about whether you can afford some small luxury.

But if you get an extra $7,300, that can be carved up a lot of different ways.

$7,300 is $20 bonus dollars, for 365 days.

A year of Leap Days. A year’s worth of extra buffer to add into your life.

A bonus day has low stakes to let you know what you’re missing.

A bonus year has high stakes. And for me, when I think about it, it reveals to me things I did not realize about what my life is desperate for.

3. Esthetics In Concrete Bridge Design

My mother is a book editor. We have some books in the house that I would have had absolutely no other plausible way of reading, other than that she worked on those books.

One of the very strange books in our house is Esthetics In Concrete Bridge Design; it’s what we’d call today an “expert roundup.” You get a bunch of people to write in an essay, and you combine those essays into a book. Get all your experts from the same field, and you have a snapshot of what’s on the mind of that industry for the year.

And one of the things that I learned about, when poking through this book of essays on bridges from 1990, is that some of the bridges and roadways we have, are because a previous generation went to war, and was too depressed to apply any frivolity to their infrastructure.

We didn’t pick gray concrete ugly blocks because we were cheap, we picked gray concrete ugly blocks because it matched our mood.

Our roads are a gray hoodie. They tell us that we are not ready in America for beauty yet. We don’t trust it. We trust gray.

4. A Bonus Of Beauty

The premise for this article came from a prompt about getting a bonus year, and what would you do with it, what skill would you acquire.

It startled me that I knew right away that I would pick drawing.


Drawing is something that I have actively hated in other times of my life. Drawing is not easy.

To watch some anime characters go into a time chamber and get a year’s worth of fighting done in a day, so that they are strong, sounded neat to me when I was growing up watching the show, but in real life, that’s just a year of bumps and bruises and strenuous activity.

Drawing would similarly not actually just happen in a montage.

Could I do it?

Could I spend a bonus year practicing drawing, if I were given the chance?

And if I had extra time, if I had all that extra energy to invest, wouldn’t something more immediately useful be appropriate?

I need to code my games. Learn to code?

I need to write better dialog for my games. Learn to write?

But I didn’t pick the practical things, I treated it like Leap Day. I saw that if we’re talking “bonus” year, I suddenly do know what I want my focus to be. I’d gotten out of the habit of weaving a focus throughout my year because the focus was no longer strong enough or clear enough to provide any guidance.

But a cleared out year? A year just to do the thing? Well I knew right away.

And it’s because of bridges. Not bridges per se, but what I learned about bridges; it’s about gray. It’s about stepping out of the hoodie and trying to care about appearance again, but not for vanity, not to paper over what I feel.

A year of drawing, to my mind as it accepted the premise of this mental exercise, was about a year of welcoming beauty back into my life.

I didn’t see myself creating bombastic posters for my video games. I didn’t see myself creating key art that would help the audience understand my characters.

I saw myself painting simple subjects, like an orange or a rock, but painting the beauty of them. Finding the beauty in everyday things, through the act of drawing them. Painting them.

The above post was an entry for Paul Scrivens’ 30 Day Prompt Challenge.

Prompt: Time stops for a year. Everyone but you is frozen in place.

You don’t have to worry about a single thing.

What skill do you learn during your 12-month break?

This one has a restriction. You have to consider that you’re all alone in learning this skill so ask yourself if you can get better at it with nobody around.

For example, how do you get good at marketing if you aren’t getting feedback?