15. Doing things in real-time

So much of what I do isn’t in “real time”. I have an undo button available. Pretty much everything I do on the computer (including writing this sentence) has plenty of time for me to pause, edit, deliberate. This affects the way I think.

When I write code, I often follow a path of intending to add a feature, trying out a way to add the feature, and then if it works committing and moving forward. If it doesn’t work, reverting and starting over. This is what I mean by having an ‘undo’ available. If something doesn’t work out, just jump back to the last time where things were OK and try finding a way forward again.

All this isn’t possible with real-time activities. The main real-time activity I do is driving a car. I often feel a sense of doom-slash-awe when I drive. Any mistake in muscle movements could cause irreversible damage or change. Could be as small as a bit of scratched paint from scraping a garbage can as I pull out of a parking spot, or as big as a catastrophic wreck. Things that I can’t undo. Driving a car is in real-time, and is really high-stakes.

I’ve been taking a ceramics class, learning to make things on the pottery wheel. Compared to driving, ceramics is quite low stakes, while still being in real time. There are so many steps, each requiring some different kind of fine muscle movement. With each step the piece could be ruined, or at least altered in some kind of unintended way. But worst case I’ve ruined a pot I spent a while working on. It’s low stakes.

It feels healthy and positive to have this low-stakes real-time activity. It’s giving me experience in doing non real-time activities… taking me out of my undoable-activity comfort zone. Ceramics is stretching my mind, giving me safe practice.

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