I’m a day behind this week (I totally thought today was Sunday) and that means I’ll now have to do in one day what I had planned to do in two. I welcome the challenge though – I kind of like playing from behind.
At his company recently a friend of mine ran a hackathon – a daylong work sprint – with a few of his coworkers. They were trying to get momentum going on a project by building and completing some aspect of the project within the daily time limit. I’ve been a part of events like this in the past and the constraint is surprisingly generative. You have no time to second-guess yourself; you know that the goal isn’t perfection but rather critical mass. As soon as an idea seems to have enough weight you push forward, cut ruthlessly, you just simply try to finish. You can always refactor later.
I think of the excitement of some conferences (a few of you, I know, are in Austin for one right now). I think of Pixar’s post-Toy-Story lunch – practically animation legend by now – and how that one afternoon set up four of the studio’s next seven films. And I wonder why this format, this way of retreating or breaking routine (even when the break happens in the same physical location) seems so universal.
Maybe it goes back hundreds of thousands of years, to when our ancestors would set out on the hunt. They would go out on expeditions to bring large game back to share with the clan; skins and meat that could be dried and tanned to provide warmth and sustenance for days to come. And when they gave up their spears for scythe and hoe the hunt became the harvest, they’d spend a (relatively) short amount of time in early fall to what they had sowed – a literal hackathon – that would nourish them until the next yield. And maybe hunt and harvest became models for satiating their other hungers, too. Became vision quests and pilgrimage and family vacations, became the notion of Retreat, of going away for a short time and returning with nourishment, that sustains us until the next retreat.
When we go out to a bar on a Saturday night, we draw a dotted line across time through all of human history.
Here is what I’m doing today and tomorrow: finishing the slow read of the manuscript, talking to my editors, re-outlining the story and plotting the new changes. I’m coming back from hunt and harvest, with enough to feed me for weeks to come.