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Tuesday thoughts on art and reverse engineering

Erik C. Rutledge
Erik C. Rutledge
1 min read

Howdy friends,

You are receiving the first installment of my new weekly newsletter.

As a catalyst for organizing my thoughts, I'll be sharing ideas that may (or may not) make it into the Bus Theory videos.

This brings me to my first topic.

Don't get off the bus too early

I don't remember exactly what made me choose the name Bus Theory for my video series, but when I eventually looked up other uses I didn't find many examples. Except for the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

The idea boils down to how we approach the creative journey and the feedback we get along the way. Particularly feedback comparing our art to that of another artist. Very few artists are entirely original during the beginning of their pursuits, yet they continue to create. And eventually, they find their own path. This is the heart of the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

Bus routes in most major cities partially overlap as they move from the center of the city towards the extremities. Only after they've reached a certain point do they change course and take their own paths.

Creativity is the bus. It may follow a similar line as another, but eventually, it becomes it's own.

Reverse engineering success

The above is a memorable allegory to provide motivation to keep going. A related, but fundamentally different, step involves reverse engineering as described in the book Decoding Greatness. Learn from the techniques that make something successful.

I'm reminded of a quote I heard from Matt Mullenwig of Automattic: "I created Wordpress 10 years after the initial boom of blogging. The next round of innovation happens after everyone else has moved on to the next shiny thing."

I thought about this recently regarding text editors. I remember beginning college using Vim since it made me feel the most like a hacker. Eventually, that wore off and I wanted something useful, and Sublime Text was the tool to use. Then one day, Atom was the best (I supported this, I never liked Sublime). And then a few years later VS Code took over (and is still the most recommended).

How do you differentiate yourself in a world full of text editors? How do you differentiate in a world of bloggers, writers, and social media influencers?